The Broken Empire

by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Thorns

Rating: ★★★★

Great fun. Lawrence gets into the meat of a princely vengeance story by sketching out exactly what it means for a young man to become a deadly warrior with a band of close companions capable of taking on a king in his castle. In short, 'roving adventurers' is the bardic way of describing a gang of murderous, rapacious and treacherously cruel criminals, and the mentality required to lead them into more than just opportunistic violence is a sort of deranged psychopathy. Lawrence tries to make all this clear, while at the same time making it entertaining.

The world being described around Jorg is pretty easy to get hooked on. The post-apocalyptic setting blurring magic with high technology, the feudal world with steel-eyed kings and shadowy chancellors forming a perfect playground for an ambitious young psychopath with sights set on the game behind the games. With luck the story--properly resolved in part in this first entry--will properly through the trilogy in line with the setting.

King of Thorns

Rating: ★★★★

Excellent development from the first in the series, avoiding the terribly-common second-book flop for fantasy epics. Jorg of the first book was 10 to 14, and carried the self-centred sociopathy of his age in its worst and purest form. Jorg of this book, Jorg aged 14 to 18, is maturing in a manner he might once have called softening. The taste of painful experience teaches him something like empathy, close examination forces him to put worth on the people he rules, his defiance prods him to understand the sense of place that men die for so seemingly pointlessly.

The world grows with the character, the outlines of the past are shaded in a little more, and the schemers look humbled. The reversals in the third part are going to have to be heavy, but so far it's all working, Lawrence looks like he might pull it off.

And of course, at this point, the readers all demand Justice.

Emperor of Thorns

Rating: ★★★

Not a flop, exactly, but a fairly unexciting and somewhat more predictable book than the first two. Jorg of the first book was pleasantly sociopathic, in the second he grew, but in the third he seemed shallower. Events in his world did not seem important, because we already knew the result of much of the action set in the past, and his temporary companions seemed somehow less real. The world is given enough extra flesh, but the growth shapes the plot too much.

There were a few good scenes -- shooting the guard, the meeting with the Pope -- but not so many as before. I agree with Lawrence's instinct in the Afterword, Jorg needed leaving here.