Friday Feature: It’s all about the Bass Thrones & Thorns!

Do you ever get the feeling you’ve heard that title before, seen that cover a million times, or get déjá vu when reading a synopsis? It seems like we see a different book trend every month lately, whether it’s a hot new sub-genre, a cover style or even a title trend.

I thought it would be fun to explore book trends in more detail, and for this first post on the subject I’m going to look at two words that have been continuously cropping up in book titles for what seems like forever, and they just keep on coming.

It’s impossible to know were it all really began, but for me these two trends began with George R.R Martin’s A Game of Thrones, and Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns. Since then it’s been pretty hard to look at any physical or virtual bookshelf in the fantasy section without being bombarded with both thrones and thorns.

Let’s take a look…

Thrones

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Overview: Tales of claims to the throne and everything that comes with it – war, murder, romance –  have always been popular in both Historical Fiction and Fantasy. But A Game of Thrones definitely seems to have been the game changer here. The ever popular series and accompanying TV show seems to have set in motion a whole new wave of old-world-new-world fantasy.

  • The Throne of Bones  by Brian McNaughton – 1997: I had to include this one just for the hilarious title. It’s not quite on trend with the rest as this is an anthology of Horror shorts.

    “Imagine earthy Tolkienesque characters in a setting full of cemeteries, graverobbers, necromancers, corpse-eaters–even a huge labyrinthine necropolis”.

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  • The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan – 2008: Now this is more like it. The synopsis sounds like a million other throne books that emerged between 2008 and now – but y’ know…still good.
  • The Lost Throne by Chris Kuzneski – 2008: Slight reprieve here as we head more into The Da Vinci Code territory (by the sounds of it). There isn’t even mention of a throne in the synopsis. Band wagon much!
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass – 2012: And we have lift off. As much as I love this title and the series in general, I did always wonder why she called it that. The throne in question plays a very little part in the book which makes me wonder if the choice of title was marketing genius over anything else.
  • Assassin’s Gambit (Hearts & Thrones #1) by Amy Raby – 2013: You could be forgiven for thinking this is the exact same plot of ToG from the synopsis. A beautiful assassin, a powerful emperor…that damned déjá vu again!

Thorns

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Overview: I always associate the use of thorns in literature with the Grimm’s fairy tale Little Briar Rose, and many of these books appear to have been inspired by that too. These are stories of broken princes, powerful sorcerers and abandoned castles. We’ve seen a steady resurgence of fairy-tale retellings in the past twenty years, but only recently have so many focused on the thorns element.

  • The Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead – 2008: Richelle Mead is always pretty ahead of her game. She brought us Vampire Academy before the whole Twilight thing went mental, and here she’s at it again.
  • Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – 2011: This was when I first noticed the emerging trend of thorns and it seems to have paved the way for the anti-hero too.
  • Thorn by Intisar Khanani – 2012
  • The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge – 2011: Not to be confused with the iron throne in Game of Thrones…are you getting confused yet?
  • Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman – 2013: This is another one that has been popular in the YA world of fantasy.
  • Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay – 2014: Woah. Double whammy or what. This book is actually described as:

    Game of Thrones meets the Grimm’s fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.’

    Why have one trend when you can have two? Mind blown. I also really want to read it now!

Final Thoughts: So there we have it. This is just a snap-shot of the books out there that seem to be following these trends. If this were a battle though, I’d say that the thrones trend may be coming to an end, and the thorns are taking over.

It’s also interesting how much fire, ice and bones are mentioned in both trends. The two themes seem pretty incestuous actually – nearly all of the thorn books also mention thrones, however the same can not be said the other way around. But whether you’re in to Iron Thrones or Iron Thorns, you’re not going to run out of reading material any time soon!

What do you think about these two trends…do you have a favourite??

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

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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!

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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.

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Prince of Thorns is available in paperback from Waterstones now.