Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Let me begin by saying that I am fully aware that this book and series are widely-regarded as one of the top works of fantasy to come out in many years. The praise that is heaped upon this series is maybe only eclipsed by the praise for the works of Patrick Rothfuss and Steven Erikson. That being said, once again I seem to be out of step with the conventional thinking of the day. My qualms with this book are not with Mark Lawrence's writing either. I thought that the prose was excellent at times and the story for the most part was an interesting one. It begins promisingly enough: A nine year-old prince named Jorg, while travelling through his father's protectorate with his mother and younger brother, are set upon by a neighboring baron's men at arms. Jorg watches as his mother and brother are brutally slain at the hands of these men. He is discovered later by his father's retinue entangled in a nearby thorn bush and brought back to the castle to be nursed back to health. It is this event that largely shapes the person that Jorg will become and hardens him into an emotionless and uncaring youth bent on revenge at any cost.
Here's where it all fell apart for me. A year after the horrible murder of his mother and brother, Jorg breaks a gang of cutthroats out of his father's dungeon and runs away with them to become a part of their group. Shortly thereafter, he evolves into the de facto leader of this group of rogues and begins to fashion them as his tool for getting his ultimate revenge. I just had a difficult time believing that these men would all readily fall in line and follow a thirteen year-old boy. That is one of the things that was unrealistic to me and that just I couldn't put aside. I also cringed at the way they would all too easily listen to everything Jorg would say and seemed to give him unwavering respect and loyalty, as well as a hint of fear. Yes, I said fear. They feared a 13 year-old who most of them outweighed by at least 200 pounds. More realistically, one of these men who outweighed him by 200 pounds would have probably slit his throat from ear to ear or at the very least, smacked him on the back of the head with a "get out of here kid, ya botherin' me!" I thought that a better approach would have been to make Jorg a little older, so that the believably of his command over these men would have been easier to swallow. Another thing that annoyed me was the way Jorg always had an answer for everything and no matter the odds, he seemed to be a genius. What, the road is completely flooded? No problem, Jorg has the answer. What, we've walked into an ambush and are outnumbered 50 to 8? No problem, Jorg miraculously finds a way out of it, while not even dirtying his sword! I don't know, everything just always seemed to work out too perfectly for our hero, or in Jorg's case, anti-hero. The one bright spot for me, and the only reason why I would continue to read this series, was the mystery of the builders. It is obvious that the world that Jorg inhabits is one that is a future world born from the ashes a cataclysmic and apocalyptic occurrence. We are treated to some clues as to what happened in that long ago age and Jorg also discovers some artifacts along the way that shed some light on the events that took place. I'm a sucker for stuff like this, so that part really worked for me. That and the fact that as I said Lawrence is a very talented writer, pushed this up to three stars. But ultimately it turned out to be an average read for me based on the things that I mentioned earlier in my review. Maybe it gets better in book two. I'm going to take some time to digest this one before I decide whether I will continue with the adventures of Jorg Ancrath and his band of not-so-merry men.
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