King of Thorns
By Mark Lawrence
Paperback, 419 pages
Having conquered his uncle’s lands, Jorg must now keep them from others who seek to gain territories and become emperor. Eighteen now, Jorg is a king, but he is still plagued by dreams of his dark past. If he wants to keep his kingdom, he needs to fight his inner demons and come up with a plan to defy the odds of the battle before him.
If it’s not already apparent, this is the sequel to Prince of Thorns. Amidst the main storyline, once more we have flashbacks from Jorg, so the story is also about what took place after he begins ruling his uncle’s lands and before the battle he finds himself fighting four years later. This is a solid sequel, but the timeline did trip me up a bit in this one. On top of the two periods of Jorg’s life, there are also diary entries from Katherine that span a good part of the four years of Jorg’s flashbacks.
This addition to the series didn’t flow as well as I would have liked. There’s Jorg at 18, having been ruler of his uncle’s lands and now facing the army of the Prince of Arrow, who has plans to become emperor. There’s 14 (going on 15) year-old Jorg who has basically just taken over his uncle’s lands but has set off on a quest to try to help some of his Brothers. There are diary entries from Katherine spanning the time from when Jorg left his father’s castle to about the time that Arrow is coming up on Jorg’s lands. And lastly, there are the little character snippets between certain chapters, giving a bit more insight into the personalities of the remaining Brothers.
Needless to say, it was a lot to keep track of.
I did struggle with the two Jorg timelines, because something about them felt similar, despite two different events occurring. Maybe it’s because Arrow is featured in both? I’m not sure. But at one point I read a whole chapter thinking it was about 18-year-old Jorg and I was very confused. When the next chapter started, I realized I’d been reading about 14-year-old Jorg and everything made sense again.
Confusion about the timeline aside, I once again found myself desperately addicted to this book about an arrogant, violent, idiot kid who I dislike. Jorg certainly shows a good amount of growth in maturity in this installment, but I still dislike him. I don’t think I’ll ever like him. And that’s ok because his story is compelling as hell. Whenever I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about how much I wanted to go back to reading this book.
I maintain that Lawrence has written some of the most easily readable fantasy I’ve ever encountered. It’s still not blowing me away in terms of characters or even plot, but I love this series. It’s immersive, the world is crazy intriguing (I’m still trying to figure it out!) and it’s action-packed! There is a pretty gruesome scene involving a dog that I very much disliked and had a hard time getting through. Violence against animals, man, it gets me every damn time. A bit of a warning if you’re extra sensitive about that sort of thing – you may want to skim a page or two.
I liked the snippets of Katherine’s journals and wish there had been more. I was especially interested in her story arc and development. I would also like to know more about the players of this game they keep mentioning – powers that be who are trying to control who will gain the throne of the emperor, I’m guessing. They have cool names like the Silent Sister, The Blue Lady, Luntar and Corion (Coriol? Crap, I forget.)
The ending was a bit similar to the first book, plot-wise, as it was another against-impossible-odds battle. But I’m thinking that’s Jorg’s specialty. I liked the little twist at the climax though. Clever! Well, to me anyway – perhaps some might find it obvious.
Anyway, I can’t wait to read on and see how it all comes together – and then dive into the sister series set in the same world! I need to know more about how all this shit came to be! If you liked the first book, I think it’s a safe bet to say you’ll enjoy the second. If you’ve read this far into my review for the second book of a series in which you haven’t read the first, I’m not sure what you’re doing – you should probably go read Prince of Thorns now so you can start on King of Thorns right after.