17 December, 2012

Review - King of Thorns (The Broken Empire #2) by Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence stormed onto the scene (well, as much as you can in the publishing world) last year with his debut, Prince of Thorns (my non-standard review), book one in The Broken Empire. This divisive book found a fan in me, despite this particular first person point of view that all notions of good and virtue tells you to hate.

I found a lot of things that I liked about Jorg even though I didn't love everything about him. Lawrence's captivating writing and smooth prose keep the pages flying and have not a little to do with making this work genius in its own ways.

King of Thorns [US] [UK] is quite the experience to say the least. Jorg really resonated with me in this sequel, he's growing up a bit, still self-obsessed, but seeing things a little differently than his kill everything/everyone past. I like his whole, "I'm going to make this happen no matter the odds" philosophy, but at times he really is hard to read. 

While his disposition on let's say kicking severed heads was enlightening, clever, and funny, it's also terribly creepy. And that's not the only one. I've heard it compared to "staring at a fire," you just can't stop, but how much are you really enjoying it? The more I think about it, the more this describes my reading experience. I don't really know how much I actually enjoyed the reading experience especially with the amount of cringe-worthy moments.

This being said, I am vastly impressed by Lawrence's talent to not only keep you reading despite these moments, but to keep you rooting for a character who can be so deplorable. I say "can be" because he does have his moments of goodness, they're just peppered with moments that make you a little sick or shocked even.

Along with the character of Jorg, Lawrence employs a plot device throughout King of Thorns that I thought was incredibly interesting and worked extremely well. The book takes place four years after Prince of Thorns and consists of the present day and then lengthy flashbacks to four years earlier, when Jorg was newly "crowned" king of Renar. The present is actually his Wedding Day, but at the same time the Prince of Arrow has marched on the highlands of Renar with his countless soldiers. By flashing between these two time frames, we begin to find out that Jorg has not only grown, but has had dealings with the Prince of Arrow in the past. 

In the present, we see Jorg is going through some, let's call them mental experiences. He sees a dead child everywhere he goes, which is obviously a hallucination, and he holds some mysterious box. The box is not only an interesting addition to the story, but works as an impressive plot device, but I'm wary of revealing too much. Let's just say there is an addition means of keeping information from the reader.

As well as using clever plot devices, I found Lawrence's human to be clever in the extreme, with little gems like this strewn throughout:

"They call it a gate but it is a door, five yards high, three yards wide, black oak with iron banding, a smaller door set into the middle of it for when it is simply men seeking entrance rather than giants."
For many instances of humor, I had to reread, almost missing the joke entirely. This is definitely the kind of humor I prefer and Mark has a subtlety that just worked for me.

Lawrence has created a series that challenges your perceptions and manages to be compulsively readable. The Broken Empire trilogy is an experience to say the least. I couldn't put it down and that's partly because I couldn't look away. King of Thorns takes the anti-hero to a whole new level, one who gives Logan Ninefingers of Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy a run for his money.

4 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended!)

The Broken Empire:
1) Prince of Thorns (review)
2) King of Thorns 
3) Emperor of Thorns (forthcoming