Dark, gritty and full of death. That's pretty much sums up this book. From the first moment you read, you are thrust into a world of destruction and nothing seems to be fair game. Mark Lawrence's first book Prince of Thorns is set in an alternate reality of our Earth. He references Plato and Sun Tzu but none of the countries he uses are of the same name. "Technology" is part of this book but it's masked by using spirits/ghosts and alchemy to disguise it.
Lawrence's story is in first person, told by Prince Jorg Ancrath a 14 year old boy who witnesses the murder of his mother and little brother. Pain, anger and confusion leads him to run away from home with a band of wandering brigands. Jorg's main goal is to kill Count Renar whose men were the ones that killed his beloved mother and brother. Yet after years on the road, Jorg is no closer to killing Renar. Something draws him back to his homeland, back to his father but there are other forces at work, danger is afoot.
What Lawrence does really well in this book is the pace. There is something happening all the time, there is no down time. No chapter is filler; if he wants to say 3 months have past, well he'll say just that and we're off again. The book is dark and gritty. Others have said that's what they like about Abercrombie's writing, but Lawrence would put him to shame. Jorg's character is an anti-hero. He is sometimes confused but mostly he is just angry, and who wouldn't be after watching their mother and brother die, without having the ability to help. Jorg has no moral's and often does things on a whim, and just when you think he's going to do something that protagonists usually do, he dashes your brains all over the wall.
What I also really liked about Prince of Thorns are the little quotes or paragraphs before a new chapter. It gives us insight to the characters and also a little bit more information about Jorg.
There were a couple of things that Lawrence didn't sell me on. Perhaps it is really subjective but when I was reading, I didn't feel like it was a 14 year old boy talking to me. The voice inside my head said older, more grizzly man. The book mentions his tutoring at a young age, but academic learning doesn't translate to articulate speaking or the things he does in the book. Also for the whole time until about two thirds, three quarters of the book, I actually thought Jorg was a normal sized 14 Year old boy and not 6 foot in stature.
These things certainly do not make a bad book. As I said, those last two points are very subjective. This book isn't ground breaking fantasy but great books don't have to be. Prince of Thorns is essentially what every fantasy reader loves. Magic, check. Lots of fighting, check. Betrayal, check. Impossible odds, check. Likable but flawed characters, check. Trilogy (all the rave these days), check.
If you haven't read this book or heard of Mark Lawrence, well now you have. The second book to this trilogy the King of Thorns was released earlier this year and have had rave reviews from our forum members and Ben the owner of BFB himself. Emperor of Thorns the last of the trilogy will be out approx 1st of August 2013.