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on 20 June 2017
I was worried that venturing back into the Broken Empire without Jorg as my guide.

Jal is a very capable replacement, he is very different to Jorg, allowing a different view of the Broken Empire to be seen. Supported by Snorri, a wonderful story unravels, running along at the same time as many of the events faced by Jorg, with enough nods back to his adventures to be funny without over egging the pudding.

Can't wait to read the next instalment
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on 5 December 2014
In the opening chapter, our "hero" Prince Jalan is fleeing through a window after being caught in flagrante by his latest lover's terrifying brother. It quickly becomes clear that both the illicit sex and the running away are pretty standard for the caddish Jalan. But at least he has a relatively soft landing: "I vaulted down into the bushes, which were thankfully the fragrant rather than thorny variety. Dropping into a thorn bush can lead to no end of grief."

The reference to Lawrence's earlier series, Prince of Thorns, is clear, as is the insinuation that this is going to be a different sort of book and a different sort of protagonist altogether. And on one level, this is true. Being in Jalan's head is certainly less traumatic than being in Jorg's - where the latter is driven by revenge and a lust for power and will kill anyone who stands in his way, the former is interested only in sex and luxury and gambling, and will run for his life from anyone who stands in his way. For the first third or so of the book, the whole tone is lighter, and is genuinely quite funny in parts.

To some degree, this relative lightness of tone is maintained throughout - even in the darkest situations, Jalan is never a man to take life too seriously. But on the whole, as the book goes on, some of the sinister edge from the earlier books starts to creep in, and the last few chapters have some plot points that practically seem darker than anything the author has ever written.

This book runs more or less exactly parallel to Prince of Thorns (and I'd guess later books in this series map onto later books in the other). As a result, there are no direct spoilers for the other books, and technically, I guess you could read this book before the Thorn books - but I think you'd miss out on the explanations of the world in those books and the knowing comments in this one. My favorite parts of this book were where the two plot lines interacted - notably Jalan's trip to Ancrath, which happens to be on the day that Jorg returns to confront his father. This section had me laughing out loud and holding my breath in equal measure, and it was great to see the same events from a different perspective. Jorg and Jalan get as far as being in the same room as each other, but never actually interact - I'm hoping they'll do so in later books in this spin off series. The bad side of the parallel stories approach was that if you know how Emperor of Thorns ends, it takes some of the urgency away from this plotline, and it's slightly frustrating not to move forward.

Apart from Jalan (who really dominates proceedings - like Lawrence's earlier series, this is very much a character driven work) there are two key players. Firstly, Snorri, a giant, super-strong, unbeatable viking, with strong ideas about honour and bravery. There could hardly be two people more different than him and Jalan, but from a combination of his bravery, Jalan's cowardice and a hefty touch of magic, they are forced to go off adventuring together, odd-couple/buddy-movie style. I always enjoy characters who can fight anyone, and this was no exception.

Secondly, while Jalan gives his name to the novel, his grandmother gives her name to the series, and although the Red Queen doesn't appear much, she utterly intrigued me. I noticed her name cropping up several times over the course of the Thorns books, and as the only named female ruler in the Broken Empire and someone that even Jorg's even-more-psychotic-than-his-son father seemed a little scared of, I wanted to hear more about both her and about her adviser, the Silent Sister, who similarly seemed to unnerve all of the other terrifying magicians and "dream-sworn" characters working behind the scenes. "Do I have to be a monster? Do I have to be a new Queen of Red?" Katherine asks at one point in King of Thorns. But to be Jalan, she's basically just his batty old granny, who has an irritating habit of distracting him from womanising and drinking by summoning him to her throne room to witter on about necromancers and emperors. As a result of seeing things through Jalan's eyes, we never really get to understand her, but throughout the book, it is heavily suggested that's she's playing everyone and driving events across both series. I looking forward to learning more about her over the course of the series, and establishing just what she was up to at the end of Emperor of Thorns.

