Prince of Fools – Mark Lawrence

About the Book

Hailed as “epic fantasy on a George R. R. Martin scale, but on speed” (Fixed on Fantasy), the Broken Empire trilogy introduced a bold new world of dark fantasy with the story of Jorg Ancrath’s devastating rise to power. Now, Mark Lawrence returns to the Broken Empire with the tale of a less ambitious prince…

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.


368 pages (hardcover)
Published on June 3, 2014
Published by Ace
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

Lawrence established himself as a force to be reckoned with when he wrote his books about Jorg. Dark, captivating, and absolutely addicting, he managed to write something new and completely different in one of the most layered, dark worlds I’ve run across in fantasy in a long time.

I was thrilled when I heard he was writing a new series, but less thrilled when I learned it took place in the same world. I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to break away from the Jorg-like voice from his previous series. I was afraid that it would feel very same-old-same-old. Jorg 2.0, if you will.

Never fear, dear readers. If you were afraid that Lawrence wouldn’t be able to break away from Jorg, his voice, his tone, then you’re completely wrong.

The world that Lawrence has created is so vast, and so full of complex cultures and sprawling history, that it is easy to picture him setting another series of books in it. There’s plenty of room for everyone to play. The book is centered in different locations, with the protagonist, Jalan, only converging with some characters from Jorg’s books briefly. Furthermore, it was very refreshing to see how Lawrence expanded his world rather than treading too far in lands and cultures that we’ve run across before. The map is large, and it feels large, because readers will experience so much of it.

That being said, I found Lawrence’s brief encounters with a few characters from his previous books to be a delightful addition. New readers will easily be able to pick up this book and start fresh without being confused or lost. Readers who are returning to this delightful world will find the encounters with people we’ve met before to be endearing and a nice, soft touch to a new series. It reminds readers that this world has already been developed, while giving some perspective as to just how Jalan fits with everything we’ve already read about. It’s well done, but it’s not oppressive.

Jalan himself is a character I instantly fell in love with, for several reasons. First, his voice is so completely different than Jorg’s voice ever was. Jalan loves himself. This guy thinks he is the shit, and he is also keenly aware of his failings. He cuts corners, cheats, steals, and tries to get to the best end the easiest ways. He’s not afraid to use his princely status to gain the results he wants the easiest way possible. He enjoys his vices, and sees no problem with gambling, whoring, or anything else. Basically, Jalan is a gutter rat in a prince’s high position. It’s a fantastic juxtaposition of traits, and Lawrence really does it well. Jalan is a bright, almost oblivious character, and he’s absolutely addicting for it.

Jalan’s own bright and rather humorous personality is nicely balanced by Snorri, who is a man with the worries of the world on his shoulders. The dark sorcery that  ties the two of them together is fantastic, and very true to the darker characteristic’s of Lawrence’s world. Furthermore, this dark sorcery, and the long journey these two (nearly complete) strangers are forced to undertake together strikes off some absolutely awesome personal growth for both characters, and their relationship to each other. While Snorri is darker than Jalan, they both have their demons they are fighting, and they both face these demons in very different ways. I appreciate balance in my books, and Lawrence’s balance between dark and light is perfect, and deep, and fascinating.

The plot moves really quickly, and Jalan is such a fun character to learn about and engage with, that even the slower moments are fast feeling. The world is large, and the action is almost nonstop. There are twists and turns, and plenty of unexpected moments throughout. The ending is perfect to tie up the events that happened, while leaving readers hanging on for more. I enjoyed the fact that Lawrence managed to keep me guessing throughout, but reveled information (and questions) at a nearly perfect pace. He’s learned a lot in his time as an author, and he really pulls out all the stops with Prince of Fools.

Lawrence is an author that matters in the genre. He is powerful and his writing is unique. I honestly wish I had a fraction of his talent with word manipulation. Jorg was a huge chance he took that paid off in a big way. Jalan is a completely and absolutely different sort of character that is just as addicting as Jorg for very different reasons. Prince of Fools is a fun, fast, dark, and deceptively deep book that will engage readers instantly. All of the Lawrence trademarks are here. This book is full of quotable passages; the characters are a fascinating mix of dark and light. There’s optimism here, but it’s sort of hidden around the edges. The personal growth the characters undergo is just as interesting as unfolding plot. It’s completely Lawrence, but absolutely different from his previous series. New readers will be delighted, and the tried-and-true fans will be immensely pleased.

Congratulations, Lawrence, you’ve hit another homerun.


5/5 stars

11 Responses

  • …..nice review, good to know that Jalan is someone you also loved, I just can’t wait to read this…..

  • Kristijan R.

    So… good news, then. We’re in for a treat. 🙂

    Thanks for the review.

    • I hope you like it. It’s very different than his previous books. If you keep that in mind when you read it, you won’t be disappointed.

  • Good news indeed. Thanks Sarah.

    • My blogging life isn’t complete until you’ve commented my posts. 🙂

      • I have tried to get that milestone many a time, so far no luck.

        Good review, I feel much the same way. A few days later I am thinking I may have underrated it, I suddenly can’t wait for more in this storyline.

  • Cheryl Holsonbake

    Another book to add to my to-read pile for summer. I always appreciate your reviews!

  • Liam

    Well I’m glad it wasn’t a disappointment – I’ve been waiting for Prince of Fools for over a year. Can’t say I’m in love with the man himself, but I’ve always been a huge believer in separating the art from the artist so that’s no problem.

    Now Book Depository just needs to get its copy to me quicksmart.

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