King of Thorns

King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, The Broken Empire #2

The land burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings fight for the Broken Empire. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.

A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg's gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.

Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan.

King of Thorns is the second book in The Broken Empire series written by Mark Lawrence. His first book, Prince of Thorns, has garnered some great reviews and though it was already published two years back I just hadn't gotten around reading it yet. For me the introduction to his series was pretty awesome and his take on epic dark fantasy is unique. Though the main protagonist Jorg is viewed by some readers as quite a psychopath, some things of how he was, was already shown in the first book and in King of Thorns Mark Lawrence further shows Jorg growing up and reveals more of his dark, dark past. 

The storyline in King of Thorns is divided into two parts, with one taking place in the present time and the other takes place four years earlier in the past (where the first book was left).

The part in the present time is entitled "Wedding Day" and yes, Jorg is taking a wife, and yes he is only 18 year old but he does have a kingdom to rule! The events that start to unfold in the present day storyline are all related with what happened in those four years earlier. In the present day, Jorg new kingdom is on the brink of being taken over by the Prince of Arrow and his army of 20.000 man strong. Put that against Jorg's mere few hundredish man... those are some pretty bad odds. The storyline in the present day also shows Jorg in a much more mature daylight than what we have seen so far in Prince of Thorns it seems that Jorg has gained a lot of experience now that he is ruling his own kingdom. His anger and determination are still right there but he is seeing things with different perspectives and is actually showing some kind hearted feelings as well, especially with his soon to be wife. Some other scenes that I really enjoyed in this present day story were the planning’s that Jorg carried out to stop the invasion of the Prince of Arrow, Jorg shows that he has some nasty tricks up his sleeve and does exactly what you expect from him. Jorg isn't one to follow to rules step by step, this makes his character unpredictable and quite... dangerous. And the best thing yet to come is how Mark Lawrence connected both storylines, with events occurring in either the past or the present that are linked to the other (hope that makes sense). It’s really great to see how the events all started to unfold.

The part in the past takes place four years in the past and focuses on the Jorg of 14 years old and who has just become King after overthrowing his uncle’s position. But soon Jorg meets two royalties Prince Orrin and Prince Egan from the country of Arrow who have set out with an important task of uniting as many kingdoms as possible. The first encounter between Jorg and Orrin is quite interesting to say the least. Something that I have come to learn from Jorg is that he is quick witted and fast on his feet and doesn’t let someone walk over him this easily, besides this he is also quite cocky about himself. And to be frank he is good in a lot of things that he does. But is it good enough? Well after the encounter with Orrin, I was actually a bit agape. I thought Jorg could easily best him… but he is proven wrong and this leads to a great development in Jorg’s character as he is now coming to understand that he isn’t “bulletproof”. This is mostly being explored in the part of the past, Jorg discovering himself and several of his brothers, and one mostly Brother Gog. This part is pretty cool to read about as well as some other things involving Jorg’s necromantic powers! As I already mentioned above, it was good to see the link between past and present, it really made the whole story come together.

An interesting point of view is being offered by Katherine Ap Scorron. Her perspective is shown through various written journal entries. Jorg and Katherine had a bout in the first book and left their relation on quite a strained position. To Jorg, Katherine is one of the few people who he ever has seemed to love, but Katherine sees Jorg as something completely different and thinks that Jorg took advantage of her when she was unconscious. In these several journal entries you get to see and feel just what kind of hatred Katherine has for Jorg. But whether this is all based on the truth… well there are some interesting turns of events regarding these parts that come to you quite unexpected and shows just more of what Jorg might is coming to be… and it also shows that there are still higher and more uncontrollable forces at play. This was a nice change in perspectives that added a few extra layers to the plot of the book.

Now one thing is still keeping me amazed about the world of The Broken Empire. From the map in front of the book you see that it a bit of Europish, but modified by Mark Lawrence himself but still keeping several places intact. The second part that is for me hard to distinguish is the time that this story takes place in. From the cover and most of the surroundings you would naturally assume that it is taking place in a medieval setting. With all the castles and kingdoms, however what already fell to note in the first book was some kind of mechanical technology. This is even further explored in King of Thorns, dropping names of Aristotle and Sun Tzu but also delving much more in some technology and I think I saw the word DNA being dropped somewhere. All these latter things do hint towards something more and I cant get a clear picture of the world of what it all can mean. Especially with the mentioning of builders and their technology, are we looking at an alternate version or has the world moves on? By showing the world this way Mark Lawrence has created a unique universe in which a lot is possible and which he uses to the fullest, it might me a slight bit of weird (saying this in the good way) but it is a whole lot interesting.

Does King of Thorns deliver? Yes, it does on many levels. The story alone is something I hadn’t expected to unfold in this way, based on the synopsis alone I was expecting a large-scale battle but I got a lot more. Several characters and mainly Jorg show a great development and the world just keeps on amazing me.  I was already impressed with Prince of Thorns but the sequel is everything I wanted to see and more. Mark Lawrence has a way with writing an interesting story and has created a clever narration, alternating the narration between the past and present was a smart decision and proved to be quite catchy for me. It was constantly challenging and pulling me forward getting me eager to find out more and more about the events. The ending of the book. Well, what can I say? Jorg doesn’t play by the rules and he never will. He is by far one of the coolest fictional characters that I have read about. Unexpected, upfront in your face and just a little bit mad. With all that Mark Lawrence has come to show in both Prince of Thorns and King of Thorns, I am eager to see how the story will conclude in Emperor of Thorns.

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