About the Book
The second book in the Broken Empire series, Lawrence takes his young anti-hero one step closer to his grand ambition.
To reach greatness you must step on bodies, and many brothers lie trodden in my wake. I’ve walked from pawn to player and I’ll win this game of ours, though the cost of it may drown the world in blood…
The land burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings fight for the Broken Empire. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.
A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg’s gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.
Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan.
Warning: This isn’t really a review. It’s more of a rant and rave about how wonderful this series is.
I have had an interesting relationship with Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire series. The first time I read Prince of Thorns, I found it enjoyable, but otherwise rather unbelievable. Then I got to know the author a bit and read a few random passages he’d put up on Facebook from whatever book he was working on at the time. I realized I missed something. I gave Prince of Thorns another go, and this time I ended up loving it, so I ravenously continued on to King of Thorns. I’m glad I did.
King of Thorns is just as gritty, grimy, raw and uncomfortable as Prince of Thorns. The difference is that Jorg is older now, with more experience with legitimate leadership under his belt. While he still makes rash decisions, he has also had some time for inner reflection and growth which makes him a more mature, yet still somewhat insane, and very morally gray, protagonist.
It’s often said that genius flirts with insanity, and Lawrence does a wonderful job at showing both the genius of Jorg and his own subtle insanity. Mixed with this are some scenes where Jorg spends time alone, lost in his own thoughts. These moments are quiet, and really allow Lawrence to show off his ability to write some truly amazing, emotional and descriptive scenes. This interesting mix of intelligence and crazy in one protagonist has a tendency to keep readers on the edge with regards to Jorg. He’s a character that you can’t really pin down. He’s done horrible things, and he’s pretty unapologetic for it. He is stubborn and this gets him into quite a few big messes. Half the time the reader will think that Jorg asks for all the bad luck he runs across. Then, you encounter Jorg on the mountain, quietly remembering his life, or thinking about what could be, and you maybe realize that this guy is completely misunderstood. Lawrence keeps the pendulum swinging. Right when you think you have Jorg figured out, everything changes.
That’s part of the true genius behind this series.
Lawrence uses flashbacks, like he did in Prince of Thorns, to not only fill readers in on what has happened in the four years between the first book and the second, but also to move the plot along. These flashbacks are very well done, and while they can be a bit lengthy, they don’t ever have the wasted space feel that some flashbacks do (I tend to almost completely hate flashbacks in the books I read, so that’s a pretty huge compliment coming from me). They are just as useful in filling readers in on the history of Jorg and his rise to being king, as well as his current situation and why certain things are happening the way they are. Lawrence measures the flashbacks out well, and keeps the plot moving no matter what timeframe he’s dealing with. Flashback or not, it doesn’t really matter. Every detail is just as important as every other detail. My suggestion? If you are an author who wants to write a good flashback, you need to study how Lawrence does it.
Readers will also be introduced to new characters, as well as the old that they will remember from Prince of Thorns. Lawrence does a great job at making each character unique and believable. Character development seems to be the author’s talent. While Jorg will stand out most to readers, every character is just as craftily developed, and just as complex in their own ways. Yes, Jorg can overshadow some secondary characters but it’s worth focusing on the ones that might seem a bit unimportant. Lawrence colors them with stark realism and it’s absolutely fascinating. There isn’t any wasted space in King of Thorns, not even with secondary characters.
That is, perhaps, what King of Thorns excels at. Lawrence’s superb prose will ensure that everyone who reads this book will be emotionally invested somehow. No matter how twisted and uncomfortable Jorg makes you, you can’t help but admire his absolute genius, or how he handles the incredible, almost improbable situations he finds himself in. His sick sense of humor has a tendency to make my skin crawl (which is a feeling that I absolutely love and don’t feel nearly often enough with the books I read. But hey, I’m a sucker for a little insanity and a lot of gray morality), but under all of that, Lawrence infuses this book with such deep emotional turmoil that you can’t turn away. It’s impossible. Jorg is one of those haunting, tragically emotional characters that you can’t ignore. King of Thorns is full of such raw emotion that the pages practically turn themselves. Each character has their own personality, their own emotional baggage and flaws and it’s these flaws and this baggage that will keep readers absolutely captivated, despite how uncomfortable some scenes might make them.
Isn’t it a true mark in the author’s favor that he can make readers so incredibly uncomfortable?
In the end, King of Thorns is a step up from Prince of Thorns. Lawrence has grown as an author, and his story grows along with him. The plot is complex and Jorg is still a really uncomfortable character to follow (in the best possibly way), but he’s humanized and mellowed a bit in King of Thorns. He’s growing up, and while he’s still a good mix of genius and insane, it’s that interesting mix that tempers him enough to make him palatable to a wide range of readers. While King of Thorns is just as graphic as it’s predecessor, and some of the scenes could easily make your stomach churn, Lawrence balances all of that with some truly poetic prose and some calm moments of reflection and inner development that are honestly quite stunning. Furthermore, King of Thorns advances the plot of the series, answering some questions but leaving plenty unanswered for the next installment.