Book Review: Emperor of Thorns

Emperor of Thorns
By Mark Lawrence

My Edition:
Paperback, 399 pages
2013, Ace
ISBN: 9780425256541

King Jorg Ancrath is making his way towards Vyene to vote with the rest of The Hundred on who should be named Emperor. This time, Jorg cannot stand against an army with impossible odds; he must persuade his fellow kings to vote for him if he wants the title. When none have agreed in living memory, can Jorg succeed?

Blurbing a series is hard! I expect if you’re reading this, you’ve read the trilogy already, or at least the first two books. As usual, Lawrence has crafted an addicting read, though it did take me almost a whole month to finish thanks to the dreadful slump I was in.

When I finally clawed my way out of the slump, snarling and ready to devour more books, I immediately went back to Emperor of Thorns. I hadn’t got very far before the slump knocked me on my ass, though it took some time for me to recall what I had read. Once I got started again, I finished the book in two days. While I still don’t like Jorg (maybe I don’t hate him, but I certainly wasn’t rooting for him!), I had to know how his story ended.

Per the other two books, there are flashbacks from Jorg’s prior travels and this time, instead of diary entries from Katherine, we get interludes from Chella, everyone’s favorite necromancer (Necromancress? Lady necromancer? Necrowomancer?)

And per the other two books, this timeline/layout did confuse me here and there. Despite Jorg’s flashback chapters labeled “Five Years Earlier” I still managed to forget which version of Jorg I was reading about. Overall, I’m glad we got a look at his past and I usually enjoy non-linear stories, but something about this series didn’t click. Maybe because there’s so much history, world building and battles, that it made it harder to keep track? I’m not sure how else he could have done it, but it’s worth noting that it tripped me up on several occasions.

For a while, I did wonder why we needed the five-year flashback in this story, but it pays off in the end. Lawrence had a lot to tie together and I think he pulled it off pretty well (though I can’t guarantee that I didn’t already forget details, despite reading this series in a fairly timely manner.) The ending was perhaps a bit muddled, but it answered all my outstanding questions. Well, mostly.

I can’t say I 100% understand how the technology and magic of this world have come to be. It was definitely explained, but I definitely didn’t absorb it. I mean, I get the basic idea and had I given it more brainpower, it probably would have made more sense. I still love the concept though and I want to know more about the different kingdoms. I’m excited to read the other series that takes place in this world (The Red Queen’s War) and hopefully meet more characters, especially the ones who seem sorta godlike.

I won’t really talk about the plot. I will say, while I wasn’t thrilled with the ending, it made some sense to me. I also appreciate Lawrence’s “Afterthought” which talks about why he ended the series the way he did. That makes a lot of sense and even before reading it I understood his reasoning.

If you enjoy the foul-mannered, violent, stubborn Jorg (who, admittedly, does have significant growth over the course of the trilogy) and the world Lawrence created, I think this is a worthy end to the trilogy and that you’ll likely enjoy it. Now to read more of his work!

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