Last week I read the entire Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence. Let’s talk about that.
First, I’ll start with an epiphany I recently had while reading a book on how to write 5000 words per hour by Chris Fox (because wouldn’t that be awesome?). Fox points out that you need to know your reason for writing as it’s all mindset, really. Now, I’m a reader first, not a writer. So, my reason for writing is to fill my need for reading.
I love to read fantasy anyway, but now that my own fantasy book release date isn’t so far off, I felt the need to do some … market research. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to call it. (Also, the other great thing about immersing myself into this challenge to read. all. the. books! was not having to deal with nerves before the release. I’m typing up Book 2 as I write this, and instead of giving way to all the doubts, it’s easier for me to just, well, read.)
So I went by this Top 25 list found on Bestfantasybooks.com. There are so many well curated lists on this site, I can unhesitatingly recommend
wasting your time browsing all the categories.
Now, going through the Top 25 Best Fantasy Books List, I have to admit most of the books I had already read – though I don’t always agree with the placement. Some of them, I’ve read excerpts and dropped them like they’re hot. And a few, a few I had not even heard of. So, I read the brief descriptions and just went with what sounded cool, got samples on my Kindle and took it from there.
So, Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns – in pretty rapid succession. To say it’s dark and gritty is severely understating things – the opening scene makes it immediately clear that Jorg of Ancrath is far beyond any ideal of hero you’ve ever imagined. And he’s like fourteen. And then it gets worse.
People comparing Lawrence to Abercrombie are nodding to the fact that they are playing in the same league. However, I find that on the anti-hero level, Jorg is far more extreme than even Glokta and Logen put together could ever aspire to be. He’s a smart, vicious, horrible person with anger management issues, plus he’s toting some dark, dark history that’s revealed progressively throughout the entire trilogy (example: there’s a backstory that’s referenced in Prince and then told in full in Emperor – and OMG the feels!).
Reading Jorg’s first person account of his life is like being involved in a train wreck, getting damaged, walking through the broken pieces afterward, taking in every detail and hoping beyond hope this might go well after all. It doesn’t. Obviously. Trauma doesn’t work that way. But what made me read on was that terrible hope: that maybe, somehow, Jorg would – not become a good guy, because he’s really not *shudders* – but maybe get the chance to redeem himself.
And then the ending came. And it was so devastating. In a very good way.
This tale is not (I repeat: NOT!!Notice the double exclamation marks) for everyone. In fact, it’s the kind of book I wouldn’t recommend to anyone I know. In fact, I should probably say that you really should not read this book at all.
But then, Lawrence’s prose is just damn good. The quality of the storytelling is the very highest I’ve read in a long time. It’s how I want to write when I grow up.
The darkness is lightened with shots of humor delivered with a mischievous wink.
And given that it’s so hard to write a realistic and compelling anti-hero, Lawrence walks the tightrope just right.
The choice of first person narrator could have been gimmicky. It often is. But here, it’s essential to help understand the monster that is Jorg Ancrath – maybe not like him or what he does, but understand why he is the way he is.
So, if you’re looking for a dark and grim fantasy tale to read while waiting for … I dunno, my own female spin on grimdark, get yourself a taste before you actually buy Prince of Thorns. However, if you are averse to bad things happening to not-so-good people (can’t really say innocent), then stay away. Stay far, far away.
Here be monsters.