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The Red Queen's War #1

Prince of Fools

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2014)
First in a brand new series from the author of The Broken Empire Trilogy.

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him.

But he is wrong…

367 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 3, 2014

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About the author

Mark Lawrence

72 books51.7k followers
My books vary a LOT - so here's a handy guide.

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Mark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled. Before becoming a fulltime writer in 2015 day job was as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say 'this isn't rocket science ... oh wait, it actually is'.

Mark used to have a list of hobbies back when he did science by day. Now his time is really just divided between writing and caring for his disabled daughter. There are occasional forays into computer games too.

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Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51.7k followers
September 4, 2023
As a taster for the trilogy for newbies, or as a sequel to the third book, try the newly released novella The New World.

Amazon link here as the Goodreads one requires much scrolling:

25,000 words - Jalan suffering through a voyage to America!

“What’s cooking?” Snorri wrinkled his nose.

“Cow.” I stirred the broth. “I’m doing what every good mariner does when all the food has run out. I’m improvising.”

“Are … are those boots?” Snorri frowned.

“Before they were boots they were cow.”

“They still smell like boots.”

& my "review" of the book?:
Well... I kinda liked it.

One thing I didn't want to do was give you Jorg again in new clothes - I didn't want to put the reader straight back through the emotional wringer and build another defiant young man. But I do enjoy writing in the first person and the Broken Empire feels as though it's big enough to host a few more tales yet. So I give you Jalan Kendeth, who owes his inspiration to George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman (of the eponymous Flashman (1969)) just as Jorg owed his to Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange (1962). MacDonald Fraser's Flashman character was of course inspired in turn by Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857) by Thomas Hughes, so really I'm reaching back over 150 years!

The opening line is:

I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play, or bravery.

Other picks include:


I’ve always viewed boats as a thin plank between me and drowning.


Humanity can be divided into madmen and cowards. My personal tragedy is in being born into a world where sanity is held to be a character flaw.


‘Utter waste of time.’ I nodded at the juggler.

‘I love jugglers!’ Snorri’s grin showed white teeth in the cropped blackness of his beard.

‘God! You’re probably the sort that likes clowns!’

The grin broadened as if the mere mention of clowns was hilarious.

I hung my head. ‘Come on.’


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July 10, 2014
Battles are all about strategy, and strategy pivots on priorities. Since my priorities were Prince Jalan, Prince Jalan, and Prince Jalan, with “looking good” a distant fourth, I took the opportunity to resume running away.
Replace "Prince Jalan" with "Khanh" in those sentences, and you got me down to a Tee. Which might go a long way towards explaining why I loved the main character so much.

The thing is, I don't like a knight in shining armor. I like them tarnished, covered in mud, or better yet, camouflaged, so they observe in hiding, snickering, while the foolish heroes rush in first and die.

I'm a fucking wimp, ok? I talk big, but it's all on paper. Trust me, if you put a monster in front of me, I'm gonna fucking run. I like a main character who is, well, like me! Someone to whom I can relate. Imperfect, who is more wont to run and hide instead of facing a dragon, and consequently, end up in said dragon's digestive system.

We do taste good with ketchup.

Do you like Norse mythology? Anti-heroes?

Do you want to take all the romance in the world and shove it up someone's anal sphincter?

Does necromancy sound like the perfect Saturday night?

Want some epic Bromance?

If so, there's a pretty good probability you might enjoy this book. No, it's not a perfect book. If you've read Prince of Thorns and absolutely hated the little shithead that is Jorg (hell, I consider it one of my favorites and even I think he's a little shithead) you will probably like this much more. The main character in this book is a whole lot more likeable.

I have to admit my bias. Lawrence has a tendency to write characters that I really, really like, and I happen to be a huge fan of this book's main character. No, it's not a perfect book, but every other sentence from the main character had me shouting, YEAH, MAN! And really, that's all I could ask for.

The Summary:
There’s power in a name. “Prince” has served me very well—something to hide behind when trouble comes.
Prince Jalan is the equivalent of, not Prince William, or Prince Henry, but more like Prince Andrew. You know, Queen Elizabeth II's completely worthless son who spends his time womanizing, racking up debts, and being an embarrassment to the throne.

