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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on December 29, 2015
This is actually a shorter fantasy book at a little over 300 pages. The author uses an anti-hero as the main character and the first person story is told through him. Much has been written about how awful a person Jorg is as he rapes two girls at the beginning of the book. Yes, this is terrible but the rapes are not described in gruesome detail, simply stated as fact. It doesn’t make this a less horrible act but this is a dark fantasy. Stay away if this is not a genre you care for. While this book has dark moments, it’s not as dark as the Game of Thrones so anyone that likes those books or TV shows and has a problem with this book is hypocritical.

This book is an average fantasy book. I’m really unsure of why people really recommend it. I found it hard to believe in the story of Jorg as the story starts out with him at 9 years old and covers the next 6 years of his life. He comes across as too smart, strong, cunning, etc for the age at which he is portrayed. He’s interesting in some scenes but also comes across as bi-polar as he does some things that also seem out of character.

There are odd elements in this book as well. It’s a fictional setting but one that also references Plato, Aristotle and current religions. It has some ghosts, necromancers (a bizarre scene with them) and strange creatures that bugged me a bit for their inclusion. I think this book could have been better without the higher fantasy levels but then so much of the main plot in the book wouldn’t have even been possible either. Some of this stuff feels invented just to make it possible to get from point B to C.

The story itself isn’t really that great. The motive of revenge is good but where the story goes and how it gets there was just average. There isn’t much mystery involved which I missed. A little too much of the main character can do anything and get out of anything. The writing isn’t bad but there is nothing special either. You will either like this book based on the story and main character or you won’t. I’ve read enough fantasy books now that average just doesn’t do it for me. I won’t be paying to read the rest of this trilogy. I didn’t hate the book but it just wasn’t special imo and I don’t feel compelled to read the rest of the tale.

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on January 1, 2016
I read the Prince of Fools first, which stars a lovable coward. I thought I was going to hate this book because it starts off so violent. I was beginning to regret my purchase, but the story grips you and the main character, Jorg, goes through a transformation throughout the whole series.

The author also masterfully weaves between past and present with tons of surprises throughout the story.

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on August 20, 2014
It's difficult not to be pulled in by this book. The artwork is what caught my eye at first. I then started reading it and I could not stop until it was over. A nice, light read compared to the works of Steven Erikson and Robert Jordan, but a great story nonetheless. Definitely worth reading.
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on December 11, 2011
I can't believe there isn't more buzz about this book. I could not put it down and I am truly choosy about fantasy, mostly because we have been spoiled in the last few years with books from the likes of Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks and Pat Rothfuss. Prince of Thorns read like a combination of Weeks and Abercrombie with a dash of GRRM thrown in - this is noir fantasy at its best. A dark, flawed hero, a mission of mad revenge, a mix of crude and cultured - this book has it all. The humor is grim and bloody and there are no light themes, so tread carefully if you like your stories cheerful. It is very well written indeed, and I find that it's always trickier in first person, plus the alternative chapters between past and present can be distracting inn a less deft hand. Not here though, they just build like a carefully layered cake, adding depth and flavor with each turn. If you don't know this author yet, you should. Can hardly wait for the second installment.
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If you can imagine Alex, the prodigiously intelligent and ultra-violent teen anti-hero from 'A Clockwork Orange', leading an army of grizzled bandits into a vicious guerilla war over yet another claim to the Iron Throne (with a low-key temporal twist), you might get an idea of what this first book of 'The Broken Empire' promises. The first-person story-telling that fails so grandly for Patrick Rothfuss in 'The Name of the Wind' and 'The Wise Man's Fear' succeeds here brilliantly; if Mark Lawrence wasn't profoundly influenced by Anthony Burgess' most famous work, which also happens to be narrated by its psychopathic protagonist, and displays much of the same blue-black gallows humor, I'll freakin' memorize Book 3 of the 'Kingkiller Chronicles'.

