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on 26 June 2013
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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on 15 August 2014
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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on 11 July 2013
If you like Joe Abercrombie and Richard Morgan, there's a good chance you'll like Mark Lawrence. They all share a similarly dark view of human nature and their hero's reflect that with a certain black humour.
This is the second book in the series and the main character, Jorg Ancrath, has grown and matured, and is almost likeable. In the first book the young Jorg had few redeeming traits, other than a keen intellect and a ruthless ambition, but the story was gripping and by the end you started to understand him a little. A sort of sympathy for the devil. This continues in the second book till you find yourself rooting for him despite what you know, or think you know, about him. The author never makes it easy for you to like Jorg, as his merciless examination of his own motives is truly machiavellian, but you cannot help but admire his wit and the brutal honesty of his analysis.
Setting the story in a post-apocalyptic world in which the act of armageddon frayed the very edges of reality, enough for magic to start to exist, is somehow more plausible than most fantasy worlds and adds to the enjoyment. Definitely a series for experienced Fantasy readers who like things a little more complex than "good pretty humans versus bad ugly monsters".
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on 5 August 2013
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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on 23 August 2013
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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on 30 June 2013
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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on 10 June 2014
What a sequel to one the best books I have ever read. This book had me on the edge of my seat the whole time as I was constantly intrigued by Jorg's development in this book. This is a must read for anyone who was a fan of Prince Of Thorns. Without giving anything away we are told information that Mark Lawrence could have very well told us in Prince of Thorns but instead he uses it as part of Jorg's development and produces alot of interesting plot twists from scenes in Prince of Thorns as well as giving us more detail as to what is really going on. I cant wait to start on Emperor of Thorns and I am lucking forward to see the outcome of this amazing trilogy.
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on 27 August 2013
I loved the first of the series and have enjoyed the second just as much. Enough that I am chomping at the bit to get to the third. The lead continues to be a nasty piece of work - although he is humanised further as the story develops. There are enjoyable new characters, the body count continues to mount, and the story remains as gripping as ever. I understand the character does need to be made more human- if he did not develop and remained the monster he was at the start it would be hard to engage. My only concern is that he does not lose to much of his edge though . His unique voice is the thing that marks this series apart from others.
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on 19 August 2013
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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on 27 August 2013
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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