King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Just finished reading King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence and before I place one more word to blog I will just say ‘wow’.  Last year Mark Lawrence brought to us Jorg, the Prince of Thorns, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, in fact it was in my top 10 for the year (thank you again Little Red Reviewer).   For me personally it brought a new sort of perspective to fantasy.  The anti-hero who, in spite of himself, you couldn’t help eventually shouting in support of.  I mean, it’s a pretty nasty world that Lawrence has created here but Jorg, who, in fairness, is plagued by his own demons, is not necessarily the worst of the bunch.

I picked this book up with a certain sort of trepidation.  Part of me wanted to rush head long and part of me was afraid of the ‘second book syndrome’ that I’ve experienced in the past and which usually succeeds in my losing interest in the rest of the series.  As usual impetuousness won the day and I rushed in ….. but fear not on this account.  No longer a Prince, the King of Thorns rises above it’s first instalment to truly become the successor to the throne.  I loved this book.  Where the hell Mark Lawrence has been hiding for the past few years I have no idea but I hope he has no immediate plans to return.  This book is just pure genius.  I don’t know how he did it but he’s written this wonderful and complex plot where all the strands come together, like magic, and where very little is left unanswered.

Okay, enough gushing.

The plot starts with Jorg aged 18.  We’ve moved on and he’s now King of the Highlands.  However, his domain is threatened, a mammoth army sits on his doorstep, he’s outnumbered 20:1 and the battle of wits is about to commence.

The story is told in two time frames so that even though we’ve jumped forward in years we still get to see how Jorg has reached his current whereabouts. This is such a brilliant device and works really well here.  We move to one time frame and get to take part in the current battle whilst moving back in time to read about seemingly random and meaningless events – albeit interesting.  This also helps to keep the momentum going rather than reading the plot in a straight line and watching the story unfold we seem to jump from one action scene to the next barely catching breath inbetween. This story is woven like the most complex tapestry and really is a thing of beauty, I was practically clapping my hands in appreciation at certain points.  I started the read and almost had a headache in the first few chapters (okay, maybe I’m not as smart as some and sometimes had to stop and think ‘what?’) but then without any discernible effort on the part of the author I was totally immersed.  He had me.  I was on a tractor beam and couldn’t get off.  I just sat and read and it wasn’t until I realised that I was completely alone and the house was deathly quiet that I noticed that it was about 2.00 am in the morning and everybody else, without my even noticing or acknowledging it, had gone to bed.  Talk about casting a spell!

In the Prince of Thorns we were introduced to this strange new, I don’t know, post apocalyptic world that has almost returned to  mediaeval times, war rages and Kings plot against each other and yet we have strange remnants from the past that lend the read a certain sort of grim fascination.  But, in this new world things have moved forward apace and we also have a strange thinning of the veil that separates the real from the unreal.  Ghosts, strange misshapen monsters and cruel mistresses of death.  The King of Thorns builds upon that world further bringing all sorts of creepiness in its wake.  The imagination is just amazing and the situations that Jorg finds himself in seem almost desperate or without hope and yet ML manages to find sneaky ways to manoeuvre around impossible odds in a plausible way.  (Okay, methinks maybe I have returned to the realm of gushing).

Jorg is a different character in this book.  He appears to have developed an odd new sense of humanity.  I mean, I don’t think he’s going to ever be accused of being ‘soft and fluffy’ but he suddenly seems to have acquired a conscience – probably helped by the fact that he seems to have his own personal ghosts lurking in shadows to remind him of his past (although, and I won’t go into it further – memory can be a funny thing, particularly in this world).  He’s still pretty unsavoury but he and his crew – who are developed much further in this novel as the pages speed by – seem to be on a different type of mission.  The first instalment saw Jorg consumed by revenge.  This sees him stubborn and unwilling to bend the knee.  He’s ambitious and he has a plan. I quite liked this ‘new’ Jorg – he’s still quite capable of lopping off the odd head here and there if he’s displeased but it feels a little bit more judicious – in that you generally don’t feel any immediate sympathy for the person who has just found themselves bleeding on the floor without aforementioned noggin!  Jorg’s wit, however, remains the same, he’s clever, dry and just frankly made me laugh.  In this novel his band of motley men are also developed – which isn’t to stay they all remain intact, as in No.1, ML takes no prisoners, but we get to know them a little better.  Makin has become something of a favourite as has Gog.

