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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brutal but Excellent Continuation
I think it is fair to say that the books of Mark Lawrence can be described as harsh. Not in a bad way, the world that is lived in and the characters are harsh, but there is more to it than that. There have been criticisms about some of the things that happen in the book(s), that perhaps things have been a little too brutal, but that is the world.

If people...
Published 22 months ago by Perpetual Man

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars King of Thorns
I enjoy the read, the only set back is the story is constantly going back in time. I have read half of book 2 and most of it were happened '4 year earlier' more or less getting to the end of my book it seems I am still reading something that happened 4 year earlier
Published 14 months ago by Jane Court


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brutal but Excellent Continuation, 26 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2): 2/3 (Paperback)
I think it is fair to say that the books of Mark Lawrence can be described as harsh. Not in a bad way, the world that is lived in and the characters are harsh, but there is more to it than that. There have been criticisms about some of the things that happen in the book(s), that perhaps things have been a little too brutal, but that is the world.

If people believe that the middle/dark ages - the time period many fantasy worlds are based on - were all sunlight through cherry blossom and that bad things did not happen, even disturbing things then they are living in a dream world. They were mud choked, full of blood, rape and treachery, probably to an extent that The Broken Empire books only scratch the surface.

But... these novels are not set in a comparable middle age blueprint, in some ways they have to be considered science fiction over fantasy as they are set in our own world, in the future.

I remember when I was reading Prince of Thorns (first book in the series) and I felt that Lawrence's use of religion seemed to be based on Christianity, well it was Christianity, but it grated for me. I kept telling myself it was different but I did not think it worked. Until the story unfolded and revealed that this was our world after a nuclear war. Then everything made sense.

Lawrence said it was something that was only brushed upon in the first story, but it would be looked at in greater detail in this next novel. And he was not joking, here we get some depth and world building (and a bigger map) that really lets us feel this new world, what has happened to the old as it was burned away and left behind.

There is a lot of fun guessing just where they are in the new/old world and how it compares to what we know, and there is a lot of fun in guessing just what the ancient structures that have become castles once were. And there is a lot of interest too, in the seemingly odd things, like a graveyard encased in a kind of resin just to preserve it. Was it done by accident or design, and if the later, why?

This in itself, the old world elements, from the recognisable to the more Science Fiction remnants, an AI in a 'computer' that is a 'real' man, literally a ghost in a machine, a recording of a person. These things and so many more were enough to keep be gripped to the page, but you cannot talk about a book like King of Thorns without looking at the central character.

For me Jorg of Arcanth has to be one of the finest creations in recent times. Yes, has been stated elsewhere and time again, he is a truly nasty piece of work and the fact that he tells his own story just adds to that, but it also speaks of a kind of honesty, that he is not hiding the fact from both the reader and himself. No one can be truly irredeemable, and we see some other sides of Jorg in these pages. At times he is as ruthless and nasty as he has always been, but we see little chinks in the armour, a sign that he is growing in character as well as age.

The apparent rape of another character turns out not to have been what it seems (Lawrence really keeps his literary feet shuffling as he pulls the rug from under you not once, but twice); his decision with his new very young wife shows a slightly more tender side (even if the reasons are not exactly the most noble) and the conflict he goes through when deciding whether or not to murder his baby half brother is believable and humanising. The outcome of it all is even more devastating because of it.

Yes Jorg is still ruthless, but he carries a humanity that he seems to deny but is still there.

Lawrence throws in some great action sequences that really give the book some set piece highlights, and proves to be as ruthless with apparent main characters as he ever was in the first novel. In some ways, for me, this was one of the weaknesses, with one real POV character we have little time to really come and know the rest of the cast, so when they die there is not the impact there might have been - although to be fair, when it really needs the impact it is there - but this all comes through Jorg's perceptions of the people around him.

The climax at the end it just about spot on. If I was going to say anything negative about it, then it would be it happened to quickly. That is but a quibble though. It is a superb wrap up to an excellent second novel, that is spilt over four years, with some grim revelations, some stunning world building, and a different central character. (I also liked Jorg's new queen, a more than perfect match for him, even if he has not realised it by the end of the book). There is so much I liked about it that I could rattle on forever, but that would be pointless: go and read the book!

