Emperor of Thorns is the last book of the Broken Empire Trilogy, of which I have reviewed the previous two books. Emperor of Thorns continues where the previous book left off. Jorg is now twenty and he still has yet to kill his father. He aims for the position of Emperor, however nobody in living memory has secured the majority vote necessary to attain the position. There is also the small matter of the deadly necromancer, The Dead King, who is feared even more than Jorg himself. Between these three factors the plot promises itself to be something decent, and after reading King of Thorns I was very excited to read this.
In terms of style this book once again proved itself to be different by introducing point of view segments other than that of Jorg, although Jorg remains the main first person narrator. The main side narrative is that of Chella, a recurring character from previous instalments in the trilogy. As a necromancer her segments show the Dead King’s side of the conflict, which helps set up some plot points later in the novel. The novel steers between Jorg’s past and present, but this time I’m not so keen on it. Since the present day plotline isn’t quite as streamlined as the previous book, I felt like the past segments served no real purpose this time round. A lot of the stuff covered there could easily have been dealt with in the present in some way. As a result I felt like this book lost some of the narrative strength when compared to its predecessor.
Character wise I very much enjoyed Chella, who I felt became much more developed upon gaining point of view segments. Jorg is still the loveable asshole that he was in previous books, and Miana is still as awesome as ever. The Dead King, I enjoyed a lot. He proved to be a very menacing villain, and was certainly a fitting end villain to the trilogy. I often have problems with fantasy trilogies which have weak villains for the last book, but the Dead King remains anything but weak even towards the end as we begin to learn more about him. He is the perfect antithesis to Jorg in every way. As a whole the characters in the novel seem to have improved, and there isn’t a weak character anywhere in this book.
Like before there were a few interesting plot twists. The best by far was that of the Dead King’s identity. The reveal was utterly brilliant and set the Dead King up perfectly as Jorg’s equal. While I would normally spoil this, I feel this is one I should keep tight lipped about because it is so utterly brilliant. However some of the other twists I didn’t like, in part because I had difficulty understanding them. The sub plot with the builders in particular was one I had difficulty understanding, although I eventually learned enough to gather that the entire world was meant to be a post apocalypse earth. This plot point seemed a bit iffy to me, since there was nothing really foreshadowing this reveal outside of the place names and a few points of their culture. I think I would have liked this reveal better if they made the past technology more prominent in previous books, because I seemed to miss all hints of it prior to this book. The reveal also ruined the immersion for me a little bit, since it no longer felt like a fantasy world to me any more.
Overall the book was stronger than Prince of Thorns, but I felt like it didn’t quite live up to the same kind of strength as King of Thorns. There was some plot points that I liked, but the reveal about the setting seemed pointless, and also seemed to have little bearing on the overall plot of the series. The book could have set itself in a run of the mill fantasy world and nobody would be any the wiser. However everything about the Dead King I liked, and the ending of the book felt like a natural end to the trilogy as a whole. On its own this book is decent, but at times falls under the weight of its own attempts to distinguish itself. Its not the strongest entry in the trilogy, but it holds its own well enough.
IN A WORD: OKAY