Carol. [All cynic, all the time]'s Reviews > Prince of Thorns

Prince of Thorns by Mark  Lawrence
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Dec 26, 12

bookshelves: male-lead, epic-fantasy, fantasy, video-game-fantasy, yuck
Recommended for: no one, really
Read on January 10, 2012

Here's Cliff Notes to my review: The Blade Itself Lite, with significantly less character development, a typical revenge plot and little redemption.

Feels suspiciously like watching a dog-fight video from ASPCA. Violent, powerful with a lack of finesse, subtlety or characterization, and the only redeeming aspect might occur at the end. The main character resists personal growth and opportunities for redemption, and commits violence after violence. We open as he watches a man die with his belly ripped open, while some of his men loot corpses, rape women and set buildings on fire, and another comes through and chops off heads. Ostensibly it is in pursuit of a larger goal, but what it translates to is a path of casual violence, both intimate and large. I get that that's what the author means to show, but I felt sort of sick and uncomfortable reading it. The most interesting parts were the "four years ago" flashbacks that begin to flesh out how our lead became the dysfunctional person he is. The tragedy looms large and awful, but the story lacks the sense of spiraling into rage that would helps us understand how he transformed the killing and it's aftermath into the path he did.

An interesting angle is the sort of post-apocalyptic connection that is at first hinted at with literary references, and then becomes more obvious. Forgive me, but it reminds me strongly of the trend later Shannara books took, with mysterious ruins, mutated populations and nuclear waste leaks. In this first book, there is little that is unique except (view spoiler)

Character building is a fatal flaw in Prince of Thorns. The band of twisted merry men are each little more than a significantly defining characteristic. Furthermore, the only two positively influential people in the prince's life are created out of the simplistic racial stereotypes of the "Magical Negro," and the "wise Asian teacher" who has the child's best interest in mind despite being a slave/indentured servant. The prince himself is more than a wee bit overqualified, like a master video game assassin; an expert tactician, skilled in hand-to-hand combat, decent blade work, physically fast, good horsemanship, able to use a crossbow, and all despite being only fifteen.

While I've dabbled in gaming, I've always stayed away from the flat-out warfare/shooter video games (excepting Bioshock and it's lovely period inspired weirdness). I feel like I'm seeing a trend in modern fantasy towards books inspired by that kind of video-game based storyline that focuses on the imagery of violence and quest-driven action with minimal characterization. Personally, I like my people and worlds more fully developed, but I can see where this book might appeal to that population.

One uncharacterized star

Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2012/1...
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 64) (64 new)


Whispers from the Pirate's Ghost ("As the Pirate Aarhgs") Violence begets violence. Thank you for the Review Carol.


message 2: by mark (new)

mark monday 2 stars, my gosh! this is the second surprising 2-star review i've read today.


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] Characterization was kind of unforgiveably bad, and I'm just so tired of racial stereotypes in this day and age, especially if we are doing post-apocalypse.


message 4: by Chelsea (new) - added it

Chelsea Can anybody do anything that's not post-apocalypse anymore?


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] Seems to be where our collective mind is lately, right?


message 6: by mark (new)

mark monday December 21st 2012...


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] Let me guess... it's your birthday?


Whispers from the Pirate's Ghost ("As the Pirate Aarhgs") I've never been too big a fan of movies and/or books that were generated after a video game. Sometimes the story in the game itself has more to offer than the book does.

Still, unless it's my daughters "hello kitty" DS game, most video games, though sometimes fun (I admit it) are generally all about violence that is usualy glorified or gratuitus in some way.


Whispers from the Pirate's Ghost ("As the Pirate Aarhgs") mark wrote: "December 21st 2012..."

The next great end of the world appocolypse right?


message 10: by mark (new)

mark monday Carol wrote: "Let me guess... it's your birthday?"

ha! no, that would be a cause for celebration.


message 11: by mark (new)

mark monday Hugh The Curmudgeon wrote: "mark wrote: "December 21st 2012..."

