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2.0 out of 5 starsNo sympathy for this devil
Reviewed in the United States on November 1, 2018
I think the author was trying to write a book about scoundrels, which aren't easy to portray. This scoundrel is a murderer and a rapist and is unrepentant about it. Tack on a relentlessly smart-ass know-it-all attitude, plot armor so thick you'll groan, mercenaries that will die for a young teenager for no discernible reason (except perhaps for the laughable reason that he can somehow beat them in combat), and you've got a thoroughly unlikable, unenjoyable protagonist. The book never wavers from his POV, so there is no relief from his view of the carnage. A late reveal that questions his 'agency' might leave room for redemption, but on reflection he finds he has no regrets. Well, I do, for sticking through to the end to find nothing redeeming about this story of a murder-hobo seeking revenge (and a throne, for no explained reason). The author is a talented writer but his story leaves much to be desired - try 'Best Served Cold' by Abercrombie for a solid revenge tale, and scoundrels you can both love and hate.
5.0 out of 5 starsLawrence as a terrific reputation as an author and I’d just spent money ...
Reviewed in the United States on March 1, 2018
I’d never read a Mark Lawrence novel before and thought I’d give this one a shot. I was very confused when I started the book. I thought it was supposed to be about a prince trying to recover his throne. However as I read the first chapter it seemed to be about a murderer and rapist. I thought that maybe I was getting a chapter from the antagonist’s point of view. Then I started chapter two and it was the same POV from the same villain. I stopped reading part way through chapter two when the protagonist described a rape he’d participated in. I thought to myself that there was no way I was going to read 300 pages about this @#$# @#$%$.
If it had been an unknown author, I probably would have stopped at that point. However, Lawrence as a terrific reputation as an author and I’d just spent money on a book and was ticked off that I’d only read a chapter and a half. So I kept reading.
And it kept getting better. And better. And better. As it turns out there a reason why the protagonist is a murdering @#$#%.
The writing is excellent. The story is engrossing. The world building is intriguing. Lawrence writes terrific action scenes to top it off.
Be forewarned, the book is very grim and very dark. If you can get past that, I think you’ll love the novel.
5.0 out of 5 stars... the start I wasn't sure I was going to like this book
Reviewed in the United States on March 6, 2018
Prince Jorg starts off as a completely unsympathetic character and at the start I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. The more I read though, the further I got sucked in. There are times he's difficult to understand, he goes from cold to hot at the blink of an eye, he's surrounded himself with the worst of the worst and he takes lives without flinching. Sounds fairly horrible, right? As you read on it becomes clear that a childhood tragedy and the manipulations of magic have had a huge hand in shaping him to be who he is and while it's not always "okay" it's understandable. The best part of his personality is his wit, in my opinion.
At this point I can't wait to read the next book in the series because I just have to know what happens next. The writing is solid and the characters are compelling although I do think our anti-hero was probably written about four years younger than he should be considering his abilities. If you're looking for a new fantasy series consider this one, bearing in mind that the world of the Prince of Thorns is a brutal, bloody place.
4.0 out of 5 starsPush through the first third of the book and you may be surprised
Reviewed in the United States on April 4, 2019
After multiple attempts to read this book, I gave it a third and final chance two days ago and I was pleasantly surprised. I know, you're thinking 'Why give a book so many chances?'. The main reason being I had already paid for it and needed something new to read and didn't feel like purchasing another book that would sit unread in my eBook library. I had attempted to read it twice before but could only make it through the first 50 or so pages until I put it down. On this final attempt, I forced myself to read past what I thought was an unbelievable beginning of the story, mainly due to the characters age, and continue on to see if the story became less preposterous and if the writing improved. Mind you, I didn't think the writing was bad per se, it just seemed very basic, and that coupled with the age of the main character did not inspire me to continue reading.
Boy, am I glad I pushed through. The story did become slightly more believable, once the character aged a bit. I mean, we did have 12 and 13 year olds fighting in wars in the middle ages, right? So I looked past the age. Also, the main character isn't some kind of unstoppable killing machine and doesn't have some crazy magical powers, he's a young kid growing up with men tougher than he, and who also had martial training from a young age, so this lends some credibility to the whole age-issue that initially put me off.
Secondly, the writing vastly improved. I've noticed this before with other writers, but only from book to book, not within one book itself. I don't know what happened here ('Did the writer take a break and come back?') but I started getting hints of Glen Cook and Gene Wolfe about halfway through.