I said at the end of my review of the first book that I felt Lawrence would grow as he continued, and I feel that my words have been justified, this takes all the promise and runs with it. Even if it turns out that this is the high point of the trilogy, the third novel will still be a special something to look forward to.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ancrathian Psychopath., 15 Aug. 2014
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The sequel to Prince of Thorns takes the story of Prince Jorg of Ancrath and ramps up the scale, world, violence and quality of writing until you're caught in a dilemma of being unable to put it down, but never wanting it to end. The greatest triumph of the series is that of taking a central character who is a bone-deep psychopath, utterly driven by his own impulses and desires at the expense of all others and not only making you root for him - but making you actively like and want to spend time with him.
This series has almost immediately become one of my all time favourite fantasy series and easily stands comparison with The First Law trilogy and the work of Joe Abercrombie - that's the highest compliment I can pay it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honourous Jorg Ancrath is back! Hide you daughters! And anything valuable!, 5 Aug. 2013
This review is from: King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2): 2/3 (Paperback)
Book 2 in the Broken empire trilogy significantly expands on the characters and setting laid down brilliantly in book 1, Prince of Thorns.
We see the main character, Jorg, becoming not just a leader of men, but a ruler of people and of lands, and all that goes with this. Understanding what it means to rule.
Forging alliances, and tempering his killer urges into something more honed, and deadly.
He explores the world around him as few others do, and harnesses now not just the wills of men, but the magic and forgotten technology that inhabit his world. And use them to his own ends.
He will do absolutely what is necessary to achieve victory, namely unite the empire once more, and take the empire throne, and will sacrifice everyone and everything to this end.
But that is the world he lives in. He's a product of his environment, but isn't willing simply to be a pawn in a game of empire.
He wants to be the one moving the pieces.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Part 2, 23 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2): 2/3 (Paperback)
Jorg is now King of Renar, but he's still got his eye on Ancrath and another on the Empire.

As with the first book, this swaps between the present Jorg and the stuff he got up to 4 years previously (continues from the end of book 1) - this is a great way of helping you understand what is happening/what has already happened.

The Prince of Arrow has a pretty large army and Jorg's forces are badly outnumbered...but this is Jorg and he isn't going to surrender without a good fight.

You find out a little more about magic and how the world was destroyed in this book, slowly answering some of the questions left in book one. You also see the ways in which Jorg has changed or is changing since his days as an outlaw.

There are a few nice twists towards the end and this sets itself up nicely for the third book.
A great follow up to the great Prince of Thorns.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Black Prince becomes a Red King, 30 Jun. 2013
This review is from: King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2): 2/3 (Paperback)
One of my favourite books of 2011 was Mark Lawrence's debut novel Prince of Thorns. While hotly debated and often maligned for it supposed misogyny, I found Lawrence's story of this black-hearted prince and the forces that made him who he was and which manipulate his actions still fascinating. Not only did Lawrence tell a fantastic story, he also told it in wonderful prose. Unsurprisingly, I was looking forward to reading King of Thorns, which however I didn't get to read until this past week. Discussing this second book in the series will inevitably lead to spoilers for the first, so if you haven't read Prince of Thorns yet and want to remain unspoiled, best click away now!

King of Thorns returns us to the post-apocalyptic version of our earth; an earth so far into the future that it is hard to discern the number of years that have elapsed since our time beyond 'a lot'. The world-building in the book is great. While the world and map as we know it is clearly reflected in the different peoples and the names of cities, nothing can be seen as a one-to-one translation. Even the Roma church - descended from modern day Catholicism - is but a distorted image of its origins, something which surprised me as religions tend to be rather intransigent in their tenets it seems. Lawrence shows us more of the mysterious Builders and their ancient technologies and structures that are still dotted around the world, much of which remains hidden from general view. Their technology was so advanced that it seems like magic and it remains unclear what happened to this civilisation and how the resurgence of true magic came about. We do seem to get a hint of an explanation for the return of magic. Apparently humanity thinned the veil too much through some of its technology and magic came back to our world. It would be interesting to learn more about the Empire's history.

Like Prince of Thorns, the story is told in two timelines set years apart. One of these is set four years earlier and follows almost immediately on the ending of the last book, the other describes one day in the present. I like this set up, with short chapters and several chapters in one timeline before returning to the other one. I did miss the typographical signifier used in my copy of Prince of Thorns, in which both timelines had their own fonts, which allowed you to see at a glance in which timeline you were when you came back to the book. The timelines are interspersed with fragments of Katherine's diary. I liked how these provided a view of what happened beyond Jorg's purview, even if only fragmentary, and what we get serves more to seed the clues for the eventual denouement of the book's plot than to really illuminate what's going on at the Tall Castle.

