No one can tell you whether you are going to like a book or not. When I read the first few pages of this book, I had this sinking feeling that I was really going to have to TRY to like it. The first person narrative felt eccentric and the protagonist felt archetypal and narcissistic.
But it just kind of got under your skin. Not after a few chapters. Right away. It's like when you're watching a TV show and you can't put your finger on why you like a character. Not in the labored foreshadowing-of-redemption kind of way. But because they scratch an itch or make you think.
THEN I whispersynced over to the audiobook and it all just clicked. I've had audiobooks before that were more enjoyable than reading the book, but this was different. This was like the voice actor shed light on the character and made the narrative voice feel 'right.' Suddenly it wasn't a borderline annoying teen with daddy issues - it was Alex from Clockwork Orange, except now he's a sellsword fighting witches, or whatnot. Yeah, I know, it's kind of crude/rude to compare one character to another, so don't go running away with that analogy. That's just how it was perceived by me.
Prince of Thorns is rough and dark and super melodramatic in a medieval film noir kind of way. I can understand why some people don't like it. But I also kind of think it's bound to have a cult following. I'm still not sure whether the book is truly good or not, but putting it down is hard and I think about it all the time, like a disturbing dream I wish I hadn't woken up from.
This story has a distinctly "Big Fish" feel to it. Shuffling, kindly, eccentrics with a bygone-era vibe. A cynical curmudgeon hurting people, despite his good heart. Love at first sight with an unobtainable woman. A circus/vaudeville troupe to give everything a flair of magic, art, and color. Like Big Fish, I wanted to like it, but it drove. me. crazy. (So, if you love Big Fish, ignore the rest of my review and buy this book! You are not me and that is fine.)
The characters are TOO annoying. George is a teenager who is blind, self-centered, and vain. Normal teenagers have good days and bad days, so we can love them despite their craziness, but George finds a way to be nails-on-chalkboard awkward all the time, whether he's yelling at someone or romancing them. The other characters notice this, but (strangely) love and pamper him anyway. You will not have this impulse.
It's not just George, either. Have you ever had an argument where the other person makes their point, and you say you're sorry, but then they continue to explain why they're mad over and over until they run out of anger? All the characters are like this, their fury-monologues meticulously transcribed. And they have plenty of opportunities for screaming fits because they spend all their time hanging out with other psychologically miscalibrated individuals.
Really, I can't say that Bennett's character development is bad. I've met people just like his characters. They're just the type of people whose drama and psychosis I try to avoid.
The story is TOO saccarine. Seriously, there is a point at the end, where a character is observed by all his neighbors looking heartbreaking in a manner they can't put their finger on. It's ham-fisted tragedy at its finest. Just when you think the author has painted himself up the most obvious tragic scenario possible, interlaced with 5 other tragic scenarios, he painstakingly explains to you "see, this is what I've done here...." Even when he writes himself a happy ending, he makes sure you know everyone is beautifully screwed. And it's soooo bittersweet you immediately need to go to the dentist.
This is a fairytale without claws. It is not a horror any more than a Disney movie is a horror. It has a "villain" - a very heartwarming villain who is the most likable character. It might be scary to children whose imaginations can provide the kind of terror the author does not. As an adult, your imagination will be too busy figuring out how to kill off all the characters except the two you like. Just like when you're watching "Walking Dead!"
I don't know why people keep getting confused that fairytales can be written by providing a lot of detailed surreal atmosphere and maybe some fairies. A fairytale is dark and unnerving and teaches you about survival. I don't know what this book teaches you. I guess not to date that girl/guy who's been through some stuff and seems a little broken. And that she might be trying to save the world.
I won't lie. I bought this audiobook because it was long and I thought the sequels were already written. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I read too many reviews in a row and got all turned around.) So, now I'm in the same dang position I was to begin with: waiting impatiently for the next book to be written.
First, the voice actors. This is one of those books that switches between two voice actors, depending on whether the chapter's focal character is male or female. I found Michael Kramer's style a little annoying in the beginning - he pauses too much or something - but I got over it. Now, I'm sure I'll feel like all BS books must be read by him. Kate Reading is simply a narrator I don't notice that much. Which is classy. She doesn't intrude on the narrative.
This is my first Brandon Sanderson book (in case you didn't get that from my intro) and I have to admit I enjoyed it for more than just it's vast page numbers. It uses the device of far-flung characters revealed to be intertwined. This tactic can feel either exasperatingly contrived or mesmerizing, and in this book it really works. The story is just so complex that by the time things start coming together you aren't really sure whether you want your favorite characters to meet or not.
Sanderson invests a lot of time in developing an intricate world, but he doesn't get all top heavy with the history, like so many fantasy writers. He also provides plenty of juicy details about social customs, technologies, politics and language. I still think Patrick Rothfuss is king of 'fictional culture' writing, but I was intrigued by many of Sanderson's ideas. He can be most interesting when he merely hints at a fully imagined city you might never get to visit. And some bits are just plain scary. I have to admit, though, that I might have gotten a little stormed out, by all the storming storms, by the end of the tale. But I kind of miss it, too... lol.
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