Title: Prince of Thorns
Author: Mark Lawrence
Series: The Broken Empire #1
Edition: Paperback, 399 pages
Publication Details: April 12th 2012 by Harper Voyager
Genre(s): Dark Fantasy; ‘Grimdark’
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from a friend!
When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. At thirteen, he led a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king…
It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him–and he has nothing left to lose. But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?
I had such high hopes for this book. Numerous people have told me that I should give Dark Fantasy, or Grimdark – as all the cool kids are calling it – a go. I like action. I like violence and gore, and I’m a fan of Game of Thrones (although I have yet to embark on the books), so it sounds like a match made in Heaven, but unfortunately Prince of Thorns didn’t quite tick all the boxes for me.
Our protagonist is young Prince Jorg, who’s on a mission of debauchery and revenge along with his own band of loyal, marauding brothers. He has two main goals: The throne, and revenge on Count Renar who killed his mother and brother. Both of these goals lead him back to his father’s castle, where he must face the ghosts of his past.
The way in which I was pitched this book was kind of like imagine Joffrey let loose on a kingdom, and I liked the sound of that. We all love to hate characters like Joffrey, right? But I didn’t quite get that with Jorg.
Having a protagonist who rapes and murders for a hobby is always going to be tricky, and a bit of a risk. It’s not even that I always feel like I need to relate to the protagonist, but I need to have some kind of feelings towards them. With Prince of Thorns, it took me too long to find that. I felt like I needed something extra to get myself invested in Jorg’s story. I didn’t even particularly hate him, I just kind of felt sorry for him.
Saying that, I was compelled to keep reading. I liked the flashbacks to Jorg’s earlier life in the castle, and then, once he returned and faced his father, I definitely started getting into the story as I felt I could finally understand him a little. It was here he showed the first signs of fear and vulnerability, and you could finally see him for what he is – a disturbed and scared boy pretending to be a man.
As for the writing and style of this novel, I’m torn. On one hand I loved the epicness of it, but on the other I found it a bit OTT, enough with the metaphors already.
I love the whole medieval-meets-post-apocalyptic world, but at times I found it hard to picture what was going on, probably because it was over-written for my taste, again, the metaphors!
I’m not at all put off by the Grimdark genre though, or by Mark Lawrence. As a debut novel, Prince of Thorns was a ridiculously daring feat, and I look forward to trying his later offerings to compare.
Prince of Thorns is available in paperback from Waterstones now.