Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you’re a reader who wants to get into fantasy but is allergic to doorstoppers, pick up Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns. It is a quick and engaging read. The narrative is tight and sprints in one direction (with some pause for flashbacks); it doesn’t meander to give long descriptions of landscapes and facial features. The protagonist is vile, and remains vile to the end, picking up some little epiphanies along the way. Lawrence says the book is a fantasy homage to A Clockwork Orange, and it shows.
If you have been reading a lot of fantasy stories, though, the plot is really nothing new: Jorg is nine when the Count Renar kills his mother and only brother. Instead of seeking revenge, Jorg’s father accepts gold and horses in exchange for a truce. Jorg turns 13 and runs away from his father’s castle with a group of bandits. He aims to invade the broken empire and become king by age 15.
However, despite the fantasy trappings, it’s actually far-future sci-fi. Jorg knows Plutarch, and talks about Jesus Christ, but his story happens a thousand years after a massive nuclear war that erases portions of history and access to technology. It’s like Adventure Time! Have fun spotting the WMDs.