(Cover picture courtesy of The Royal Library.)
The path to the throne is broken – only the broken may walk it.
To reach the throne requires that a man journey. Even a path paved with good intentions can lead to hell, and my intentions were never good.
The Hundred converge for Congression to politic upon the corpse of Empire, and while they talk the Dead King makes his move, and I make mine. The world is cracked, time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days, the future so bright that those who see it are the first to burn. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne whoever seeks to thwart me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending.
This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don’t look to me to save you. Don’t think I will not spend you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don’t follow me.
Follow me, and I will break your heart.
Um, wow? There’s really nothing else to say about this. What a stunning conclusion to such an unusual trilogy.
First off, Jorg is his usual horrible/awesome/ruthless/sarcastic self. He really makes no apologies for who he is and doesn’t even try to become a better person now that his child bride Miana is expecting a child. The plot flips between his actions and adventures five years ago and his current trek for the Congression in order to become Emperor of the Broken Empire. It’s reminiscent of Don Carlo’s character in Ernani except without the whole vowing to be a better person if he becomes emperor.
What I did like the most about Jorg’s character is that despite his all-around awfulness, you get the feeling that he’s broken on the inside as well and is fully aware of it. Even with those limitations on his character he grows within those limits quite well. As the end draws nearer you can feel his need to fulfill the purpose Fexler told him about despite the consequences. And how he fulfills that promise and solves the whole Dead King problem is absolutely brilliant on Mark Lawrence’s part. The epilogue also sticks to how Jorg’s character is and imagines a realistic ending for such a broken man.
As usual the world-building in The Broken Empire trilogy is amazing. We get to see all kinds of new places, learn about the promised lands where the radiation from the nuclear bombs went off and see all kinds of new characters that have grown out of the dark underbelly of the broken empire. What I found particularly interesting were not only how certain religions survived, but also the cult of mystery that surrounds ‘mathemagicians’. In a place that has essentially reverted back to the Middle Ages I suppose advanced math would be sort of magical.
The plot wasn’t nearly as confusing as it was in King of Thorns. I found the switches between different points of view had a more natural transition and that the little subplots were better explained. Overall it was a little more fast-paced because of that and Mark Lawrence kept me guessing until the end. Even in the epilogue I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to Jorg until it was revealed within the narrative. Now that is the mark of a good storyteller.
I give this book 5/5 stars.