Mark Lawrence is an international best selling author who has published over a dozen novels translated into several different languages around the world. He is by no means an “under the radar” author nor is his debut novel Prince of Thorns. Most SFF readers have either read or heard about Prince of Thorns and how divisive of a book it is among the community. For those of you who have not read this book, I will be providing a brief summary of the plot but I wanted this blog post to be more of a deep dive into the character of Jorg and his quest for vengeance. This book is not for the faint of heart nor readers whom are turned off by the most gruesome parts of humanity. Prince of Thorns is the quintessential Grim dark tale told through the eyes of the ultimate anti-hero, Jorg Ancrath.
When Jorg was 9 years old his envoy was ambushed by the men of Count Renar. Jorg escaped, but was stuck hanging in the thorns of a briar patch tree as his mother and little brother we slaughtered before his eyes. Rage fuels his every being as the only thing that can quench his anger is vengeance. He eventually comes across a mercenary group known as the Brothers and over the years, he eventually becomes their leader. Now at the age of 13, he is ready for bloodshed and no one, not even his own father, will stand in his way.
The world that the Broken Empire resides in is a futuristic Europe where the a cataclysmic event destroyed all technology as we know it and the world reverted back to medieval times with: castles, sword & shields, and marching armies. Before I ever heard of Joe Abercrombie or knew what the term Grimdark meant, I was searching the internet and came across a cover for the Prince of Thorns. I am a sucker for bad-ass covers so I preordered the book and was shocked when I read the first few chapters.
Jorg is the anti-hero everyone loves to hate. His actions can be described as: brutal, gory, unapologetic, vengeful, and with no regard for the sympathy of ours. Vengeance is the only thing that drives him. However, Jorg is also very cunning and a great leader in terms skills and planning. This makes Jorg a dangerous person to confront despite his young age. The actions of the Brothers are deplorable as well. Within the first few chapters there is an off page rape of a farm girl and that is one of the least gruesome things you will come across in the Broken Empire.
Now I know what you are thinking, why should I read this book if the POV character is such a brutal killer with no regard for humanity? I’m looking at it from a different perspective, what could have possible made Jorg into the monster that he is today? How could a young soul be twisted and distorted in such a way that he becomes a shell of what he once was? Those were the questions I had after the first few chapters and Mr. Lawrence answered all of them with flying colors. The story is a first person-POV of Jorg but told through two timelines. We have present day, where Jorg is 13 years old and 4 years earlier following the murder of his family. The memoires we discover about Jorg shed some new light on his upbringing, joys, and close relationship he had with his brother. When all of that was taken from him, Jorg felt trapped in a box and the only way to escape is through revenge. The road Jorg takes and the lengths he will go to for vengeance will keep you guessing until the very end.
Mark Lawrence did something I never thought I would be able to do. He made me actually care about a merciless killer and he does this with his poetic writing style. It felt at times like I was reading the prose in the Name of the Wind and I was floured me Mr. Lawrence would drop in his philosophic one-off lines. In addition, this story has magic and necromancy hidden throughout the kingdoms waiting to be discovered. Fans of the First Law, the Black Company, or even a Clockwork Orange should give Prince of Thorns a try. One thing is for certain, we may not enjoy Jorg Ancrath as a person, but one way or another you will feel pain, whether it be Jorgs’ or one of his victims. You will have to wait and see.