Lawrence's development of Jorg is fantastic. In my Prince of Thorns review I said that there was always a sort of hope for Jorg's redemption and while that hope is still there, redemption isn't what this book is about. In King of Thorns remembrance is the name of the game, as Jorg struggles to remember what happened in those months after he took Renar and through remembering all of his history to understand what haunts him. This places all of Jorg's kinder actions - taking Gog to a fire-sorcerer to save him from his own fires, his care for some of his brothers, and the importance he places on meeting his mother's family - ever in a wavering light; does Jorg do and feel this because he isn't the black-hearted bastard he seems to be or because he's exactly the calculating psychopath many see him as? To be honest, I don't think Jorg himself even knows, but I'm inclined to believe the former. The fact that seemingly decent men such as Coddin and the people of Renar follow him so loyally into battle can't just be from fear of reprisal?

One of the elements that garnered Lawrence a lot of criticism for Prince of Thorns was his perceived treatment of women. In King of Thorns he makes good on that criticism by including two wonderful female characters in the book in the form of Katherine and Miana. Katherine comes across as a woman who takes her destiny in her own hands, while Miana is a little firebrand. I love how she surprises Jorg at every turn and how strong she is despite her tender years. I also like that Jorg seems to want to do right by her, even going so far as to fake taking her virginity. Beyond these two, there are only a few other female characters in the book, most notably Chella, the necromancer from the previous book who makes a return appearance. Mostly, Jorg spends the book in the company of his Brothers and other soldiering men. Some of my favourites here were Makin (again), Gog, Gorgoth, Sim and Red Kent. But once again Lawrence proves no-one is safe and he had me pretty upset at least two deaths that occur in the book.

Lawrence ends King of Thorns on a reveal that left me reeling, but one that had been set up so cleverly, that I actually heard some of the pieces click in place. This tight plotting combined with some gorgeous writing - Lawrence lets Jorg see beauty in the most unexpected of things - makes for a fantastic middle book to the Broken Empire trilogy. As I said at the start of my review, I only got to read the book quite long after its publication, but there is a definite silver lining to this--the final book in the trilogy Emperor of Thorns, will be out next month, which means I'll be able to return to Jorg and the Broken Empire very, very soon.

This book was provided for review by the author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, 19 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2): 2/3 (Paperback)
I enjoyed the inventiveness of the first book, and the unflinching, uncompromising approach to the story. However, while I found the character of Jorg to be a witty and original voice, I was not sure I found him sufficiently compelling to continue with the series. I'm glad that I did, and now look forward to reading the third volume. In this book we find Jorg showing some interesting signs of character development, as well as learning more about his past and the world he lives in. The use of separate, but complementary, timelines also works well in bringing the novel to a well constructed conclusion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Read, 27 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2): 2/3 (Paperback)
Again, this next installment in the series kept me entertained throughout.
It draws you in, keeps you on your toes and the writing shocks and surprises.

The more I read of this series, the more you can pick up on different elements and ideas.
I find it a mix of The song of Ice and Fire series, with a dash of Stephen King's 'Dark Tower' Series.

I found the ending, like the Prince of Thorns, maybe a bit too quick.
A lot of great build up and drama and then done in moments.
But at the same time this does add to the intellect and charm of the Story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Justice, one of the most emotive scenes ever., 25 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2): 2/3 (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading King of Thorns. At first I thought Jorg had become a little too soft compared to his behaviour in the Prince of Thorns, but as the story unfolded I saw how Mark Lawrence was cleverly showing that our protagonist is growing up.

I feel that I understand our wounded hero Honorous Jorg Ancrath better now. More of his backstory is told and we discover that it’s not just the thorns poisoning his blood that made him who he is. One scene describing events from his childhood is so emotionally gruelling that it made me want to cry for the boy. I won’t do a plot spoiler, but simply say Justice, and when you come across the passage I dare you not to weep. It’s one of the best written pieces I have read for a long time, the imagery and emotions still with me weeks after reading it.

