Prince of Thorns is Mark Lawrence’s debut novel. It tells the story of Jorg Ancrath, a mere youth of fourteen who has already seen too much of the world’s horror. He was born and raised a prince in a royal castle, but in his tenth year, his mother and younger brother were assassinated before his very eyes, and the guilt and pain of that experience still weigh heavy on his soul.
At first I thought this book was set on an alternate Earth. There are references to Plato, Jesus, and other elements from our world, but I did not recognize the map and there were elements of real supernatural activity. As the story progressed, it became apparent that it was meant to be a post-apocalyptic version of our world. Which I have mixed feelings about. Lawrence pulled it off well enough; it wasn’t a flaw in the writing that concerned me. I don’t know, I guess I just prefer my fantasy to be pure fantasy, without the corruptive touch of science—because once you let science into the story, everything has to have some kind of scientific support.
Anyway, the story revolves around the young Jorg Ancrath who is leading a band of outlaws, ravaging the countryside, killing, raping, and plundering. They are not nice fellows. Then, Jorg and his men return to the king’s castle where danger of another sort lurks around every corner, and Jorg is given an “impossible” mission to prove himself. He sets out boldly, but this time his very future is on the line.
Strengths: the writing was good, the story was interesting, and there were no logical flaws that I saw. The book was written with dark humor. Weaknesses: although the main character was a fourteen year old, I would not recommend this book for that age group: I would limit it to adults. There was violence, of course, but that’s to be expected in fantasy—and there was also some limited sexual scenes. My biggest complaint, however, was that the hero was as much as villain as anything else. He was cold and calculating and did a number of horrific things. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my heroes to be actually heroic and to possess a few virtues. They should be looked up to; they should not be exemplars of savagery. Beyond that, I can think of no other major weaknesses.
I’ll give Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence four stars out of five.