Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book review: "Emperor of Thorns" by Mark Lawrence

I don't usually read sequelling books immediately one after another, but like to spread them over some time, maybe insert a reread now or then. But after reading "Prince of Thorns", I just couldn't resist reading "King of Thorns", as I also couldn't resist reading "Emperor of Thorns" immediately it was published last week. With this, I finished "The Broken Empire" trilogy by Mark Lawrence.

"Emperor of Thorns", similarly to KoT, has three plots-lines. The main one, the present, is happening two years after Jorg Ancrath's defeat of Prince of Arrow and becoming a King of seven nations, instead of just one. As the book starts, Jorg is just preparing for a journey to the Congression, a meeting of rulers that happens every four years and on which the Emperor can be chosen. Jorg is going there pretty sure he will be selected Emperor, because if he is not, he will pretty upset... Second plot continues immediately his adventures at Horse Coast, expanding them eventually to continent of Afrique. And while in KoT we had Katherine's story, here we have Chella's story, a POV by character opposite to Jorg from the first book.

If you have read first two books in "The Broken Empire" trilogy, you know what to expect: blood and violence. In my review of "King of Thorns", I said one or twice that Jorg felt softer than in "Prince of Thorns", not killing or maiming people randomly. This is also true here; as Jorg says, he has overgrown killing people on whim, but it doesn't mean that he will balk of anything necessary to protect those he cares about. And people, Jorg actually openly cares for somebody in this book. This makes him at the same time softer and harder than before. Softer, as I said, because he is not a loose cannon anymore; but harder, because he will not stop at anything defending what is his.

I really have to congratulate Mark Lawrence for making Jorg develop so much, but making it feel so natural. And also for successfully making such brutal and unique character, more evil than villains in some books, a protagonist and a person to root for. Because, it is quite impossible not to root for Jorg. And if you have any liking for anti-heroes, gray-morality or for gritty literature, you will just adore this book.

I see that I am not lonely in this sentiment, because my e-book edition had more highlights than last 10 books I read together. And consider that the book was out only few days when I have read it... This will be one of the top books of this year.

The plot is pretty interesting, especially the main one. As the book was coming to close, I kept wondering how Lawrence will be able to resolve all the started threads, but I have to admit that he did it magnificently. This book and trilogy has just a great ending - it leaves just enough questions unanswered, but gives a decent resolution of the story. Jorg keeps pulling rabbits out of his hat, but rarely it feels like something forced - Lawrence makes him pretty believable and consistent. The pace if constantly intense and there is not time for leisure. There are just so many powerful and memorable scenes in the book.

A small objection could be raised that the identity of the main villain is revealed pretty early in the book. Not openly revealed, but there are enough clues to guess it almost at the start. But this doesn't hurt the story much. Also, the plotline dealing with events in Afrique belittles the events in "King of Thorns" a bit, revealing Jorg knew about future more than enough to fix a score...

Setting was vastly expended in KoT, compared to PoT, and in "Emperor of Thorns" it gets filled decently. As I said, enough questions are with no answers to keep us waiting for more, but there are no inconsistencies. When I started reading this series, I would never be able to guess how perfect blend of SF and fantasy it would turn out to be in the end.

Again, I have to repeat my opinion that "Emperor of Thorns" will be one of the top books of this year: thrilling plot, superb main character, with unique and gritty way of presenting the story. A big recommendation for this book and the trilogy to anybody who likes dark stories!

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