The next great end of the world appocolypse right?"


ding ding ding ding ding... correct answer! the end is nigh! apparently.


Whispers from the Pirate's Ghost ("As the Pirate Aarhgs") Who came up with this one? If it's the Witchita Baptist Church in Kansas... maybe I'll pass on that, the Aztec's?

what about 21 December 2112 ? that wold be 2112112 .... it's almost binary man!


message 13: by mark (new)

mark monday binary is the new future! future apocalypse, that is.

the date is from a Mayan calendar. apparently it is a minor notation, with events occurring after that date... but many people have still clung to this date.


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] We should be looking forward to that date. It's the date of our spiritual transformation. Maybe then we can all live together in peace, happiness, brotherly love and yadayada...


message 15: by Chelsea (new) - added it

Chelsea With as many times as our calendar has changed, I'm surprised the apocalypse hasn't already come!


message 16: by mark (new)

mark monday well i will certainly be crossing my fingers that it is the date of spiritual transformation, rather than the date a comet veers too close to the earth, throwing off deadly radiation, and thus starting the zombie apocalypse. while the latter sounds sorta exciting, i suppose i'm more in favor of the former. i guess we'll see. have those stores of food ready, just in case!


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] mark wrote: i guess we'll see. have those stores of food ready, just in case"

We should have a fantasy-sci-fi readers apocalypse rendezvous site. I can bring toilet paper.


message 18: by mark (new)

mark monday i'll bring the weapons!


message 19: by Carol. [All cynic, all the time] (last edited Jan 15, 2012 06:56AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Carol. [All cynic, all the time] It's called the "Mary Sue" character, when you create someone who is excellent at everything. It gets even worse after (view spoiler) What really stands against him in this book? Nothing, really. Did you ever doubt his survival? The plot is a series of tasks and simple challenges (again, like a game) and he "wins" (sacrificing all accessory characters, of course).


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] Dear, Dear Bryn. You are right, I'm totally unfamiliar with how fantasy books go. Just take a look at my profile and the over 100 mostly fantasy books I read last year alone. What I object to in my preferred fantasy books is minimal characterization. Perhaps the reason the "single most common factor... is an incredibly lucky/skilled main character" is that too many authors buy into the tropes. Personally, I did not find Lawrence's idea of having an utterly ruthless main character enough of a draw when so much else was uninventive.


message 21: by mark (new)

mark monday you know Bryn, there's no call for you to be rude. is this how you discuss a book? are you unable to discuss a book without getting defensive/offensive?

and also... i completely disagree. have you read much fantasy? there are plenty of books where the lead characters do NOT have incredible luck, but try and try again and then perhaps succeed. sometimes with luck, sometimes with skill, sometimes due to other things. i don't recall many books where the protagonists have a string of luck and are just amazing at whatever they set out to accomplish. even the incredibly lucky Kvothe does not succeed at everything. shall i provide you a list of books that do NOT have superhuman Mary Sue protagonists?

just finished Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and although i enjoyed it, my main problem is that actually EVERYTHING seems to go right for the characters. they are all so darned lucky!


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] I heart fanboys and sock puppets.


message 23: by Bob (new)

Bob I would like to argue your points. first of all there is quite a bit of character development as Jorg has alot of inner conflict etc. then there is his strugle with his father, which is a bit overused but still is worked well into this story. Also THe world is quite developed. There is the basic medieval type thing, but then there are the people working in the background trying to control those who think they are in control, and to top it all off there's the hint of the fact that this hapened all after our time, as there are remnants of technology etc.

To continue, Jorg isnt some overqualified vidoe game type hero, as there are many things he cant do, especially that he dosnt have magial powers which causes him to be susceptible to them and in the second book you find out he isnt such a greater sword fighter either. Also the only time he actually managed to defeat a strong magician it was through dumb luck and that just goes to show that e isnt as strong as you may think. furthermore, all of his skill was aquired through hard work and didnt jsut fall on him form the sky, which justifies it.

