King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

“’The way I’d put it,’ said Makin, ‘is that Rike can’t make an omelet without wading thigh deep in the blood of chickens and wearing their entrails as a necklace.’”

Killing a hero is hard work, but if anybody is up to the job, it’s King Honorous Jorg Ancrath. Oh, and he’s getting married. Lucky gal.

Mark Lawrence made a splash in the SFF genre a few years back with his shocking tale of a murderous, no holds barred psychopath. Many criticized him because of this dark approach to characterization. And while the second book restrains itself from simple shock value, I think it makes up for this with the ability to channel raw emotions into a clear, concise understanding of the human mind.

Mark Lawrence tells the world as it is, and the atrocities Jorg commits are the extreme. But we understand his actions seeing as he lives not in a dark world, but in a dark mind that had no figure to weed the graveyard.

“’I’d be happier on a horse,’ Makin said.

‘I’d be happier on a giant mountain goat,’ I said. ‘One that shat diamonds. Until we find some, we’re walking.’”

As you can tell, I kinda like the narrator.

But one man doesn’t. He wants to unite the Broken Empire under one banner, to help save the poor, stop the wars, and end world hunger. He has the manpower. He has the drive. The only thing standing in his way is Jorg Ancrath, and the King of the Renar Highlands doesn’t like to be pushed.

With the odds stacked against him nearly ten to one, Jorg knows he can’t win in a fair fight. But who wants to lose on their wedding day? Thus, he becomes what we might see as the antagonist. But his wit and wisdom brings us over to the dark side. I may not fight for him, but I’ll fight by him any day of the week, even if that means losing my head along the way because his words ignite a fire that I’ve rarely seen.

“I’ve always seen ‘no’ as a challenge rather than an answer.”

Don’t fight for honor. Fight to win.

Words to live by, and I think that’s what makes Jorg so charming. He lives by a “code” I think a lot of us wish we could.

Gone is the reckless child from Prince of Thorns. Now is a young man learning about the world, giving us flashbacks from a locked box as he remembers them. It’s an amazing literary device that I’m surprised more haven’t used.

“Memory is all we are. Moments and feelings, captured in amber, strung on filaments of reason. Take a man’s memories and you take all of him. Chip away a memory at a time and you destroy him as surely as if you hammered nail after nail through his skull.”

On the surface, killing and raping doesn’t sound to endearing, but if you break the waves, you see the simplicity of survival is such an attracting concept. I know a few opinions taped onto a review won’t sway you. No, only Mark Lawrence’s brilliant writing can truly encapsulate what I’m trying to say.

And what a wordsmith he is. Every sentence is perfectly constructed, a beautiful bite that captivates the mind. It holds no punches, throws you with a million different snippets that struggle to change your perspective on life. Jorg’s murdering and monologues on life leave you spellbound. My praise can’t do it justice. Only reading for yourself will help you understand.

The only problem I see is that his writing is too good. Near the end, I skimped over “plot-holes” because of the strong storytelling. But as I continue through the third book, I find that these criticisms are mere unanswered questions that are resolved in the final installment. We see a gun produced from thin air still usable after a millennia. Fire and death mix in an explosion of unexplained brutality. And a voyage across the world is written off after defeat as a chance to see if redemption is even remotely possible.

And I don’t think it is.

Nothing is presented to “build the world” or for shock value, as people were wont to say from the first. Everything enhances and deepens the character of Jorg Ancrath and his bloody path of vengeance. From the plot, to the setting, to the cast, every syllable builds upon each other, creating not a poem in prose form, but a song. It can only be credited as the work of a genius.

And trust me, Mark Lawrence gets better, if that’s even possible.

“A dark time comes.

My time.

If it offends you.

Stop me.”

Rating: 9/10

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7 thoughts on “King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

  1. Well said. I love that the end of this book explains Jorg’s superhuman ability to weasel out of any and every corner he’s ever been trapped in. It’s my favorite book of the entire series.

    • Thanks. I think the only thing I didn’t like was the superhuman explosion at the end. 😛

      Reading the third, and I might have to disagree with you. I think that one’s going to be my favorite.

      • Yea, Miana was a bit unbelievable also. But the plot twist with him and the Prince of Arrow was one of the few fantasy moments I’ve ever experienced that made my jaw drop and left me completely mindblown, haha. That’s why it’s my favorite of the series.

      • Yep! What I love about the prophecy in particular is that it only says the Prince of Arrow, not who the actual individual is. That explains a lot of the craziness in the series for me, lol.

  2. “Thus, he becomes what we might see as the antagonist. But his wit and wisdom brings us over to the dark side. I may not fight for him, but I’ll fight by him any day of the week, even if that means losing my head along the way because his words ignite a fire that I’ve rarely seen.”

    This is exactly what I loved about this book, more than anything else Lawrence has ever read. His ability to twist the traditional roles of protagonist and antagonist into some kind of inverted anti-hero/anti-villain story. You feel bad about rooting for Jorg, but the way you phrase your reasoning is exactly the kind of reason you want him to triumph, despite the fact you know that Orrin is by far a better ruler than Jorg.

    Great review, I especially loved all your pull quotes. In my opinion, consistently the best part of Lawrence’s writing is Jorg’s voice, and that’s probably why Prince of Fools disappointed me so. Jalan’s voice was so much weaker – but that’s another review. Again, great writing, really reminded me of why I loved this book so much.

    • Thanks. Jorg is the reason this book survives, because at its heart this tale is a simple story of a man wanting to have what people say isn’t his. Jorg’s voice is by far the best voice I’ve read all year, perhaps even since starting this blog. Lawrence might be a damn great writer, but I think the idea of a. . . charming and understanding villain that shouldn’t be sympathized with is what will always set it apart from whatever he writes next.

      I wish there was more books that twisted the roles of heroes and villains like Lawrence.

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