It could be argued that Westeros did have an 'Alex' on the throne -- Joffrey. But that little prick had the cruelty dialed up to 10 and the intellect dialed down to 5, with none of the wit of Alex or Prince Jorg. Lawrence manages to create a thoroughly believable and compelling rogue, an unapologetically selfish, brutal, and amoral thug, who is still somehow likeable, and even sympathetic. As a precocious observer of human nature whose bloody course was set by childhood tragedy, trauma, and blood betrayals, Jorg still defies explanation as a product of his culture, apparently. The ugly events that defined his young life are related as interludes, adding depth and perspective to the characters as the main plot races forward. As the tale approaches it's gore-spattered climax, however, the clues and questions seem to reveal that the hook-briar and the hatred might be exaggerations, used as emotional set-dressing for an underlying magical manipulation.*

The wry approach to violence that British writers all seem to share is displayed to good effect in 'Prince of Thorns', and Lawrence fires Jorg like a bullet, tearing a bloody hole through a strangely alien version of Medieval England. This story moves fast. It also happens to be one of the best fantasy novels I've read. And while I'm speaking of fantasy, it would be f***ing fantastic if 'The Kingkiller Chronicles' ended on page 20 of Book Three, with Jorg Ancrath collecting the heads of Bast and Kvothe.

Just in case my point was buried in all the smarm, Mark Lawrence has created the best fantasy since ASOIAF. It actually comes dangerously close to selling itself as historical fiction, but Jorg's Medieval England is not exactly the one we know and love; Lawrence plays a subtle game, using sleight of hand and alchemical word-play ('The Day Of A Thousand Suns'), with just enough clues to make the Walter M. Miller twist surprising without feeling cheap. For anyone who is as picky as I am about Fantasy novels, and can't stand the boring 'hero's quest' used ad nauseum by all the Tolkien imitators out there, Lawrence is near the top of my short list of writers who don't mind spilling the blood of hobbits and heroes: George R. R. Martin, Steve Erikson, Joe Abercrombie, Glen Cook, Brandon Sanderson, Scott Lynch, Richard K. Morgan, and David Anthony Durham.

Footnotes: *(The only wrong note Lawrence hits, IMO; a slightly hollow deus ex machina development from the only writer I know of who could actually build a synthetic god using a machine -- he's a specialist in artificial intelligence/rocket science/mega-mecha transformer battlesuits, with enough government clearance to do super-classified sight-seeing at Area 51 -- I won't specify further, but it felt like an editorial concession, and a bit of a sell-out... 'The Devil made me do it!' But I f***ing love this book, so I'm reserving judgement. Even if it was a concession made for the sake of 'selling' Jorg, it's a minor complaint that doesn't really diminish the work in any significant way.)
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on January 15, 2015
It seems most people have given the book a fairly good review, which is was prompted me to buy and the book. I'm giving "Prince of Thorns" a one star because it's the first book I've ever stopped reading - which is unfortunate, I was looking forward to this one.

Immediately we are thrust into a number of characters without description. Random names doing random things without reason - we'd like to know why, and I know that's supposed to be part of the mystery... but the characters were setup so poorly that it was hard to keep track, and without knowing much about the characters - why do I care? As many have indicated, I have a tough time picturing this story and the main character as a young teenager. Additionally, I have no problem of the main character as an anti-hero and doing horrible things... but he seems one dimensional. It's hard to empathize at all with the character. The author, in my opinion, did a poor job of selling this and has done an overall poor job of characterization. I've read the "Game of Thrones" novels that have exponentially more characters, and I can keep track of who's who because of the excellent setups that simply don't exist in the "Prince of Thorns" novel.

The plot. I don't know, I stopped reading 1/3 of the way through. The main character wishes to travel to his father's castle. Nothing really happens in the first 100 pages, and he arrives. There was no incredible perilous journey to get there, thus the stakes seem low and rather uneventful. I'm sure the novel 'picks up' later on, but really... reading is entertainment. If you can't entertain and capture the attention of a reader in the first few pages (let alone, first one hundred), you've blown your chance.

The writing in general. It's a tough slow read. A number of chapters I had to re-read to re-assess what actually happened in a chapter... only to find out nothing happened (to move the story forward). I was distracted by 'real' religion and what seemed like a fictitious fantasy world, always wondering if this was a 'dark ages' story, or if this was meant to be a madeup world. The environment wasn't setup or described in much detail, instead cities and towns are name dropped here and there as if we should know. I found my eyes constantly glazing over the words as I read, reading the actual words but taking very little in - completely uninterested.