In the first book, we ended on a strange sort of note – did we really know Jorg.  Had we met the true man.  At the conclusion of No. 2 I experienced a similar feeling.  I don’t think we have met the real Jorg yet (you’ll know why once you’ve read the book).  I’m waiting for the third book to see who he really is.  Oddly enough, although a different character in both I’ve enjoyed reading about Jorg very much. This is dark and gritty.  It’s pretty uncompromising and there are a few scenes that frankly made me squirm – the dog!  That’s all I’m going to say!  I had to cover my eyes for that scene until I realised that I couldn’t read any longer – then I just covered my ears and held my breath (until I fainted).  Not really, but you get the impression.  Dark.  Gritty.  However, if you like fantasy I just simply cannot see how you could fail to like this.  It’s different but it has something about it that’s familiar.  If you took a look at all the other fantasy books you’ve read, took all the ideas and melted them into plasticine, then remoulded it into a different shape, you might capture a little bit of the essence of this book.  But only a little bit.  It’s fantasy Jim, but not as we know it!

For the avoidance of doubt and in case of a lack of clarity above I very much liked Prince of Thorns, I loved King of Thorns and I now wait with baited breath to see what ML will do next!  Frankly, it can’t come quickly enough.  It’s going to be a l o n g wait!

King of Thorns

King of Thorns

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11 Responses to “King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence”

  1. Redhead

    Awesome, I can’t wait to read this! it’s funny, last year I got to be one of the first people to read Prince, and I think this year I’m going to be one of the last people to read King. I know it will be there waiting for me, so it’s okay.

    And yeah, Where has Mark Lawrence been for the last 20 years? Fantasy had needed him!!

  2. lynnsbooks

    Ha, you got there too quickly – I was adding my link to your review for PoT!
    This book is IT (it actually makes me want to swear and blaspheme in a good way – is there a good way?)! Anyway, no qualms at all about that. It will definitely still be there for you and actually it might be just worth waiting so you can savour it knowing there’s less of a wait. I don’t know what the hell he’s doing next but …. pffft words fail me.
    Lynn 😀

  3. theairtwit

    There is another blogger I follow who really seems to enjoy these books (The Streetlight Reader) — she recently read KoT and was rather happy about it. I decided I should read them, too, as the premise sounds interesting. I plan to check PoT out from the library next month (I have to get my current library haul down first…) 😀

    • lynnsbooks

      I loved this book – Prince of Thorns was very original in the world of fantasy and was a great read but King of Thorns was excellent. Can’t wait for the next!
      Lynn 😀

  4. Deb Atwood

    Prince of Thorns–interesting title. Is there a biblical allusion there? It’s not my usual genre, but I should check it out since the second book features ghosts.

    • lynnsbooks

      Wow, I never even thought about whether there was a biblical allusion. Makes me think I should have a reread and a rethink! (Or perhaps I’m just looking for an excuse to pick these up again :D)
      I think both of these books are amazing. To be honest when I first started reading PoT I did have a few ‘what’ or ‘you’re kidding’ moments. Thankfully these didn’t make me put the book down. You really do have to suspend your disbelief a little bit at the beginning. These are fantasy books after all so you do sort of go in with the expectation of having to do so.
      I hope you read them and look forward to your review.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Lawrence is the author who brought to us Prince and then King of Thorns.  Both excellent reads.  The first book a quite unique experience for me in fantasy and […]

  6. Top ten books I’d love to see as a movie or tv show | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Thorns, King of Thorns  and Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – I’m envisioning three amazing movies […]

  7. DJ (@LifeBooksEscape)

    The dog scene was one of the hardest thing for me to read in this series! What is physically happening, the emotional impact of it on Jorg there and then later on…and emotional impact it had on me!.
    Tough read, but it was very good and important to the story.

    • lynnsbooks

      It is a very grim scene to be honest – with a great deal of emotional impact – it certainly makes you see things a little clearer in relation to Jorg and some of his actions.
      Lynn 😀

  8. ‘MOST WANTED’ | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Jorg come to the big screen.  Mark Lawrence’s Prince, King and Emperor of Thorns. Prince, King and Emperor of […]

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