My rating: 4 of 5 stars
While on my weekly stroll through Barnes and Noble last month, I picked up a trade paperback copy of Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence simply because I liked the cover art (it was simplistic and straight forward–a cloaked boy standing on a pile of bones). I read the blurb on the back, and since Game of Thrones was about to have its season finale, I purchased Prince of Thorns to help quench my thirst for medieval violence.
After glancing through some of the Goodreads reviews I noticed that people either loved or hated this book. I read the book in two days (the entire trilogy in three weeks), and give it 4 stars. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to read a Game of Thrones type story narrated exclusively by the one main character (no head-hopping in this book).
Prince of Thorns follows Prince Jorg of Ancrath, a thirteen-year-old sociopath on a mission to reunite the Broken Empire by becoming Emperor. (Why? Because everyone tells him he can’t.) But since his father, the King of Ancrath (one of the 100 kingdoms in the Broken Empire), basically left him for dead and took away his birthright, Jorg needs to steal himself a kingdom before he can even think of becoming emperor. The kid’s aiming high, and he doesn’t care who he and his band of murderous rouges have to kill to make him “King Jorg.”
The story starts out a bit disturbing, with Jorg pillaging and raping with his band of nasty road brother. But once you get past the violence of the first couple of chapters you discover that there is more to Jorg than killing just for the sake of killing. The boy’s got a lot of demons in his past he has to shake (like his frigid father), and by the end he has one or two less to worry about.
In addition to the story itself, there are several things I liked about this book. The pace is quick. The exposition is woven expertly throughout the story, rather than just being dumped in the first few chapters or a prologue. The characters (most of them anyway) are developed enough that you care when bad things happen to them. Jorg grows from a sociopathic child to a slightly less sociopathic young man. And, my favorite parts were the factoids about the brothers before most of the chapters.
Unfortunately, there was one thing that made it hard from me to give this book five stars. For most of the book I was unable to picture Jorg as a thirteen year old (even harder to picture him as being only ten in the flashback scenes). It was not the idea of a thirteen-year-old sociopath that was hard to believe. A thirteen year-old can certainly be a crazy S.O.B. The problem was that Jorg’s narration made it nearly impossible to picture him being so young. His thought process, not the thoughts themselves, seemed too farfetched for a child. If he started the story fifteen years of age, I might have found it more believable. I must note, however, that by the end I could better understand why Jorg processed his thoughts the way he did.
Overall, Prince of Thorns was great read. I recommend it to anyone looking for a dark epic fantasy to read while you wait for the next season of Game of Thrones to start.