In the end, I belive that its an amazing book, and i repsect your opinion but i think you should take another look at it.


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] Oh, Bob, thank you for bringing my post out of obscurity so you can argue how wonderful it is from your sockpuppet account.

First of all, you refute your own argument when you state "There is his struggle with his father, which is a bit overused..." and "Also the world is quite developed. There is the basic medieval type thing." Thank you for seeing my point and articulating it so fluently.


message 25: by Chelsea (new) - added it

Chelsea Bob (if that is your name!), how dare you. Seriously, cut it out. You're annoying other people who didn't agree with you about this book and it's making the author look bad, particularly because your account looks like it was set up purely to bitch. Your behavior is uncalled for, as is your grammar. What you need to understand is that once a book is published, it belongs to the readers and their opinions.


chris I'm not quite finished with the book, but I was so annoyed with the death of the Nuban that I googled "Prince of Thorns" + "Magical Negro" ... your GR review is the first result.

And it's entirely apt. The Nuban, like all of the supporting characters in Prince of Thorns, is mostly devoid of characterization except his physical description, which the author reminds us again and again that he has black skin. He can't even be bothered to give him a name.

And no, he doesn't possess actual magical abilities, but he lives up to the literary tripe... he possesses a moral insight that no other characters in the book seem to have, he comes to the aid of the white protagonist with no background of his own unveiled, and worst of all he sacrifices himself. It's just so tired.

I'll finish the book, but I doubt I'll read the rest of the series.


message 27: by mark (new)

mark monday now i want to read this book because it has been a while since something was repulsive enough to get me bent out of shape while writing a 1-star review!

not that i'm automatically thinking it is 1 star of course. i'll give it a chance. fair is fair, i suppose.


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] chris wrote: "I'm not quite finished with the book, but I was so annoyed with the death of the Nuban that I googled "Prince of Thorns" + "Magical Negro" ... your GR review is the first result.

And it's entirely..."


Chris, you said it far more eloquently than I. I know most characterization in the book is mostly cardboard, so the argument could be made they are just as stereotypical as anyone else, but I don't accept it as an excuse. As you point out, it's tired. If it's unintentional, it's a terrible lack of insight, and if it is purposeful, its asinine.


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] mark wrote: "now i want to read this book because it has been a while since something was repulsive enough to get me bent out of shape while writing a 1-star review!

not that i'm automatically thinking it is 1..."


It would be interesting to see what you think. But what if you loved it? I'd have to duel you at dawn.

Now I almost want to read it again so I can really hate on it.


chris I finished the book last night. As I suspected, it didn't move me enough that I'd continue the series.

If you're interested, a blog I found googling has a very long, very thorough take-down of the book, including a brilliant section on its "Magical Nuban" character.

http://alltheworldsbooks.blogspot.com/


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] awesome link, chris. thanks--i think i'll follow that blog. and it was validating to read about someone else's correlation between gaming and fantasy stories.


message 32: by mark (new)

mark monday that was a fascinating article. also liked the Tor review linked in that article.


message 33: by mark (new)

mark monday comments from the author:

http://mark---lawrence.blogspot.com/2...

i did not appreciate his petty pointlessness on the Tor comment thread. but the commentary above is a bit more interesting.


James Aguilar not a huge fan of the dig at gamers at the end of your comment. you are right on most of your other points, of course. yet somehow it worked for me.


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] James--quite honestly, if you read carefully, there is no dig there, especially as I say I enjoy certain types of gaming myself. I do understand that some people don't look for a character-driven story and who also don't mind violence, and that this book might appeal--but there are better books for that than this one.


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] Malrubius, you need to hide such obvious spoilers. And that doesn't make the statement any less true for a feeble attempt at a "twist" ending.


Kirsten Forrester Not only did you critique this book but you critiqued the people who read it. Tch tch. Very condescending.