Lastly, for the people who complained about the main character being 'too' dark and the character being one-dimensional, give it another chance. Once you get deeper into the story, Jorg (the protagonist I've read multiple complaints about) does change and we get additional insight as to why he thinks and acts as he did. I won't say what or how much changed, you should read it for yourself, but those were some of the best parts of the book.
This book doesn't use the same tropes we've read so many times in the past and has a unique set of characters and story. We don't get those often in fantasy. if you were having second thoughts about reading it, give it a shot. Just make sure to push through until you get to the good stuff.
Alright, now it's time to start reading book two today.
4.0 out of 5 starsAn enjoyable first-in-trilogy, with an interesting and likeable protagonist
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 14, 2017
Well, that wasn't what I expected.
I was expecting grimdark. I was expecting a book that would put me through the emotional wringer. I was expecting blood and torture dripping from every page. I was expecting to have to sleep with the light on. This is a book I've been putting off reading for years because I thought it was the kind of book you had to creep up on, making sure that you had the psychological and emotional strength at hand to cope with an onslaught of pain, terror, and atrocity.
What I got was...
...kind of cute.
The rape and pillage and torture I was expecting nearly all happens off-page, which reduces the shock value quite considerably. Jorg is just a little bit too successful, as well - a few reverses would have heightened the suspense somewhat.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. It was a nice, fun read, and a lot better than many. I liked young Jorg (although a certain revelation towards the end that is supposed to explain his behaviour at the beginning had me rolling my eyes a bit), and it was a pleasant change to read about a young protagonist who is intelligent, driven, and ruthless. It reminded me a lot of Tamora Pierce's The Song of the Lioness Quartet - although the latter has a lot less burning of peasant villages. I suppose the similarity is mostly that the protagonists of both are young people whom who can actually imagine succeeding in their goals.
The setting is quite interesting - a post-apocalyptic Europe - and I have some curiosity regarding what Lawrence will do with it next. I'm not a post-apocalypse-fiction reader in general, and this aspect had rather put me off - but it turned out to slip in rather nicely, and I found that it added to the story rather than taking away.
Essentially, if the prospect of having to read your way through graphic descriptions of rape and torture is putting you off - don't worry. Get stuck in and enjoy.
Will I read the rest of the series? Yes, probably. Maybe not immediately - it didn't quite grab me that hard - but Jorg is an interesting and likeable protagonist, and I'll enjoy seeing what he does next.
5.0 out of 5 starsOriginal, intelligent, surprising, deep and credible
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 19, 2019
Quite a series this one, and the richness of detail and intelligence of design jumps out at you for all sides. This is an order above most other current writers. He is close to the level of Weber, Bujold and Modesitt, and up with Moon, but has his own, strong, very dark, style. This is of quality to comare to the august company of my top favorite writers. I like the author's 'Red Sister' Trilogy (not linked to this one) HUGELY. This is on a par, but totally different to the characters and design to the world.
This is the first in a trilogy (linked, I understand to a critically aclaimed later trilogy that I've not reached yet). So it has alot of work to draw the world and work up the protagonist: Prince Jorg (or brother Jorg) who we 1st meet in trauma aged only 10. He is 14 through most of the story of how he, so young, comes into his power. There is the lack of doubt or hesitation that typified a psychopath. There is so much focus on that, there must have been a risk of it feeling bleak. However the intelligence and depth put into the character and his 'companions' and tutors, is too engaging and interesting. The book quickly builds layers, challenges and scenarios that illustrate how our 'hero' thinks. The narrative switches between early and later moments, switching from a damaged prodigy aged 10, to a terrifying brigand chief of 14. The depth and variety to the voice of his characters is one of the author's talents and engages the interest and if not sympathy (for such a psycho!) at least empathy.
The detail in even minor parts' characters make this a richly adorned journey into ruthless war. The renaissance world building is good and it's credibility and detail is powerfully vivid. If there are hints of brigand stereotypes they turn out to be hide clever small things that turn out to be important at a second glance.
5.0 out of 5 starsfantastic series, recommend reading before The Red Queen's War trilogy
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 29, 2020
"Tell me, tutor,' I said. 'Is revenge a science, or an art?"