In conclusion, most of what made Lawrence's earlier series so interesting is present and correct here - the writing, the setting and world-building, the strong characters. I really enjoyed reading things from Jalan's point of view, but he ultimately didn't grab me quite as much as Jorg. He was still very different from your normal fantasy hero, but there wasn't quite that "oh god I'm supporting the villain" shock and thrill. This is still an absolute must read for fans of the other books, but for those new to this author, I'd definitely read them first.
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on 19 April 2018
Quite a large amount of fantasy these days includes vikings, and dark firmness unlearned by human ability to make fun of anything in any situation. Jal the Prince, a mischievous cowardly take as he agrees, gets staged into a spell and paired to a Viking bent on finding his family. Against the undying and unborn they hasten north, bound together and Hal being Hal so the way, mistaken for brave and a hero but a licentious smallest with his slice of humour lightening the grim atmosphere. Blood on the snow and the red queens hand manipulating it all? Worth a read and I'm not one for Viking fantasy.
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on 29 September 2015
Great fun. Jal looks the part of the dashing hero but is a coward and lazy and wants to just live off the benefits of his station in life. But he gets in the way of a dark spell that binds him to his complete opposite - Snorri a big heroic norseman out to try and find his family stolen by agents of the Dead King. And so a quest begins and Jal proves that despite his best efforts he can give a good account of himself when it matters and even when he is trying to not be heroic his actions or mis-actions end up being significant. Told in a light hearted style with a lot less of the dark vicious undercurrents of the Broken Empire series this is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I like the nods to the other series. Makes no difference if you haven't read them, they are separate stories in the same world, but nice to spot if you have
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on 5 June 2016
If you liked the price of thorns, you'll probably like this to. It doesn't really have the same savagery, but it has more humour. If I'm brutally honest, I preferred the POT series. But it is just a personal preference. This is a really good book and you should read it.
I deliberately don't give 5 stars unless a book is actually unbelievably good. This would make it, but for me it just suffers a tiny bit in comparison to POT, so it's not perfect.

That's not really helpful to anyone is it. I'd never read a book by me. This is good though. It's silly and irrelevant, but still manages to respect you as a reader unlike so many modern fantasy books.
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on 3 December 2014
As a big fan of the Thorns trilogy and an admirer of the world built in the broken empire I was looking forward to this book a lot. I was not disappointed. This takes place fairly early in the timeline of Jorg of Ancrath and is a completely different tale that only crosses paths tangentially.
The new protagonist is Prince Jalen of the Red March and much is made of how he is shallow, rude, irresponsible etc before being drawn into a massive important quest.
The world is still interesting and is further fleshed out which is nice, the characters are still the same kind of reprobates from the original novels and the story is interesting and builds on the mythology whilst being distinct enough to make this a stand alone novel rather than part of the original trilogy.
I look forward to the further adventures of Jalen and his crew in the next book
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on 12 April 2018
While I found the Prince of Thorns series not well written, but at least interesting, the Prince of Fools is tedious. The main character is unpleasant, boring and has absolutely zero character development. I skipped large parts of the book just to get to the few more interesting bits, and will definitely delete it from my kindle once I'm done with it.
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on 17 January 2018
This books gets stuck in right from the start. The main hero (?) is riddled with flaws - a selfish, spoiled, over privileged, self confessed coward. He's kind of a medieval Harry Flashman, but with more depth and character development.
The story unfolds skilfully, plunging our hero into more and more desperate situations to an ultimately satisfying end. It is hard to mention the other characters without spoilering this review, but rest assured that they are believable and compelling.
Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride!
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on 22 December 2017
Terrifying, hilarious and heartbreaking in a perfect harmony of story telling.
Opening with the life of a rake and wastrel. An adventure that starts in the worst of places and goes downhill from there.
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on 24 January 2015
Mark seems to have a way with words and tales few dare to cross, his tales are of anti-hero's and how most courageous people are but charlatans. There is a great many resemblances to his past works in Prince of fools yet it's unique for incorporating the religious struggle; even though that aspect was heavily undervalued in the general world, so I suspect it will become more prominent as we go along. Jal will certain cross paths with Jorg again. I recommend this book to people tired of the latest Tolkien rip-off who want a change of pace.
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