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Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire 1) by Lawrence, Mark (2012) Paperback
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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How on earth did this get published?
It's about on the same level as a dedicated high-school student's unpolished first draft. Don't believe me? Read the sample pages. The same old (old old old old) stock "characters" from "Sword & Sorcery Central Casting", convoluted "mythology", and all that modern "grit" for the "300" cum violent video-game crowd.
Illiterate garbage strictly for the most undiscerning of readers.
Sadly attempts to make it gritty and more brutal than that book result in a blatent and calculated attempt to shock the reader. Worst of all for the reader, it is blindingly obvious.
Other copied characters are Nuban, the religious black man in with thieves and murders. Think you have seen this guy before? Yes you have. One version was the Preacher in Firefly, another was in Gladiator, Maximus mate on the sands of the arena, Juba. Both of the characters die horrible deaths finding comfort in their religion in their final moments, and oh look at that what a surprise - so does Nuban.
The cliches continue, with poor character development and much useless charging around the country. The lead character also manages to wield a sword and kill numerous full grown battle harden men despite being only 14 through most of the book. 99 % of fourteen year old boys are awkward, uncoordinated twigs who have yet to hit their final growth spurt. It is simply implausible that one could wield a long sword well enough to be usefull, let alone lead a band of psychotic killers.
So why am writing this review when I clearly didn't like the book? Because I bought it based on the high ratings of others. Now I realise that many of those reviews were probably written by 14 year old awkward uncoordinated boys who are yet to hit their final growth spurt.
Here's where it all fell apart for me. A year after the horrible murder of his mother and brother, Jorg breaks a gang of cutthroats out of his father's dungeon and runs away with them to become a part of their group. Shortly thereafter, he evolves into the de facto leader of this group of rogues and begins to fashion them as his tool for getting his ultimate revenge. I just had a difficult time believing that these men would all readily fall in line and follow a thirteen year-old boy. That is one of the things that was unrealistic to me and that just I couldn't put aside. I also cringed at the way they would all too easily listen to everything Jorg would say and seemed to give him unwavering respect and loyalty, as well as a hint of fear. Yes, I said fear. They feared a 13 year-old who most of them outweighed by at least 200 pounds. More realistically, one of these men who outweighed him by 200 pounds would have probably slit his throat from ear to ear or at the very least, smacked him on the back of the head with a "get out of here kid, ya botherin' me!" I thought that a better approach would have been to make Jorg a little older, so that the believability of his command over these men would have been easier to swallow. Another thing that annoyed me was the way Jorg always had an answer for everything and no matter the odds, he seemed to be a genius. What, the road is completely flooded? No problem, Jorg has the answer. What, we've walked into an ambush and are outnumbered 50 to 8? No problem, Jorg miraculously finds a way out of it, while not even dirtying his sword! I don't know, everything just always seemed to work out too perfectly for our hero, or in Jorg's case, anti-hero. The one bright spot for me, and the only reason why I would continue to read this series, was the mystery of the builders. It is obvious that the world that Jorg inhabits is one that is a future world born from the ashes a cataclysmic and apocalyptic occurrence. We are treated to some clues as to what happened in that long ago age and Jorg also discovers some artifacts along the way that shed some light on the events that took place. I'm a sucker for stuff like this, so that part really worked for me. That and the fact that as I said Lawrence is a very talented writer, pushed this up to three stars. But ultimately it turned out to be an average read for me based on the things that I mentioned earlier in my review. Maybe it gets better in book two. I'm going to take some time to digest this one before I decide whether I will continue with the adventures of Jorg Ancrath and his band of not-so-merry men.
The plot is solid: in a Jack Vance "Dying Earth"-ish future, scores of petty kings and nobles compete to reclaim an empire, while in the shadows magicians and necromancers manipulate and control events for their own agendas. The protagonist, Prince Jorg, has been on the road with the roughest band of killers for four years, forging himself into a weapon after his mother and brother were killed in front of him. Having taken control of this brotherhood of brigands, he decides to return home and attempt to take his birthright, sparking further trials and conquests.
The writing style was very good, the pacing was great, and flashbacks filled in the backstory in nicely digestible pieces. As a note, I'm normally not such a fan of flashbacks, but Lawrence managed to keep them germane, where each one helped further the main storyline, rather than distracting from it. Lawrence, like Parker, really excels in his character portrayal of Jorg, and captures his semi-psychotic nature. I liked the combat writing too; typically fast, vicious, and clever, it avoided pitfalls of unbelievable actions or lengthy, technically complicated duels, while still included more than enough blood and bodies.
Overall a great effort, and possibly the best dark fantasy I've read since the Fencer trilogy. Recommended to anyone that likes a dark fantasy, and particularly to those that like KJ Parker (and vice versa).
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The story was a bit unconventional with such an imperfect protagonist.Read more