I finished my reread of Prince of Thorns a few days ago - and I loved it just as much as the first time I read it, about 8 years ago, and started my love affair with Marks writing. Why on earth have I left it so long to revisit this series!?
"There’s something brittle in me that will break before it bends."
Jorg Ancrath is an antihero. I remember Jorg not being a nice guy, but I forgot just how bad. He may be the hero of our story, but you wouldn't know it if you ever crossed him, and he's only 13 when we first meet him. Don't let that lull you into a false sense of security though, there's no end to the levels of depravity he will go to, and where his ambition will take him in his quest to be King by 15.
"Memories are dangerous things. You turn them over and over, until you know every touch and corner, but still you'll find an edge to cut you."
Over the book we see how Jorg has grown to become what he has, we delve into his tragic past and his family history. We also see how the world is landscaped, merging fantasy with science - a concept I never knew I loved until this series.
4.0 out of 5 starsA good story but oh dear...that ending.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 2, 2019
I'll try not to include any spoilers but this review covers the trilogy of books.
Don't be put off by my headline, the story is, on the whole very well written and worth the read. The characters are well rounded and quite believable. The main character is no angel but he does have a moral compass and you do grow to respect him as the books progresses, even if not like, perhaps?
Don't be worried about the levels of violence, yes it is there but not in graphic detail and leaves you to imagine as much or as little as you like. There are some shocks but then that's what I think makes the story that much more realistic - not everything is pink fluffy clouds and unicorns, life can be tough and sometimes you have to show it.
But to the elephant in the room and that ending! It's almost like the author just didn't know how to complete the story and gave up - so unsatisfying and by far its weakest point. The third book was building, pun intended, into a new level incorporating the past and the future but it just fizzled out into a damp squib and didn't really conclude. Perhaps I missed something and should read it again but I've not had to do that in any previous book.
So in conclusion, I was left disapointed. It started well, built strongly with interesting potential that unfortunately it just didn't live up to. Give it a go, may be if others feel the same way it might tempt the author to re-think how they ended this trilogy and maybe give them the inspiration to write the ending it richly deserved?
This is a revenge tale through and through and is a unique fantasy because of the perspective it's told from. I really loved the main character of Jorg (a young 14 year old boy who has been hardened by the treachery of the wilds and scars of the past) as he was so witty and nasty. I certainly felt reminded of Glotka from The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie whilst reading about Jorg, which was a good thing as Glotka was my favourite character in The First Law and so Jorg was certain;y my favourite character in this story.
This is the story of Jorg who has suffered a great deal in his past and when we meet him he is travelling in the wilds with a band of men who all respect him and look to him for leadership, although he is their junior by many, many years. The men he travels with are hard, tough men who have lived a long time by destroying their enemies before they could be destroyed and by deciding their own fates before it was decided for them. They are dark, grisly and nasty, but although they have very few redeeming qualities, they fit in nicely with Jorg who is the most evil among them by far.
Jorg is a harsh leader, never one to shy away from discipline, rather he enjoys the hurt and pain he can cause people and he is twisted in his ideas of good and evil. He sees what is right, and chooses the path the furthest from that. He is someone who is feared all across the land, he's known as a the Mad Prince...because he is a Prince, but he ran away when he was just young, in search of vengence and justice and revenge for something truly disturbing that made him how he is today.
The story is told through two parallel storylines, one is present day where Jorg is travelling with his brothers and pillaging villages and searching for revenge, and the other is set 4 years earlier, before he left his home to go on the road with a bandit group. The second storyline fills us in about what it was that drove jorg to become what he is today, and I enjoyed both storylines equally.
I would certainly say that besides Jorg none of the other characters by the Nuban and Makin really made an impression on me. The Nuban seems to be one of the few characters who is truly not as bad as he seems and had a bit of a conscience which Jorg looked up to and respected, whilst Makin was the Captain of the King's Guard before he chose to follow Jorg instead. Bothe of them feature heavily in the story, so I remember them more, but the other brothers are also described here and there and they are all pretty gruesome.
This story is a very fast paced one and is mostly driven along by the voice of Jorg telling you what he is thinking and wishing to do to people. It's not one for the faint hearted as they are ruthless criminals, but it is a very fun and fast paced read so I would recommend it if you like those qualities. I will be continuing with the series in the future and I look forward to seeing what becomes of Jorg after this roller coaster of a tale!