Monday, July 1, 2013
Book review: "King of Thorns" by Mark Lawrence
Since I was at vacation the Monday I finished "Prince of Thorns" by Mark Lawrence, Tuesday next day, I continued with reading its sequel "King of Thorns". I must say that it's been long since I have read with such enthusiasm, leaving everything else besides! I was able to finish it at Tuesday after noon.
After getting his revenge in "Prince of Thorns" and becoming a King of Renar Highlands (one of the smaller and poorer regions in the neighborhood), Jorg is still not peaceful because there is another his unfulfilled ambition: becoming the Emperor (of the World, just to mention it).Four years after and he is sitting in his (only) castle, waiting for his future bride (whom he never met) and slowly becoming surrounded by army ten times bigger than the one he has. And to his greater chagrin, this army is led by Prince Orrin of Arrow, favorite by people and nations (for being good and caring ruler), descendant of last Emperor (while Jorg's line descends only from his Steward), and most important, favorite of all magicians and soothsayer (the real power behind thrones). So, what does a person in Jorg's position does? He attacks, of course...
"King of Thorns" is a different book from its prequel. First, it's longer: around 500 pages, where PoT was some 300 pages. While PoT had two timelines (the main one, and one four years ago describing how Jorg becomes what he is), KoT has three. First, there is again the main one, which I described in last paragraph. Curiously, this line of events get only sporadic chapter, at least until the end, when it really hits. Again, there is one happening four years ago, describing what Jorg did after coming to Renar Highlands and what lead to his "quarrel" with Prince Orrin. I was very surprised with this part, because after PoT, I didn't expect to find a classical fantasy quest/journey, where Jorg travels around the country, meeting new and old people, and does some "training". And third, a minor plot-line is a collection of excerpts from private diary of Katherine, who Jorg met in last book and who become his object of... Well, we'll not call it love, so call it obsession. I like it when storytelling is nonlinear and there is lot of wandering during it. So, definitely a plus.
Another thing that differs this book from previous part is that it is much softer. While "Prince of Thorns" was full of raping, murder and torture, "King of Thorns" is much lighter. Jorg is still cynical, dark and "practical", but he doesn't even meaninglessly kill anybody in this book (well, there's maybe that part with the lion...). His band of Brothers is still here, even though much smaller, but they also grew accustomed to some other principles. One could say that this is a complete reversal, but Lawrence wrote it so well that is feels very natural. On the other hand, there are still lots of graphical descriptions and not-so-honorable acts (hello Miana) that we all like so much.
Even so, Jorg is much softer. Not only in his conduct (he in now just a political psychopath, instead of a literal one), but is his skill also. While in PoT there was no task impossible for him, here we see some of his limits. But don't worry, Jorg is a resourceful one. Now he plays for larger scales that just revenge: strength of his country and army, position in game of thrones, even seeking alliances. This book is full of his retrospectives and memories of childhood. Even a happier childhood, in some instances...
As I said, I liked the traveling sequence, especially when he comes in the south - it reminded me to some other, more classical fantasy books when our hero trains to become a hero. If you gave only this few chapters to someone who haven't read "Prince of Thorns", he could have thought this a regular fantasy book... I also liked the part when they met the Circus.
One of strong-points of "Prince of Thorns" was its setting. "King of Thorns" tops it by a good margin. You can see it by map, which is much larger. But you also get more information about its history and present. Magic "system" also gets extended, and some new enemies have their introduction. I have never met Jack Vance's "The Dying Earth" stories, even though I hear much about them. I read some reviews mentioning that post-apocalyptic part of the setting is strongly influenced by this works, so I will definitely read them in future.
While "Prince of Thorns" was a great book, "King of Thorns" is even more so. I can sincerely say that it was one of best books I have read lately, in range of R. Scott Bakker, Joe Abercrombie's earlier books, Patrick Rothfuss. If "Emperor of Thorns", which is due for publishing very soon, be a book good as this one, "The Broken Empire" series will be one of the best ever! Definitely a recommendation to fans of first part, but also for all those who like a darker fantasy.