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.

12 Responses to “Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence”

  1. jenclair

    Jal and Snorri certainly sound like interesting characters! I think I should start with the first in the series.

    • lynnsbooks

      I think it helps to have read the first but, I also don’t think it’s absolutely essential – there are obvious references to the earlier series but if I hadn’t have read them I wouldn’t have picked up on those but I don’t think I would have realised (sorry, that’s not very well explained).
      Lynn 😀

  2. Wendleberry

    I loved Prince of Thorns (i have King of Thorns on my book shelf waiting to be read), and i’m so glad to hear the Fools series is good, and not just a simple rehashing.

    “…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…”
    I’m gad to hear this, too. It was the post-apocalyptic setting that had me reading in the first place, and as much as i loved the subtleties of it, i wanted more!

    • lynnsbooks

      This book has a completely different feel to it – two people on an adventure across lots of different landscapes – I thought it was really good and I was so relieved that it didn’t turn into another version of Jorg.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Priya

    I don’t usually like high fantasy, but this sounds like a great read; especially with such well drawn characters. Adding the series to my TBR!

    • lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed this. I do so like Mark Lawrence and I really like that he’s come up with a totally different style of story and protagonist but from the same world. A great achievement.
      Lynn 😀

  4. 6 Month Review ‘best so far list’ | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence – a different character, a different voice, a different plotline but still taking place in The Broken Empire.  Not to be missed. […]

  5. My best reads for 2014 | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence.  This is the fourth year in a row that Mark Lawrence has made my top 10.  I call that pretty damned impressive and I think it speaks volumes in itself.  I loved the Broken Empire books and strongly recommend them to fantasy fiends – particularly if you like your protagonist to be flawed and you like your fantasy a bit on the grimdark side.  Yes, I worried, you always do when an author you like moves on, will they pull it off?  The concern wasn’t necessary as Prince of Fools was an excellent start and brought us not one but two interesting and very readable characters.  Set in the same world and even with a small starring role from Jorg – this doesn’t have to be read as a follow up but stands alone so you don’t have to play catch up. It’s everything I expected and hoped for and has a slightly different feel than the last one – not that I can really put my finger on anything specific. Just go and read it. […]

  6. Waffle, waffle, waffle… | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Lawrence’s Broken Empire and Red Queen’s War (No.1 in each: Prince of Thorns and Prince of Fools).  I love these books – there’s lots going on and you could have a field day with a […]

  7. The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] I mentioned in my review of Prince of Fools this series has an old school feel to it in that we have a group of people on a journey encountering […]

  8. To adapt or not to adapt! | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] The Prince of Fools and The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence – so far, this would make an excellent series – or epic type films for that matter! […]

  9. Real Neat Blog Award |

    […] – which is excellent and I would highly recommend.  Of course, you would need to read Prince of Fools first – but that would not be a problem as both books are […]

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