Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Prince of Thorns - Mark Lawrence


About the book

Once a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg's bleak past has set him beyond fear of any man, living or dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him. 

Prince of Thorns is the first volume in a powerful new epic fantasy trilogy, original, absorbing and challenging. Mark Lawrence’s debut novel tells a tale of blood and treachery, magic and brotherhood and paints a compelling and brutal, sometimes beautiful, picture of an exceptional boy on his journey toward manhood and the throne
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384 pages (hardcover)
Published on: August 2, 2011
Published by: The Penguin Group
Author’s webpage

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I have, for quite some time, put off reviewing this book. Why? Because I have a serious personal issue with it that got in the way of my ability to believe in any of the events that were taking place. Before I actually continue with my review, let me get my grievance off my chest.

I seriously cannot, in any way shape or form, believe that the main character is a teenager. Sorry. I just can’t buy that one and my inability to believe in the character’s age seeped into every single aspect of this book. Now, if he was in his twenties, I’d probably believe it, but a fourteen-year-old thinking with such uncanny military strategy that him and his tiny band of rough boys can overcome a nobleman’s army (toward the beginning of the book) isn’t believable. I just don’t buy it. I don’t care how hard this kid’s life has been and how fast he’s had to grow up, a teenage boy just doesn’t make sense in the lead character’s role. The maturity and life experience isn’t there.

Okay, now that my rant is over, let me actually review Prince of Thorns.

It seems like gritty fantasy is the in thing right now and that really works in this book’s favor. It is gritty and there is plenty of blood but I don’t think it’s quite as edgy as many people have made it out to be. The shock factor here is that the lead character, Jorg, is a teenager and that is, perhaps, what makes this book seem a bit more gritty and edgy than it really is. The other thing working for Prince of Thorns is it’s short length coupled with a fast moving plot. A dedicated reader can plow through this book fairly quickly.

Prince of Thorns is told in the first person perspective with chapters that focus on “current” events and flashback chapters that give a bit of a history and work toward explaining why Jorg is the way he is. These flashback chapters help the reader build some sympathy for this poor kid when you really wouldn’t expect to have any sympathy for him at all. Lawrence is a good author. There aren’t any major literary stumbles in these pages. The writing is flowing and fairly descriptive. The one place it really lacks is world building, which seemed pretty lackluster in comparison with some of his character development. However, this is a rather character driven novel, so it can be expected that the world building may take second seat to character developments.

First person perspective is tricky for authors and readers. The author needs to make his main character unique enough to pop in the context of his book. This character needs to have a remarkable individual voice to grab the reader’s attention. Personally, I feel as though many issues with first person perspective are largely individual. What may attract me to one character may repulse others. Please keep that in mind for what is about to follow. Jorg really wasn’t an amazingly interesting character. In fact, I felt as though many of the events that he was involved in were taking place more for a shock factor than anything else and this did largely compensate for his rather boring narrative voice. Without those shocking events, Jorg would have never been able to stand on his own as a character.

The world in Prince of Thrones was another disappointment. The idea Lawrence used has the potential to be incredible, but instead it felt half done, which was a huge letdown. With a post-apocalyptic world like this Lawrence could have done a lot to make it stand apart from the crowd, but the opportunity was missed. As it was, the world has a rather unplanned feel to it and is colorless in comparison to many of the characters.

Prince of Thorns is an entertaining read, despite all of my qualms with it. It has been well received by many readers and reviewers, so there is something here that appeals to people. While I can see where many people would enjoy this, I couldn’t manage getting over my absolute inability to believe in the main character due to his supposed age. His narrative voice is rather boring and is saved by the shock-factor of many of the events Jorg takes part in. In fact, I can, perhaps, sum up this book with the words “shock factor” because that’s what it felt like to me – a literary campaign of Shock and Awe. In the end, Prince of Thorns left me thinking that Jorg was a puke teenager who needed a psychiatrist more than a book. However, for fans of gritty fantasy or people who want a quick read with a rather compelling story, this book is for you. Despite my issues, I think Lawrence has an impressive future as an author and it will be interesting to see what he does next.

3/5 stars

3 comments:

  1. It seemed to me like Prince of Thorns was two kinds of dark. (And the rest of this comment's gonna have SPOILERS, if anyone's not yet read the book.) The part that interested me was the more contemplative, all enveloping one, the way that every nation was under the thrall of other forces and all actions until the very end pointless. That I was fascinated by. But getting to that was damn hard, because the other kind of dark, the gritty, bloody, murderous fourteen year old kind, just wouldn't shut up and shove off. It felt to me like the book tried so hard to be dark and (as you said, shocking) that it ended up, just because of its own excess, lightening up the parts that actually were dark.

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  2. I think the protagonist being a 14 year old tactical genius isn't unbelievable by any means. Is it the sort of thing that is common? No. Has it happened in history? Sure. Plenty of royal children are taught war from birth.

    I think it has a lot of more glaring flaws than picking at that.

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  3. Interesting that this became one of Sarah's favorite series and that she re-reviewed this book.

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