Overall, I have little else to say without much in the way of a positive takeaway. I stopped reading at page 125, I believe it was. There are plenty of good reads out there, and I can't afford to waste time reading something that fails to attract my attention. Sorry, Mark... but I hear the subsequent novels are better?
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on June 18, 2016
A good start to the trilogy and an interesting take on the world (unfolds in later books). I found king and emperor books less enjoyable and very slow in parts. Whilst an interesting story overall, the trilogy as a whole was lacking and struggled to keep my attention
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on July 21, 2014
This book is polarizing, and it comes down to whether you need your main character to be likeable or merely interesting. Jorg is not likeable. You would not want to be friends with him. He is pure poison who despoils everything he touches. There is no good end where he is concerned, but (and this is important) he is an interesting character. Some of the reviews dismiss him as merely a violent sociopath; he's not. Which is to say he's not merely anything. He's Jorg, and dismissing the series simply because the main character is a bad man is like saying Macbeth has no literary merit because the titular character is a jerk.

But rather than arguing with other reviewers (and I could spend all day doing that, honestly), I'll just say what I liked. It's a short trilogy, and it comes to a satisfying conclusion. Mr. Lawrence doesn't leave you hanging, he doesn't stretch it out, there aren't pointless subplots with characters whose only purpose is to die tragically. It's tightly woven, well written, and worth your time.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 5, 2013
Jorg is a vicious, depraved psychopath. The novel is extremely violent (so if you don't like dark fantasy with graphic, violent scenes I would recommend avoiding this novel).

Jorg, and his band of "brothers" are raping, killing, pillaging criminals. Jorg suffered traumatic events in his youth with the death of his mother and brother and vowed revenge on those involved. Jorg is an "anti-hero". There is to me nothing likable about him. This book is a look into a truly depraved mind, as he seeks his revenge and retakes his place as Prince of Ancrath.

I admit that the book was well written, but I am not sure that I enjoy this type of writing and am on the sidelines on whether or not to purchase the next installment. The pace of the novel was quick, the plot was so-so (really only out of the ordinary due to the extremely violent, bloody take on it), but the fantasy aspect was seamlessly woven in (very realistically). Readers of Joe Abercrombie will probably enjoy this (although I much preferred the First Law trilogy which was also extremely violent but had, to me, a more interesting plot and more likable, relatable characters).
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 2, 2015
Damn, but this was one hell of a book!

Opinions of the entire Broken Empire series seem to be strongly divided, with most readers falling into either the love it or loathe it camp, and very few counting themselves indifferent. I've seen reviews that bemoan the character of Jorg, asking how we can be expected to follow such a damaged protagonist, and others celebrating the daring chances Mark Lawrence has taken with the series.

Well, you can definitely count me in the love it camp, at least as far as Prince of Thorns is concerned. This is a book that struck me in much the same way as Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon or Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné once did, just completely playing against all expectations of the genre, and surprising me with something original. Lawrence doesn't necessarily do anything new with the core motivations of vengeance and conquest, but he makes some interesting choices in terms of his protagonist/narrator, along with the supporting characters, that are really exciting.

This is fantasy that's dark and epic, following the bloody march towards destiny of a young man and the ragged band of mercenaries with whom he's surrounded himself. Jorg is a ruthless killer who has no problem playing dirty, and who doesn't give a damn how anybody else feels about him. He's not out to make friends or win followers, and certainly isn't worried about charming his way through the byzantine world of royal politics. Many readers have complained he isn't a likable hero, but you have to admire his tenacity, and you have to feel a bit of sympathy for his origins. Cheering him on is a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

Getting back to that Erikson comparison, this is a book where nobody is safe. Lawrence kills off characters I was sure would be with us for a while, including one who I fully expected to remain at Jorg's side until the very end, and does so with unimaginable cruelty. Hearkening back to the Moorcock comparison, this is also a book where absolutely power is allowed to corrupt - and destroy - absolutely. To say that the climax of this first volume is explosive is a ridiculous understatement, but it's refreshing to come across an author who isn't afraid to make the big sacrifices.

Of course, I would be woefully remiss if I didn't mention one last comparison, and that is to Stephen King's Dark Tower opus. Lawrence has done a masterful job here of subtly setting his fantasy saga in a post-apocalyptic future that defines the story in some areas, but never overwhelms it. Early on, it's not even clear whether we're post-apocalyptic or alternate history, but once you start reading about the Builders, plasteek sheets, and the Day of a Thousand Suns, you begin piecing it all together. The climax beneath Castle Red is very evocative of King's confrontation of past demons, and strong enough to be worth mentioning in the same breath.

Bring on King of Thorns, because I need to know where Jorg goes from here.
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