Prince of Thorns (Mark Lawrence 2011)

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Aww… an adventure about a fourteen year old kid? How cute. This kid just butchered a village? Associates with rapists, and implied to be one himself? Okay…. maybe this kid isn’t so innocent after all. Prince of Thorns, follows fourteen year old Prince Jorg Ancrath, who was forced to watch the death of his mother and younger brother. The experience left him bitter and in the present he leads a gang of outlaws, and intends to become King. This leads him to return home to confront his father, Olidan Ancrath and his uncle Count Renar and ascend to the throne of the Broken Empire.

As a protagonist Jorg is utterly irredeemable, a rare trait in a protagonist. He has very few, if any, redeeming qualities. He is a textbook sociopath, yet at the end you feel as though you understand him. This draws me in, but at the same time it pushes me away as a reader. On the one hand, it is interesting to see him as a character but by the end I feel myself wondering if he was ever going to change as a character? Since these type of characters go through some kind of redemption arc, or have redeeming qualities from the get go, the lack of major character development bugged me somewhat.

The first person narrative is compelling and gives Jorg a lot of character. However this comes at the cost of the understanding of other characters. Since a lot of the conflict is revolves around Jorg rather than the people he interacts with. Hence a lot of the characters felt like background objects to me. His mercenary friends are particularly guilty, since while they’re interesting they’re only real function in the plot is to be Jorg’s lackeys. I was a little disappointed as well that the character arc with his father was not resolved, the plot thread dumped in favour of a confrontation with Count Renar and his servant Corion. It felt like a bit of a cop out since I was lead to believe that the novel was building up to some kind of confrontation between Jorg and his father. Hence I felt disappointed when the character actually survived the book.

Overall, the book was a little bit disappointing. I liked the frequent switching between past and present but after a while got tiring, and detracted from the progression of the present day storyline. Prince Jorg is an interesting character, however he is the sole driving force behind. The setting is nothing new, just a generic crapsack land where everything has gone to shit, and the plot was nothing special. It was a good book but it wasn’t great either. Considering the rave reviews surrounding the series, the book was a bit of a disappointment to me.

SCORE: 3/5

IN A WORD: BLAND

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