Review: The King of Thorns
Once I’d finally managed to get past my irrational dislike of anything with hype attached to it, I gave Mark Lawrence‘s THE PRINCE OF THORNS (EBR Review) a read. You may remember from that review that I was completely and utterly blown away. It was just soooooo good. Then the sequel, THE KING OF THORNS (Amazon) showed up in my mail box.
I may, or may not have wept from the joy I felt. Then I may, or may not have babbled excitedly at my wife while thrusting the book in her face. She may or may not have wondered why she married me.
I fear the second book in any series. When the first book was absolutely stunning, and is on my list of favorite reads ever, I get downright petrified. I couldn’t help it here; my expectations were so ridiculously high. Unfairly high. And then I read THE KING OF THORNS, and somehow Lawrence did the impossible.
He met my expectations.
Then he exceeded them with the ending.
There really isn’t any way to easily describe THE KING OF THORNS. The opening chapters introduce an older Jorg. He is still the same violent, snarky individual I loved in the first book, but he also seems to be learning that all his actions have consequences. Let’s be honest here, Jorg is not a good guy. Never has been, never will be. That’s why he’s awesome. He’s just sick of being yanked around and being told how things are destined to play out. Screw that. Jorg makes his own fate.
The novel jumps back-and-forth between the events following the first book, and four years later where King Jorg’s castle is under siege. Interspersed in all of this are the little tidbits introducing, and giving insight into, Jorg’s companions. Additionally, we get pages from Katherine’s journal. They key to this story, not unlike Scott Lynch’s THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA (Amazon), is in not telling the story sequentially. I read the entirety of THE KING OF THORNS knowing that some twist was coming, but the unpredictability of the story, and of Jorg himself, made that impossible. When the twist finally did come, I was left shaking my head in appreciation.
Much of my love for THE KING OF THORNS comes just from Lawrence’s prose. The way he describes things, the way he transitions from segment to segment, his conversations… they are all so well executed. From that point, the tone of the novel is just fantastic. We actually get two distinct Jorgs. One, more world-weary, four years in the future (which is actually the novel’s “present”), then the more blood-thirsty version we are used to from the first novel. That contrast is really what makes this book work, and what makes it distinct from the first novel. As I always say when reading a series, I like to see progression with characters.
Now, there are a few areas where THE KING OF THORNS, to me, isn’t quite as good as THE PRINCE OF THORNS. Some of the things that happen (remember, no spoilers), just don’t feel connected to the actual story. Many of Jorg’s adventures feel more like a piece of short-fiction that was spliced into the novel. The effect is a somewhat more scattered feel to the narrative. It’s not game-breaking, but there are times where the direction and momentum of the story get lost. I also feel that Katherine’s role could have been a tad clearer in the end.
And that’s all I got by way of nit-picks. Seriously.
THE KING OF THORNS builds upon the excellence started by its predecessor. Lawrence captures Jorg’s voice perfectly, which makes reading the novel a pleasure. There is no sophomore slump here. There is no “middle-book syndrome”. THE KING OF THORNS firmly cements, in this reviewer’s opinion, Mark Lawrence as one of the top authors in the genre.
- Recommended Age: 17+
- Language: Yup
- Violence: Lots, though it doesn't seem as shock value as the first book. To me it shows that Lawrence is getting even better as a storyteller.
- Sex: Talked about, but nothing graphic
Seriously, buy this book. It’s worth every penny. If you haven’t read the first one and still read this review, 1) you confuse me, and 2) buy that book RIGHT NOW!!!