Hey look! I’m reviewing an actual fiction book. Since I’ve been writing so much, it’s been very hard for me to read fiction. I seem to be, as Dean Wesley Smith (go read his blog, if you don’t already!) puts it, “In critical voice” all the time, which makes it hard for me to enjoy myself. I don’t know how many novels I’ve picked up and discarded after reading a few pages. This was the first one in quite a while that really grabbed me.
It didn’t start particularly well. That is, the first few pages were kind of horrible; a bunch of marauders raping and killing and plundering in gruesome fashion. I was ready to put it down when I ran into the most fantastic hook at the end of the first chapter. I was all “WHAT??!! OMG! and then I had to keep reading. Masterfully done.
Set in a dark, fake-medieval-Europe, Prince of Thorns has a weirdly appealing protagonist, the young prince Jorg Ancrath. Jorg suffered some pretty severe trauma in his earlier childhood and has never been the same since. By which I mean he’s turned into a complete sociopath. He makes Joffrey Baratheon look like a rank amateur.
And yet, it’s hard to hate Jorg. Maybe it’s because the story is told from his first-person point of view. Or maybe it’s because Lawrence is so good at letting the fear that Jorg constantly keeps at bay, peek through from time to time. He’s a monster, but he’s also a scared kid who’s desperate to keep the terror of his past from destroying him completely.
It also helps that Jorg has a sense of humor, albeit a pretty black one. He’s ruthless and unpredictable to the point where I started to look forward to his next move because he always did the unexpected, usually in a pretty brutal fashion. His merry band of marauders are also pretty entertaining; a few are even sympathetic.
The story moves forward at a good clip, interspersed with equally interesting flashbacks, though I felt the last third went off the rails a bit. Maybe because there were suddenly a bunch of new characters and new information. I felt a tad bit ambushed, although maybe that was the point. I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying, though I usually do. On the rare occasion that I read a book with a great ending, you’ll hear about it here.
This is the first in the Broken Empire series, but I’ll hold off on reading the next books. It’s hard for me to spend so much time in such a dark world and with such a difficult character. But when I’m next in the mood for something grim, I’ll know where to go.by