the Little Red Reviewer

Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence

Posted on: August 3, 2011

Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence

Published August 2011

Where I got it: rec’d review copy from Harper Collins/Voyager

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With an epic, empire-shattering sprawl that brings George R R Martin to mind,  and a quick and snarky narrative style reminiscent of Scott Lynch, yet with a twist unlike anything I’vecome across, Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns is easily the most incredible epic fantasy I have ever read. To drop yet another name,  this is a novel that practically vibrates with deliberateness, making me think of Patrick Rothfuss at times.

Showing a true mastery of foreshadowing, Lawrence drops hints both overt and subtle that creep up on the reader like a path of breadcrumbs that twists and turns through the forest.  I don’t care if this path leads to a witch’s house, Lawrence has completely seduced me to the point where I can do naught but follow. I knew from the first chapter this was a book I’d be devouring.  The plot set-up is fast and clean,  the prose and dialog alive with “show me”, and long before the first twist hits you’ll realize this is nothing at all like your typical epic fantasy.

A bit on plot, although I’ll be leaving all the good bits out as they are something you simply must experience for yourself:

At age nine, Prince Jorg witnessed the  brutal murder of his younger brother and their beloved Mother the Queen.  Consumed by violent poison and a raging guilt at his failure to save them, Jorg never recovered from losing what he loved.  Soon after, he leaves father’s house, taking nothing but bitterness and dark anger with him.

At age fourteen,Jorg is torn between the freedom of his life on the road, and claiming his birthright as heir. Against his own better judgement, he returns to his father’s castle, hiding his youth and mistrust behind a constant facade of bravado. Although his father hasn’t changed one iota, there is a new Queen, and a new Mathmagician at court. The magic of this world is part alchemy, part barbaric science, and canted through tattoos on the body of the sorcerer. The royal Mathmagician Sageous makes mention that he can give Jorg back his will, and we get our first delicious taste of the larger picture, and of what really might be going on here.

It needs to be said that although our protagonist is a teenager, this is not a story for children.  Jorg is not a nice person. His apathy towards death and fear has turned him into a violent, stone cold killer. Think Joe Abercrombie’s The Bloody Nine, and you wouldn’t be far off. We’re beyond anti-hero territory, in the words of one of Jorg’s most trusted comrades “children shouldn’t be like this”.  You will be creeped out, possibly disturbed by  things he says and does, at his utter disregard for the lives around him. Remember what I said about deliberateness?   Lawrence is going somewhere with this.  As this volume comes to a close there is the beginning of an explanation for his behavior, something that’s been hinted at for a while.  Even before you get to that point the story turns into one jaw dropping chapter after another after another. There’s so much more I want to say, but I’ve already flirted dangerously close to spoiling everything.

The press release I received with my review copy claimed a story “unique in its setting and intent” and “a genuinely cross-genre novel of extraordinary quality”, and I couldn’t have put it better myself.   Lawrence makes it look easy, but he’s pulling tricks and stunts in this book that  are near impossible to pull off.  A specific trick, in fact, that’s got me rethinking my opinions on a particular convention that’s been popping up in more and more speculative fiction. Yet one more thing I’m not going to speak further on, as it would spoil a very special surprise.

Have you read this book?  Due to it’s brand-spankin’ newness and pure awesomeness, please no spoilers in the comments.

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19 Responses to "Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence"

Wow, thanks for sharing that. I’ll pick one up!

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I’ve been curious about this book but after reading a really negative review of it on Tor I was pretty sure this was not a book I would enjoy. Now after reading your review I’m rethinking that. The Tor review commented that there are no redeeming qualities to the protagonist, which would make it difficult for me to enjoy the story. I think I’ll have to read some more reviews of this book before deciding if I should get it or not.

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it sounds ridiculous, but I can completely see where that reviewer was coming from. Jorg is not a nice guy, he’s not a friendly guy, he is 100% completely amoral. not immoral, amoral. And I’ll admit, I was a bit taken aback by the authors choice to present a protagonist with that type of personality, and I’m sure that will be a turn off to some readers. Lawrence took a huge risk with that. BUT, it’s a great story, a compelling story, and even better, there is some hinting as to why Jorg is the way he is, which actually, is the best part.

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So, you liked it then? You’ve really got to stop being so cagey with your reviews. How are we ever supposed to know how you truly feel about the books you read? ;)

It sounds really interesting. The only problem I have with it, and really it is just a problem with this type of fantasy, is that I have so much of it that I am reading/want to read: Way of Kings, Wise Man’s Fear, books 2 and on of GRRM’s series and although I know they are each different in their own way they represent a ‘sameness’ to me that I don’t feel about any other genre/subgenre of fiction. Its ridiculous, I know, especially since I generally end up liking these books. I just have to spread these kind of books out or I get really burnt out on them.

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I really want to read this! Unfortunately my new computer purchase means a very strict book-buying ban, but hopefully I will be able to get a few things for my birthday. :)

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I had not heard of this book but as soon as I read the title and saw the cover I thought about Song of Fire and Ice. I am not sure if I would like the book. I love epic fantasy but I did not like Song of Fire and Ice.

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Ooo great review! I need to get around to my copy soon. :)

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Quick and snarky narrative. Sounds interesting. And I love the cover

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*Love* epic fantasy. Must add it to the list.

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Just read the Tor.com review that simcha mentioned above. That reviewer said it wasn’t a “bad” book, just problematic because of the awful protagonist…and that after finishing it, she had to go scrub out her brain.

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Hey Redhead – many thanks for the review. I’m pleased that you liked it! ‘Interestingly’ according to Goodreads there are 18 women rating it 4* or 5* for each woman rating it less than 4* … so rumours of misogyny might want to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Seriously though, it’s a great feeling when someone really *gets* what you’ve written.

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that whole TOR thing, what a bizarre mess. I got a little involved, probably shouldn’t have, but oh well. plainly put: I care far more about compelling characters and an engaging story than I do about gender representation.

regarding *getting it*, you gotta love the “between the lines” subplot!

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I ordered this book today. :)

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[...] Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (2011) Probably the most impressive debut this year, Lawrence makes it look easy, but he’s pulling tricks and stunts in this book that are near impossible to pull off. A specific trick, in fact, that’s got me rethinking my opinions on a particular convention that’s been popping up in more and more speculative fiction. [...]

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I loved this book! It’s brilliant and it’s gripping. The ‘awful protagonist’ is ridiculously charismatic. I was team-Jorg even though I knew I probably shouldn’t be ;)

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“Team Jorg”, I love it! I want a t-shirt that says that. Wasn’t the book just absolutely magnificent? Amazon just posted the sequel, King of Thorns, it hits bookstore shelves next August.

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Ha, just nipped over to read your review again – the more I think about PoT the more I like it! Great review – makes me want to read it all over again!
Lynn :D

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[...] Heady words. Also scattered amongst those reviews were comparisons to some of my favourite writers: Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, George R.R. Martin. Comparisons to Abercrombie (for unleashed violence and [...]

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[...] Thorns, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, in fact it was in my top 10 for the year (thank you again Little Red Reviewer).   For me personally it brought a new sort of perspective to fantasy.  The anti-hero who, in [...]

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