Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns is the first book in The Broken Empire trilogy that revolves around a young prince whose mother and brother were tragically killed. Count Renar, member of another family who also own lands within The Broken Empire world, is to blame for the deaths. Jorg Ancrath, our protagonist prince, is left to watch his mother and brother be brutally murdered as he lies hidden watching from the side of the road. The agony for this child, who was but ten years old at the time, is that he was tangled within thorns and the more he tried to move and save his family, the deeper the thorns pierced him. A while later the prince recovers from the poisonous thorns and makes a chance escape with a group of bandits from his father’s dungeons. Spurred on by the thought of finding vengeance for his familial grief, he travels the lands killing hundreds of people with his ‘brothers’, growing into a young(ish) man with plenty of blood on his blade.
Sometime after Jorg’s fourteenth birthday, he returns home to King Ancrath’s castle to surprise his father with the knowledge that his son is still alive. However, he is met with disapproval and the King sends him on an erroneous mission that will surely end in death. As is want with most stories concerning kings, queens and princes, the story is set in a sort of medieval world where swords, crossbows and magic are all commonplace. However, the story’s setting is complicated by the dangerous, modern technology of ancient people that Jorg utilises to defeat his enemies. As Jorg ventures on this suicidal quest with his brothers, he encounters strange, half-human creatures who have seemingly been affected by this ancient people’s technology. Moreover, he also meets necromancers and mages who aim to manipulate the young prince.
Truth be told, when I first started reading Lawrence’s novel I wasn’t entirely keen on the protagonist or the likelihood of the story. Jorg is a ten year old boy when he sets out on his travels with a group of wicked, animalistic men. It hardly seems likely that he could kill others to keep his head above water in this murderous company, let alone become leader of the pack. Secondly, the first-person narration of Jorg became tiresome at first. It read like a moody teenager with a death wish, a character’s storyline I would not usually lean towards. However, as Lawrence tells us of Jorg’s education, fierce personality, influencers and intellect, the Prince’s story becomes more and more likely. Moreover, with this understanding comes a strange fondness towards this mad anti-hero. Whilst, he is an angry young man too quick to reach for his blade, underneath it all lies a harrowing story and a child who has been misguided in his grief.
Despite the ill-advised upbringing Jorg has, there are some who try to influence him positively among his contingent. Nuban, a wise, smiling brother who Jorg rescued from torture, is an influential figure to the prince and eventually a friend. Makin, also strikes a fatherly figure who guides Jorg and begins to show remorse for the blood on his hands. Expect Lawrence to gradually affect a warmth from you towards these other characters and their own stories.
Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns is an exciting and rich book. The short chapters make for easy-sized reading, but you will likely find yourself grazing on at least five chapters at a time. I would recommend this book to any fantasy lovers who enjoy a good ol’ bloodbath in battles and those who find themselves drawn towards the mythical and supernatural. In essence, read this book if you enjoyed J. R. R. Tolkein’s famous novels, but don’t be mistaken this novel is a brilliant book in its own right and much, much more than a Lord of the Rings knock-off. My only wish is that I had ordered the second and third instalments quicker as I have been left idly waiting for postman.