Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence
Mark Lawrence’s debut novel has all the requisite ingredients for the ideal fantasy – a wronged and vengeful hero, warring kingdoms, ghosts, necromancers, murders most foul, and a complete lack of honour, except amongst thieves.
At the tender age of nine, Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath was forced to witness the slaughter of his mother and younger brother William by Count Renar of the Highlands and his troops. If he expected his father the king to avenge their dreadful murders, he is sorely disappointed;& instead, the king negotiates compensation in the shape of land and horses for his loss. Seeds of hatred and revenge are sown in the fertile ground of Jorg’s grief and heartbreak: he takes to the road and joins a band of mercenaries and outlaws, and because he no longer cares if he lives or dies, he becomes their leader through sheer recklessness and a bravado that is fearless and suicidal – oh, Jorg has problems, alright – he has already lived five lifetimes and he’s only fourteen!
Mark Lawrence has created a rip-roaring, no-holds-barred, heart-in-the-mouth pageturner in this first book, and in spite of the reader knowing they shouldn’t believe a word of it, they are totally sucked in, swept along with the clever plot and more action than a body should rightly have to endure – oh, it’s great stuff, and this is just the first book of a Trilogy. ‘King of Thorns’ is next, and a fascinating question for the reader is to figure out exactly the timeline in which Mr Lawrence has set his stories: a vastly altered central Europe might be the setting, but who can be sure? Everyone fights in armour with medieval weapons, but Jorg wears a wrist-watch! (which doesn’t make an appearance till book two) – and he lets loose what seems suspiciously like a nuclear explosion halfway through book one.
I have come to the conclusion (I’m ashamed to say it took me a while) that Jorg’s story is set far into the future: it’s possible that the world we knew has been destroyed for whatever terrible reason, and the regenerating human race hasn’t progressed beyond another Medieval Age in its attempts to survive. Which all adds to this trilogy’s great appeal.
‘Prince of Thorns’ was a gripping read, but book two, ‘King of Thorns’ is even better. Roll out book three! Mark Lawrence isn’t just a good storyteller – he’s a great one. Whatever I read next, this will be a hard act to follow.
Find this book in the library