Review: Prince of Fools
When I read PRINCE OF THORNS, I was blown away. I know, I know. I’ve said this a time or two. Or twenty. It’s no secret that Mark Lawrence has become one of my favorite authors. His novels are a breath of fresh air, and are an absolute pleasure to read. And so now we come to the start of a new series set in the same world as Lawrence’s other novels. PRINCE OF FOOLS.
As much as I loved The Broken Empire trilogy, I knew that I wanted something different with Lawrence’s latest. I wanted the same quality of writing, and new and amazing characters. But it didn’t want it to feel like he was writing an…imitation…of Jorg. I know that sounds odd. I know that sounds like I set my expectations at an absurdly high level.
From page one, PRINCE OF FOOLS the same incredible quality of writing.
The novel had new, amazing characters.
It was completely different from Lawrence’s prior novels.
PRINCE OF FOOLS takes place concurrently with The Broken Empire. If there is one slight quibble, it is that I had trouble, in the beginning, placing this novel in the timeline. I wasn’t sure when this was. And then all those concerns went away. We are introduced to Jalan Kendeth, the Red Queen’s grandson, and thus a prince. But he’s fairly far down the line of succession, so he spends his days in the beds of as many women as possible. Until, of course, everything goes wrong when he is introduced to the Viking, Snorri ver Snagason.
The most immediate difference in PRINCE OF FOOLS is tone. Where Jorg was essentially an irredeemable character–which turned off many a reader–you don’t ever get that sense from Jalan. Misguided? Sure. A coward? Well, Jalan certain thinks that of himself. There is a more humorous tone throughout the entire novel, and it manages to always be perfectly timed. I found myself laughing out-loud numerous times at Jalan’s internal and external musings.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still dark fantasy. Things are grim. People are dying left and right. But PRINCE OF FOOLS is certainly more fun than the prior trilogy. This contributes to the pacing, which is Lawrence’s most effortlessly paced novel yet.
What this story amounts to is a quest of sorts. Jalan and Snorri end up joined together by magic. While Snorri wishes to find his missing family, Jalan ends up coming along because he’s rather forced to. It seems simple enough, but as the story progresses, it also unfolds into something much, much more deep and potentially sinister.
I love the characters in PRINCE OF FOOLS. Jalan never ceased to make me laugh, and his attitude of “run away” was refreshing in a fantasy novel. Snorri is the perfect counterpoint–intentionally–to Jalan. The balance between the two is incredible. Where Jalan provides the comedy and the moral progression of the novel, Snorri reminds us why Lawrence is known for writing dark fantasy. That’s all I’m going to say about that. I don’t want to spoil anything.
Perhaps the best thing about PRINCE OF FOOLS is how it opens up so much more of the world. It is grounded in the “present” where The Broken Empire had such a focus on how the world got to where it’s at. As a result, if has a more “fantasy” vibe to it than the prior novels.
I’m going to say this, and I don’t say it lightly. I love PRINCE OF FOOLS just as much as I loved PRINCE OF THORNS. I didn’t think I could be any more impressed by Mark Lawrence, but I find myself mistaken. Lawrence proves, with PRINCE OF FOOLS, that he is one of the best in the business. Period.
Waiting for the next book is going to be pure agony.
Recommended Age: 17+
Profanity: What you expect from Lawrence’s novels, but a bit less frequent.
Violence: Holy crap, yes. All sorts. It’s more visceral in this series. More immediate.
Sex: Alluded to, talked about, initiated, but not quite shown in detail.
Get this book. It’s incredible. You don’t even have to have read the prior series.