Brandon Zarzyczny's Reviews > King of Thorns

King of Thorns by Mark  Lawrence
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Sep 06, 12

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Read in September, 2012

I immensely enjoyed this book, and now that I'm finished with it I wish I had the third book to read right now. The first book was an amazing start, but I found this book to be so much better. It's really masterfully constructed, and incredibly well written. This novel's structure is similar to the Prince of Thorns, where a half or so of the book takes place in the present, and half takes place a certain amount of years in the past. In this book however, I found it to be much more successful, and I think that the main contributor to this was the amazing use of the memory box (for lack of a better name). Four years ago, on the way to deal with a rapidly mutating/growing Gog, Jorg met Katherine (this initial scene is absolutely beautifully written) which led him to commit some sort of horrible act that broke his sanity. To fix this, his brothers took him to a Wizard (or I guess they call all of them even males witches) and stored all of the memories surrounding that event into a copper box covered in thorns. Not only is this a great plot device as the reader is kept wondering throughout the story what exactly he did, but it's also really cool how Jorg learns to store important memories/strategies inside to keep them away from Sageus the Dream Witch. I also loved how and when the time line of the story changed, Mark Lawrence knew exactly how to pace the novel, when to feature the battle going on in the present, when to go back to the semi-epic questing that happened 4 years ago, and when to reveal secrets about Jorg's past or how he has developed as a character in the 4 years. The only thing that was a little confusing though involved the narrative, which is almost always first-person present tense (even when taking place in the past), however two times during his visit with his mother's family the tense breaks and Jorg talks as a narrator writing the story in the future. This is confirmed in the Epilogue of the book, as he talks about writing this account of his life. Still, I love it either way, but I didn't really see the need to have the character actually writing the book that we're reading.

As for the story, overall it was very good, though a little unlike the first book there wasn't as much of an intro (of course) and the events that occur aren't quite as big, they're still very important but at the same time they are very much setting up the third book. For the character development, it was a huge leap forward. I'd thought that we'd found out everything we needed to know about Jorg's childhood before being thrown into the thorns, but near the beginning of this book we see an almost more powerful moment. I won't give much away, but it was horribly graphic and heart wrenching without being distasteful, I admit that I cried a decent amount here, but I'm going to blame it partially on the fact my dog was curled up next to me as I read it. We also see that he had a penchant for climbing all of the walls of the Tall Castle, something that comes in handy during multiple parts later in the book. I really appreciated that part of the story jumps 4 years into the future, letting Jorg grow up and become an adult. He's definitely still the Jorg we know and love (or occasionally hate/despise) but he's not quite as crazy, and you can tell that he loves, in his own way, some of the characters surrounding him. It also gives Jorg time to become stronger, smarter, and a much better swordsman than he was when he was 14 years old. I won't talk too much about most of the story as it would have to be full of spoilers, but I will say that I enjoyed all of it, even when some of the parts were slower (meeting his relatives) or slightly goofy at times (searching for help for Gog) they were still very interesting/enjoyable and they really helped to set-up the future events.

For the world building I was surprised to find that there was a lot more of it here than in the first book. Many times in Fantasy, authors have to blast through as much of the world building as they can in the beginning of the first book to get past the reader's learning curve, this then lets them get into the meat of book, the characters and the story. However in King of Thorns, Lawrence dishes out the facts of the World like heavily guarded secrets, consequentially making them all the more treasured to the reader. A good way to explain why they are revealed in this way resolves around the fact that Jorg himself doesn't know too much about the world, and as he learns its secrets so does the reader. I want to put down the facts that I ascertained while reading the book, so if you don't want to be slightly spoiled, you should skip the rest of the paragraph. So the world featured in The Broken Empire series is our world, but it is somewhere around 1,000 to 1,300 years in the future (gleaned from a comment about a glass jar being around that old). The people known only as the Builders, are human beings probably 100 to 300 years in our future. The Builders were more advanced than we are today, as seen by the existence of virtual intelligences bordering on true AI's, water filtration systems that take in seawater & put out fresh drinkable water, satellite imaging that can be controlled and viewed through a ring, some kind of super metal (which is what Jorg's sword is made of), and among other things the invention of real magic. If the AI was telling the reader/Jorg the truth, the Builders somehow slightly decreased the separation between mind and matter, which over the stretch of time along with a nuclear apocalypse resulted in giving human beings with enough willpower the ability to control the elements, including death. Another important thing we learn about the world in this book, is that the oceans have risen by around the height of the Tall Castle (which was once a parking garage), or over a hundred feet. I also was very interested to learn a little more about the main religion in their broken empire, and why technological development has completely stagnated and reversed to that of the dark ages. Basically, The Roma church is the only version of Christianity around, as one of the Popes confiscated every copy of the bible in existence, letting them change the religion to whatever they wanted, as Jorg says that no one knows how much the Roma church resembles the old Roman Catholic Church. Related to this, Jorg talks about how while you might be hung or burned at the stake for supposedly being a witch, if anyone is found to have made a better type of glass/metal or some other development, they will tortured for days. I just really enjoyed the world building of this universe, and I can't wait to see what else will be revealed in the next book.

So in closing, I would definitely recommend this book, in fact I would even recommend this book to people that were turned off by the grittiness/darkness in the first book as this one maintains the excellent writing and story development (probably even improving it) while being slightly less dark. Jorg still does horrible things, but he is much more likeable and relatable, in fact I think you could actually call him an anti-hero this time around. I wouldn't necessarily advise readers to skip Prince of Thorns, but I think that you could potentially read King of Thorns as a stand-alone novel and still get a lot out of it. I really liked the first book of the series, but I absolutely loved this book and hate the fact that I have to wait for awhile to read the conclusion to Jorg's story.
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