This powerful introduction to the difference between Jorg and his now dead brother William, is echoed in the two princely brothers of Arrow, Orrin and Egan. It’s as if their story plays out what might have happened between Jorg and his brother, had William lived. William was the strong one, Jorg is the sensitive, wounded prince. We’re shown that because of Justice, Jorg turn away from his sense of justice and fair play. He had to change. The final battle scene shows how much he learnt from his childhood and his father’s brutal treatment of him. Don’t discuss and try to reason with your enemy: act.

The theme of his younger brother is also played out with young Gog, a strange boy/creature whose race were affected by The Builder’s sun. Gog loses his own brother, so Jorg takes him under his wing, recognising their similarity of loss, yet ultimately, when young Gog reaches the equivalent of puberty and come into his own power, harsh decisions have to be made. Jorg will end up carrying many scars from the deaths of the people he loves.

Jorg is beautifully fleshed out, but I still found some of his companions lacking, which was a pity. When reading I often felt that one of his road ‘brothers’ was given an attribute because it would work well with the plot line, yet we had never seen them in this light previously.

Who’s controlling who’s mind through magic all became more than a little confusing in places, and some of it felt like the author back-tracking. Jorg may be bad, but his extremely evil actions were suddenly blamed on dark forces and mind-manipulation from much nastier people. Shame.

In Jorg’s epic traverse across the damaged lands that were once Europe, we go to meet his mother’s people who live on the Horse Coast. By this time we begin to see that Jorg is pre-empting the battle that runs parallel to the backstory, which are relayed as ‘Wedding Day,’ and ‘Four Years Earlier.’ It’s a marriage of convenience, his wedding to Miana arranged for political reasons alone; yet Jorg is still lusting after the ever elusive Katherine. It’s a romantic thread that keeps showing us a softer side to Jorg, even though Katherine claims that she hates him. Yeah, right! The dippy girl can’t help but write about Jorg in her journal every five minutes, a sure sign that she’s fascinated, if not smitten.

Anyone who has read Prince of Thorns and enjoyed it, will want to read King of Thorns and continue to follow young Jorg through his savage world of blood and gore, internal demons, and cruel decisions. He now only has two enemies left to face. His own darkness, and his father. I have every intention of reading Emperor of Thorns to see how the story concludes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Continues much of what made book one brilliant, but a little weaker overall, 13 Nov. 2014
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I read the first book in this series, Prince of Thorns, and absolutely loved it. The moment I finished, I downloaded Book Two and started reading.

At the end of Book One, Jorg Ancrath, our utterly amoral "hero" had taken one step closer to his ultimate ambition of being Emperor of the Broken Empire by taking revenge on the uncle who'd killed his mother and brother, and becoming King of Renar in the process. Some chapters in this book pick up almost where that book left off, with Jorg newly crowned and exploring the world. Alternating chapters jump ahead four years, when Jorg is facing overwhelming odds, his country surrounded by 20 000 armed men fighting to conquer Renar for the Prince of Arrow.

The Prince of Arrow - good looking, kind, intelligent, seeking to conquer the Empire purely to bring peace - is the sort of character who'd be the hero of most fantasy novels, even fairly edgy, modern ones. Every mystic Jorg meets tells him that Arrow is prophesied to be Emperor and bring piece to the world. Unlike in the first book, where Jorg was basically a bad man amongst bad man, it's therefore particularly disconcerting to find yourself rooting for him when he's clearly the worst of two evils.

Many of the things that made the first book good are still present and correct. The "seemingly medieval but actually post-apocalyptic" world is well developed, the writing is smooth, and the willingness to play with genre conventions is refreshing. Above all though, it's the main character that makes this series special - his ruthlessness, his absolute determination, and his damaged psyche make compelling, repellent, and sympathetic all at once. Though he's by no means become a good guy, he's calmed down a bit in this book compared to the first, due to a combination of the responsibilities of being a king, growing up, and getting a degree of freedom from the corrosive influence of Corion, a sort of evil magician who was partly controlling his actions in the first book. While this undoubtedly makes him a more nuanced and interesting character, I must admit that part of me missed the jaw-dropping awfulness of Book One Jorg.

In some ways, I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as Book One. Firstly, I really appreciated the way the first book demonstrated that contrary to popular belief, it's possible to write a short, tightly plotted fantasy novel. This one was notably longer and felt a bit padded out in places. In particular, some of the "four years previously" sections dragged a little. Secondly, the flashback/jump forward structure, while clever, made the book feel a little disjointed and confusing. I generally enjoy non-linear narratives, but I felt that it didn't add much here.

