Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence


 I seem to be one of the only people I’ve come across right now that doesn’t like this book.  But I don’t. I have to give it a 1* rating, because it worked for me that little.

I’ll start with the good (which is never a “good” sign): the writing is interesting, the idea of the plot is unique (although delivery could have been better), and the first person narrative lends itself well to the story as a whole. There are fascinating ideas throughout, it’s a colourful (gods, how patronising does that sound? It’s like I’m trying to find nice things to say.) tale, and I am interested to see how the rest of the trilogy will pan out (maybe).

I’m going to state that I got absolutely no measure of enjoyment out of this book. If you read for pleasure, consider this book carefully; read reviews, look around, decide well before plunging into the most “fashionable” fantasy book of 2011. I think the marketing of the book has been very clever, and fitting; Prince of Thorns is “en vogue” due to the hype, and yes, it’s received some excellent reviews, but it’s also been talked about for months in the fantasy community.

Before I really get to reviewing it, I just want to make it clear that sometimes a bad review sells a book: I’ve read 1-star reviews of books and thought “yes! I know I’ll like that, because of everything you didn’t like about it” Readers might well read this negative  review of Prince of Thorns and think “well, he didn’t like it because ‘x’, but that’s why I’ll love it!” and bam, a bad review leads to a good sale. (I feel pretty bad for not liking this book, because the author is a great guy–and man, that always sucks.)

I was very excited for Prince of Thorns, very excited indeed, and I have been left frustrated and wanting. This book frankly did not work for me. The writing worked, it was personal and anecdotal. However, it also became clear too early through the book that it was going to read more like a journal the entire way through.

Not a lot happens in the book, all said, because much of the time is spent in Jorg’s head as he philosophises, plots and ponders to himself on the various stages of his journey. Usually I let myself become absorbed in a book; I didn’t with Prince of Thorns. Rather, I read it in the brief gaps in my day; waiting in the parking lot, a five-minute break from writing, whilst cooking dinner. This book never had my full attention, and gods know I tried.

The most frustrating thing about this book is that I wanted to love it, because of all the talk about it befrorehand. I wanted to read it, love it, and write a sterling review. Well, I can’t, because I didn’t. I did not like this book, because I think there’s little to like. It read like a fantasy lit-fic novel, and this turned me right off, losing my interest. The setting is awkward, with little consideration given in clarifying the whens and wheres.

I wanted to like this book. I tried rethinking how I was reading it, I tried a different angle, I tried everything. All said, I simply did not enjoy this book. Enjoyment is a massive factor in reading a book (it still is, isn’t it?), and that factor was removed, for me.

I considered if this book would work with switched narrative, if perhaps written in the third person I could appreciate it better. Then I realised that this book could never work written that way, because the story is told entirely from Jorg’s inner monologue. He thinks, and thinks, and thinks his way through 300+ pages, recounting, reminiscing, and clearing his own head as he goes.

But really I just didn’t like anything about this book. The violence, the gratuitous rape and grit and blah. Not for me.

There are a few twists along the way, but even so, they did little to interest me: the way everything reads in such a matter-of-fact fashion removes any sense of urgency from the plot, which could have otherwise been a very gripping and exciting story. I didn’t find it to be a “page-turner”; I found it to be a struggle.

There’s not enough heart in this book, too much thought, too much of it spent seemingly standing still—which is an odd thing to say about a book spent travelling, killing and avenging. The story could have been excellent; the plot is achingly unique and yet something lets it down. Lawrence’s writing is excellent, although, the way in which he writes does become a little boring at times—not because of his style, but because it feels like a long, long, long journal entry. It probably is.

I expected a far more violent book, from what I’d heard, thus far. I don’t think Prince of Thorns is or isn’t a violent book, I think it merely involves violence. (Oh, and rape. Lots of that.) It’s not a constant blood-fest, yet there is constantly blood. It’s an awkward, odd story that does precisely what the hook-briar did to Jorg: it hooks deep and is loath to let go. It could easily become a classic, one of those books that everyone simply “must” read, but only half of everyone will enjoy (and maybe some of those who found it “meh” won’t really say so because it’s en vogue).

I don’t know what else to say about this book… I didn’t like it, but I’m pleased I read it, because now I won’t be sitting here with it on my TBR pile, looking forwards to it, only to be disappointed.

If you want something different to what you’ll have read before, then give Prince of Thorns a try. If you want an enjoyable book to while away the hours, then think really hard about what this book might offer you, and consider if it’s what you want. It might be, but then again, it might not be.

It wasn’t what I wanted, and I consider myself easy to please. All said Prince of Thorns is a strange, strange tale of nothing I can sum in with a single word: it’s unique and you will not find anything else like it. Treat this book differently, and you might enjoy it.

As one of my “anticipated reads”, I was left disappointed.



4 thoughts on “Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence

  1. Pingback: Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence | Strange Things... |

  2. it’s been pretty polarizing. As I’ve already been described as one of those women “who like that kind of thing”, all I’ll say in addition is that I know I have to be very, very careful as to who I recommend this book to. As you discovered, it is unique, it is a bit odd, and it most certainly isn’t for everyone.

    funny timing tho, as you refer to the first Dresden novel, I just finished that book the other day!

    • I expected to like it, honestly, especially with it having been described as such a violent, bloody and, well, by some people, very much a book for boys. Funny, though, a lot of the good reviews I’ve seen for it have been by women! Either way, I am very glad I read it, but it just wasn’t for me at all. I certainly don’t think it’s a boys’ book, that’s for sure… rather, it’s just a book. Still, I won’t be recommending this book directly to people, rather, I’ll direct them to the review as it’s the most honest way I could describe the book!

      And yeah, weird timing, having just finished Storm Front last night. Review will be up today… and it won’t be along the lines of the 1-star review that made me buy it! 😉

  3. Great review, Leo. I wanted to like this and didn’t. It left me rather cold, too, mostly for a lot of the reasons you also covered. Unlike you I’m not going to continue to read the story, Jorg just doesn’t spark in me that level of interest and life is too short to read books that you don’t like.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s