King of Thorns (Broken Empire Trilogy #2) by Mark Lawrence
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Edition: Hardcover, 449 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Grimdark
Just as Dark! Just as Brutal!
Just as More Awesome! All hail King Jorg!
To reach greatness you must step on bodies, and many brothers lie trodden in my wake. I’ve walked from pawn to player and I’ll win this game of ours, though the cost of it may drown the world in blood… The land burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings fight for the Broken Empire. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them. A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg’s gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king. Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan.
Where most authors tend to struggle or fall off with the second book in a series, I am happy to say that Mark keeps the ball rolling right on with King of Thorns. We get more background information for our main protagonist Jorg – which helps to continue to develop his character arc – and also for some of our Brothers, such as Makin. The plot really comes to life here as well. In Prince of Thorns I felt it was a good plot, but took a back seat to the focus on Jorg. Now the plot comes to take the main stage. One such thing it helps bring to life is this fascinating world, which seems to be some alternate/parallel time-line of our current history? (There have been references Aristotle and other philosophers since Prince). We finally learn more about this world that I have been dying to learn about.
King of Thorns starts us right where Prince of Thorns left off. Like Prince, we have alternating times lines going on. We have Wedding Day, letters from Katherine’s diary, and a continuation of the previous novel starting about 3 months later called four years earlier. During the four years earlier, we see Jorg set off on a type of quest to bring Gog to see a fire-mage up in Heimfrit to see if the mage can help Gog to control his fire. Meanwhile on Wedding Day (four year later), we see Jorg having to deal with the sudden arrival of his new wife, while at same time preparing the defend his kingdom from the invading forces of Arrow. Then in Katherine’s Diary entries, we have her accounts on things in her life from the end of Prince, when Jorg knocked her out and escaped, leading up to the present Wedding Day.
There was really one problem I had with this book – the starting of the book and plot felt slow and scattered. While I had no problems following the events and understanding what was going on in Wedding Day, and going through time reading Katherine’s Diary entries, the quest with Gog made no sense at all to me. With the way that the previous novel ended, I couldn’t understand why this was important or why it even mattered it matter so much for Jorg to suddenly do. This may not have been such a major issue for me except that majority of the chapters are this Gog quest, and the pacing is completely different from Prince – it as actually a little slow.
However, fear not. Not long after the start of the book, I began to realize why it was that this quest was in the book and why it was so important to Jorg.
In going on this quest, it gives Mark the ability to really start to explore his fascinating world in depth and detail. The first book gave us a glimpse into what the world may be, but now we really see what this world holds. From the learning more of the politics, what this game and pieces played are about, and to the history with the Builders – it is a great world/history that has been built.
Secondly, this explains and expands much on Jorg’s character. At the beginning of the book, Jorg seemed different to me – almost weaker. (And by weaker I mean, almost like a normal person would think). He no longer would kill people because they looked at him wrong. Even his thoughts and actions even seemed to changed as well… I really wasn’t sure how I felt about this new Jorg or where it was coming from. But keep in mind, despite how dark these books are, in my opinion, The Broken Empire Series really is a coming-of-age story at its core. And this quest, that may seem random and uncharacter like, explores him at a new depth.
One scene in particular that I must point out, deals with an animal. First off, why I had I heard nothing about it!? ALL I heard about Prince of Thorns was how horrible and disturbing the ‘rape scene’ was going to be. And when I finally got there, it was literally just a sentence, and NOTHING was describe. Rape is extremely horrible, but it was just, ‘Rike went to have his way the farmer’s daughter’. Not difficult to read at all. ThIs scene with the animal…. Oh My God. I will not say when or what happens, but this scene was very difficult for me to read. Not only because it is descriptive, but also because of the impact it has on Jorg – and that hit me right in feels.
What you have to understand about Mark’s writing is that everything has a reason and purpose. It is not like Joe Abercrombie who – who I have not yet read, but have heard – has bad because stuff happen for no reason because, well, that’s life. Everything Mark writes, every scene – no matter how brutal, gory or disturbing – it is has a purpose and is written that way specifically to help further along the story in someway. This scene with the animal, I would argue, it was one the most critical scenes in the book for the story and most important, for Jorg’s development. Without this scene, Jorg would not be who is. It explains SO much about him. Without it written exactly how it was, it would not have had the same impact.
There was no reason to write the rape scene it detail. That was just to get an idea of the world and how the Brothers acted. There was no reason at all to go into detail – that would have been messed up. The animal scene on the other hand, needed to. It is such a critical moment (can’t stress that enough), and Mark needed to write it the way he did so that it could disturb the reader, so the reader could feel empathy (for what, when you get there you will understand), and so the reader could understand the magnitude of the importance of that scene.
One other thing I must mention is this thorn-box that Jorg carries. I will not say it does, a major spoiler to do so, though it gets explained fairly early on, but it’s best to wonder a little bit about it. However, aside from what the thorn-box actually does, how Mark uses this box to help tell the story was absolutely genius!
If you read the first book and liked it (how wouldn’t you!?) then you must continue on! The pace is a little slow to start, but if me saying that there is not enough murder and pillaging in first 50 pages is the only problem, then I’m just nitpicking, and I think you’ll be fine. Jorge is best (worst?) anti-hero of all time. Mark has created this fascinating alternative/parallel history world, and this second book really brings feeling that this is epic fantasy – the plot is excellent!
All hail King Jorg!