There were also a few specific plot points that didn't quite work for me. I don't want to go into too much detail here and risk spoilers, but in short - not just one but about five consecutive deus ex machinas during the pivotal battle, Jorg's obsession with Katherine that seems to have no basis in anything (they've only ever met in person very briefly and don't obviously have much in common), and a terrible, lost memory carried around in a box that was both predictable and (considering the terrible things Jorg's done) rather underwhelming.

At the same time, other aspects of the plot - an interesting double twist around the Prince of Arrow, the wonderful concept of a "Mathmagician", one of the most heartwrenching stories of childhood trauma/animal abuse/terrible parenting you'll ever read, a fantastically ruthless child bride for Jorg - were up to, if not exceeding, the standard set in the first book.

Overall, this is definitely worth a read if you enjoyed book one. Most of the good stuff is still in place and there are some new things to enjoy, but for me, it was definitely weaker in places than the first book. It's also worth bearing in mind that you really have to have read this middle volume before you can read Book Three, which both picks back up again and explains some of the things that didn't entirely make since in this instalment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book you can't miss, 30 Aug. 2014
This review is from: King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2): 2/3 (Paperback)
It always comes as a surprise whenever the second book in a trilogy, particularly a fantasy one, is better than the first one. How many times does this happen, after all? Not many, at least in my experience, as few books enjoy the honour of being even better than the first part of a trilogy. So when it happens, I am always surprised by it. ‘King of Thorns’ is such a book, and it makes me glad that I took to read it after having finished ‘Prince of Thorns’. Even if I was suspicious of how good it would be after my impression of the first book, it was a joy to read from start to finish, in short.

Whilst in the first book of ‘The Broken Empire’ series was essentially about a coming of age story (though in reverse order) – starting with Jorg as the leader of a brutal band of bandits and only giving backstory later – ‘King of Thorns’ expands more on the backstory of Jorg and his character as the story of the particular world of this series advances. In particular, it is interesting to see how Jorg compares to other characters from his same world and how he changes as time progresses. Such was the case with the Prince of Arrow who, being perhaps a more ‘typical’ choice for a fantasy novel hero, clashed deeply with Jorg in all aspects. This growth was one of the aspects I enjoyed the most about the book, as well as how Jorg’s relationships with new and old characters progressed. The fact that Jorg is hardly the best character out there, and his admission of it, gives the book a very good tone. Especially because as a reader one still supports him.

The backstory given for Jorg Ancrath was, in my opinion, fantastic. Particularly with all its twists. It really comes to explain why he is how he is, and gives the whole novel a good flavour. Though Jorg can be difficult to identify with, it compliments him perfectly, and I again really enjoyed this aspect of ‘King of Thorns’. The supporting characters were also really well fleshed out, including Katherine and all others. Reading their interactions with Jorg was delightful, and made me laugh at many points. I particularly liked how the author created Miana, and her conversations with Jorg. It was wonderful to see them getting along, and having such a strong female character being cast (even if it wasn’t expected).

The book itself is divided into two time frames: the present, in which Jorg is 18; and four years prior, directly following the events of the first book. In between these were diary entries from Katherine’s perspective. Whilst this was a bit confusing a first to read, it was very easy to follow, and definitely was one of the things that made me enjoy the pace of the book. Rather than following in a more typical way, the different jumps from the two time frames fit the plot of the book excellently and delivered all information at the best possible time. Essentially, I cannot imagine this book without the narrative structure it was given.

The use of first person was, like in the previous book, simply beautiful. Though I am not usually one to give praise to the particular point of view chosen by an author, Mark Lawrence’s makes me stop whilst reading and note down a quote or two from the book. It interacts with the characters and plot perfectly, and is a true pleasure to read.

In sum, ‘King of Thorns’ is definitely worthy of the highest rating (‘awesometacular’), and I fully recommend it. Even if you didn’t enjoy the first book as much – as was my case – this title is definitely enjoyable and will not disappoint you. The characters and plotlines are wonderful, as is the particular writing style of Mark Lawrence. To not read ‘King of Thorns’ would be to miss out on a great fantasy title.
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King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2): 2/3
King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 2): 2/3 by Mark Lawrence (Paperback - 25 April 2013)
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