Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
Just finished reading Prince of Fools (PoF) by Mark Lawrence – who is definitely becoming one of those authors that I simply must read and eagerly anticipate his next in series.
Now, the next few sentences, I’ve unashamedly stolen because I don’t want to go too much into detail plotwise (and also I think you just need to read it yourself):
“The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other.
Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures. Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north.”
I’m sure that I’m not the first, and probably won’t be the last to say this but I approached this book with almost equal measures of anticipation, expectation and trepidation. After all, this isn’t Jorg but it is the Broken Empire and I wondered if ML could work his magic again or whether Jal might become a little bit like Jorg in disguise. I don’t think I can deny that when I started reading I was thinking of Jorg. Then I mentally slapped himself as frankly I don’t think it’s fair to an author to have that mindset when you’re reading the next new series. Of course you compare, it’s inevitable, but I wanted to give this the same opportunity as I would have if I’d never read any of ML’s books before – so, yes, mental slapping went on! It may be that some people see similarities between the two but fortunately for me this wasn’t the case. The only similarities that I found was the consistency of the writing, the creativity and the sense of humour that ML undoubtedly manages to inject into some fairly dire situations.
So, we return to the Broken Empire but we not only go back for a visit but we also go back in time and look at things not only from a different kingdom but from a time when Jorg was still on his path of vengeance. We enter the realm of the Red Queen, a woman of iron – but then, seriously, she wouldn’t be ruling in this realm if she wasn’t. At the start of the story, apart from being introduced to Jal as he escapes a compromising situation, all the Queen’s family have been summoned. She’s brought them together to talk to them of grim portents for the future and doors that are opening that should remain closed. Of course, Jal, with his mind on other things is barely listening.
To the characters. Jal is basically a coward and a womaniser. Throw in a bit of gambling, creativity with the truth and the ability to whack a man over the back of the head (when he’s not looking) and you have something of his measure. However, as you find out as you read on, you don’t have the full measure. Jalan is his own worst critic and as the story gains momentum you come to understand that he’s got more to him that he would have you believe. Yes, he wants out of the situation he’s in particularly if it’s a bit hair raising, and occasionally he tries to think of the easiest way to do so, but on the whole he’s not as bad as he likes to make out (and a LOT of people would try and find the easier way out of a tricky situation if they could)! He’s known as a hero in his heartland due to falling into a spot of bother whilst trying to run away from another. But, really, don’t be fooled by Jal’s own self evaluation. Read it and see. Now, on top of this, we have another character who Jal travels with, well becomes inextricably linked with is probably more to the point! Snorri ver Snagason – a gigantic norseman with an axe to grind – and literally he does have an axe – and is on a rescue mission. I could give a little air punch here but you won’t see it so I’ll just say that this story has Vikings!!! And, need I really say more. I really liked Snorri – he’s a great big no nonsense character. He smiles at trouble and definitely laughs in the face of impossible odds. I just loved him down to his (probably) furry boots and his grisly beard. Woof!
The setting – well, we are back to the Broken Empire but in a strange sort of way I felt like I visited more of it in this book than with Jorg. That could be true, or I could just be mislead but this particular plot feels a lot more vast in scope and seems to range far and wide taking in many landscapes! The two of them trek from here to there and then from there to here. Sometimes they get caught up in fights. Occasionally they have horses to ride. There are skirmishes along the way. There are shady characters and even Jorg makes a surprise appearance.
In terms of the writing – ML undoubtedly has a gift with words. He can make you feel comfortable with a character or envision a setting with ease. He doesn’t info dump and his writing flows in a very easy to read fashion.
Without a doubt, what made this novel so good for me was the fact that it almost feels like old school fantasy. We have Jal and Snorri bound on an adventure. Sometimes they find inns along the way, quite often they find trouble and they also find friendship. On top of that I found myself caring about both characters which I think is an accomplishment in itself. Old school-modern style. It of course has a few unexpected twists along the way and for your entertainment there are witches, circuses, fortune tellers and zombie type soldiers.
I received a copy of this book through the publishers. The above is my own opinion and I would certainly recommend this book to fantasy lovers.
I am submitting this for my Once Upon a Time event over at Stainless Steel Droppings and also my 100 books challenge.