Tag Archives: Mark Lawrence

Book Review: Emperor of Thorns (Mark Lawrence) (4 *’s)

Emperor of Thorns is the third book of Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series. You can find my reviews of the preceding books here: Prince of Thorns and King of Thorns. I’ve been looking forward to this book, and I enjoyed it considerably. It continues the story of Jorg Ancrath, now a king, 20 (I think) years of age. He’s still ruthless and basically corrupt, but he has grown to care for his pregnant wife and soon-to-be born son. And now he has his eyes set on the throne of the Emperor which has been vacant for over one hundred years.

The story begins with Jorg Ancrath and a small contingent of his loyal forces being escorted by the Gilden Guards to the formal meeting of the kings to select an emperor called the Congression. Much of the present day tale follows him and his journey on the road. He encounters undead creatures of various sorts: common undead soldiers, and more powerful lichkin. Throughout there are flashbacks to Jorg’s adventures five years ago when he traveled to radiation poisoned lands in search of ancient technology, the land of the Moors to meet a powerful caliph and his mathmagician, and to Vyene, the seat of the empire. He has his trials and tribulations along the way, influenced by both modern magic and ancient technologies (that’s kind of a funny twist I just noticed: modern magic and ancient technology). The whole leads to a climax in the Empire’s throne room where he confronts the horror of horrors: the Dead King, leader of the unholy armies of the dead.

Strengths: the writing was excellent, the story gripping and sufficiently convoluted to keep me engaged, and the plot was well done. Weaknesses: I’ve said in my prior two reviews that I was not fond of the character of Jorg as a main character since he’s basically evil. He’s grown on me to a certain extent, and I do enjoy his adventures now. He’s grown a little: he cares somewhat for his wife and even more for his son. That doesn’t justify anything he’s done, and makes the juxtaposition between himself and savior of the realms an odd one, to say the least. Finally, I was raised Catholic and the prevalent corruption throughout his Church did not appeal to me. He can paint his Church any way he likes, of course, and the modern Catholic Church has known some well-deserved criticism for its moral failings at times, but not one of the priests in these novels really measured up to any of the priests I have known in my life.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book and I’ll give Emperor of Thorns four stars out of five.

Fantasy Literature: Number of Characters and Perspectives

I’ve been reading Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series. I finished Book II, King of Thorns, a ways back. You can read the review for Prince of Thorns here. And King of Thorns here. They are good books. I’ve enjoyed them, even though the main character is largely evil. However, while reading them I noticed a flaw or weakness about which I will write today. Basically, he’s got too many characters and only one perspective. The main character is Jorg Ancrath who is on the path to become Emperor of the Broken kingdom. The only perspective (other than diary entries) in the book is his. And that’s fine, as far as it goes. But the point I’m making, is that when you have only one point-of-view character, you should limit the number of supporting characters as well. I think he’s had over a dozen, and I, personally, can’t keep them all straight.

 

There are a few exceptionally distinctive ones, like the two leucrotta, his love interest, and his major antagonists in the book who I could follow with ease, but the rest of his Road Brothers pretty much blended together. After two books, only one or two really stuck out in my mind. The problem is, of course, that he had too many of them. One or two of them are killed off every couple chapters or so, but since there are so many of them it doesn’t have a great impact. The books are still great, but I just feel this weakness is worth expounding upon.

 

Clearly, the number of characters an author can successfully juggle is a function of the number of pages in the book. If you are writing a two hundred page novel, you’re going to have far less leeway than in a seven hundred page behemoth. That should be obvious. But I want to further point out, that the number of characters is also limited by the number of point-of-view characters you have. First of all, jumping into the head of a second character makes that character all the more real; it fleshes them out more fully by describing their thoughts and actions from their point-of-view. Jumping into a third, does likewise. Additionally, the characters each of these relates to will also be fleshed out more fully, through the actions they take with respect to the new point-of-view character and their respective relationships. For example, a secondary character might have a parent or sibling, and that relationship will help fix those characters in mind. Remaining in a single point-of-view character limits such considerations to that character alone. I would say that for one character, you’ll probably be able to swing maybe five to seven supporting characters successfully. Beyond that, the attachment the reader feels to additional characters will become more tenuous.

 

Oh, and obviously, the number of point-of-view characters is limited by the length of the book.

Book Review: Prince of Thorns

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.