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] Kirsten wrote: "Not only did you critique this book but you critiqued the people who read it. Tch tch. Very condescending."

I'm puzzled, Kirsten. How is analyzing two parts of the book that I specifically found off-putting and suggesting that people who like those specific characteristics condescending? It's not as if I said "tch tch" and called someone "condescending." Did I judge the first person shooters? Did I call the violence based storyline of shooter video games offensive? Do explain.


message 39: by Andy (new)

Andy P I disagree with your review on two counts, although I have to admit that I have mixed feelings on the book.

First, I wonder at the parallel you made to this being in the style of videogames. How can you concede to never playing any violent games outside of Bioshock and then claim that Prince of Thorns was written in the style of videogames? I have to deeply disagree because there's actually a clear structure most of these games adhere to. At the same time, I feel that your displeasure of the videogame medium in general makes you quick to lump them together. I'm not trying to attack you in this way, I'm just trying to see where you're coming from in making these connections.

Secondly, I feel that it's hard to judge a book written in the first person on the merit of characterization. The fact is, in first person you have only what the main character relates to you to move forward with. And framed in the protagonists voice, we see even great incidents glossed over in the wake of maintaining focus. I feel that rather than Jorg being poorly made, he simply exhibits a personality and way of being that you find reprehensible. If pains you to have the character point out clear moments of: "Here I can be good, if I take what is being offered to me, I can begin to change", and when he reacts in a way you dislike, you instantly think him a weaker overall character.

That's not to say I don't agree with you on the other points. And in a lot of ways, I wanted Jorg to have more humanity. I wanted him to bend, even when he said time and time again that it would be the end if he were to do that.


Tomek Chelsea wrote: "Bob (if that is your name!), how dare you. Seriously, cut it out. You're annoying other people who didn't agree with you about this book and it's making the author look bad, particularly because yo..."

haha, great comment!


message 41: by Lars Olav (new)

Lars Olav Tungesvik Good review, i have the same feelings when reading it now. Where is the depth? I feel this is a typical hype


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] Lars Olav wrote: "Good review, i have the same feelings when reading it now. Where is the depth? I feel this is a typical hype"

Thanks, Lars. I really don't get the buzz surrounding it, but like I said, not my type of read.


Patrick Very thoughtful review, though I'm still somewhat interesting in checking this book out


David I loved Prince of Thorns, but I have no problem with your rating. I just feel that in this case the rating says more about your sensitive self than it does about the actual book.


message 45: by Carol. [All cynic, all the time] (last edited Aug 31, 2013 04:51PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Carol. [All cynic, all the time] David wrote: "I loved Prince of Thorns, but I have no problem with your rating. I just feel that in this case the rating says more about your sensitive self than it does about the actual book."

Riiight. You don't have any problem with my rating. Which is why you dropped by to blame it on my "sensitive self."

Back to the bridge, my dear.


Chris Devlin second lame and pathetic review I've read today.


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] Thanks for proving my point about trolls (on my blog). Appreciate it!


Patrick I have to agree that the characters weren't really well written. It was entertaining, but it felt rather shallow. Hopefully book 2 is better


Brigid (evil owl master) I loved your review. I'm curious, how did you become to be such a great reviewer? You seem to articulate books very well. I adore and admire that you stand up to the trolls!


Thebloodynine This book was great. For some reason people think Jorge should have something redeeming because he is product of a terrible environment. Why? This book was great. Its not for the faint of heart. The good guy isn't saving the day, the hero is a murderer, a rapist, a scumbag. This is American Psycho of Sci-Fi Fantasy.

Carol I can understand why people wouldn't like it. Your reasoning for Jorge and lack of development is not the case.

Btw comparing this to Bio-Shock? What are you getting at? You said yourself you do not "dabble" in warfare or fps's. The turn in Modern Fantasy is that people enjoy the realistic aspect of it not ending right and Anti-Heroes.


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