That's Jalan in a nutshell. It's not like Jalan even WANTS the throne in the first place, no sir! He's more than happy to use his parents' money, rack up a ton in debts, and worm his way between any woman's legs who will have him. And with a princely title, you can bet he gets a lot of pussy. It's a good life. He's, like, 10th in line to the throne, which means unless there's going to be a huge fucking assassin plot to eliminate the royal bloodline, he'll never come close enough to the throne to lick it. Not that he ever will, because his terrifying grandmother is the Red Queen, and isn't going to kick the bucket anytime soon despite being 70.
She had to have seventy years on her, but no one would have called her more than fifty. Handsome or not, though, her eyes would turn any man’s bowels to water. Flinty chips of dispassion.
Because she's fucking terrifying. And her unseen companion, the Silent Sister is even more so, because she has haunted Jalan, one of the few who can see her.
She turned that awful face towards me, one eye dark, the other milk and pearl. It had felt hot, suddenly, as if all the great hearths had roared into life with one scorching voice, sparked into fury on a fine summer’s day, the flames leaping from iron grates as if they wanted nothing more than to be amongst us.
Sometimes he thinks he's crazy. Maybe he is.

Until the Viking shows up. Nothing good ever happens when a Viking shows up. Oh, come on. They come in all RAWR and hulking and huge, and the next thing you know, they're spouting off stories about a Demon King who's raising an army of the dead.
"Men of the Drowned Isles broke amongst us. Some living, others corpses preserved from rot, and other creatures still—half-men from the Brettan swamps, corpse-eaters, ghouls with venomed darts that steal a man’s strength and leave him helpless as a newborn."
Seriously, what a fucking killjoy, that Snorri. If only his name didn't sound so cuddly. A few stories of monsters roaming the night, the doors of hell, or, rather, Hel, opening up.
You would THINK those were just stores, fuck, Jalan wishes that they were just stories, until the ground literally opened up in front of him. Now Jalan just wants to get the fuck away. Unfortunately, it ain't happening.

Because Snorri and Jalan are LITERALLY tied to each other through magic. They may not be physically tied together, but they are connected, somehow. There's a sensation of wrongness when they are separated.
And thus, we have a very reluctant partnership between an itinerant playboy prince, and an honor-bound Viking on a person rescue mission.

They will face the shadows of darkness.

They will receive mysterious missives.

And maybe our playboy prince will finally learn there's more in him than he ever thought possible. That he's capable of more than just wining and womanizing. That there is a sense of honor and compassion in him, after all. Maybe a life seeking glory on the battlefield is the kind of life he needs, to make a man out of a prince.
Tenth in line to a throne will get you into a not-insignificant number of bedchambers, but if a man dons the scarlet cloak of the Red March riders and wraps his legs around a destrier, there are few ladies of quality who won’t open theirs when he flashes a smile at them.
Well...baby steps.

The Setting:
I could see corpses and timbers, some black against the hot glow, others melting into it. Even the wind’s strength couldn’t keep the scent of roasting flesh from my nostrils. The walkway ran with hot fats, burning even as they spilled down the inner wall.
Truth be told, it's a fairly generic high fantasy universe, but I liked it anyway. It is the same world as that of Prince of Thorns, and it reminds me a lot of the MMORPGs that I have played, which is why it feels so familiar. There are mighty Nordic Viking men, a team of bluff, blunder-filled, brave, hardy souls who are filled with a sense of honor and pride. I can't remember much of Prince of Thorns, but the setting in this book feels a lot darker, with elements of the undead, and a quest not for the throne, but into the bowels of hell itself.

I’ve always found hitting a man from behind to be the best way to go about things. This can sometimes be accomplished by dint of a simple ruse. Classics such as, “What’s that over there?” work surprisingly often.
That is the opening line of the book, and right then and there, I knew Jalan and I were going to get along just fine. Jalan is my favorite sort of character, an anti-hero who starts off taking the easy path, and is consequently dragged onto the hard path (and the only path), kicking and screaming all the while.

He's not the most honorable man in the world.
“You’re a man of honour.” Louder this time, looking right at me. Where the hell he got that idea, I had no notion.
“Yes,” I lied.
“We should settle this like men.” Absolutely the last words I wanted to hear.
He is a womanizer, he has a terrible, snarky sense of humor. His sense of honor is nonexistent, as is his sense of loyalty and friendship.
“What’s his name?” A tall Nuban girl with copper loops through her ears and a mouth made for kissing. “How is he called?”
“Snorri,” I said. “It means wife-beater.”
He tends to avoid things, and memories, when they get unpleasant.
I have a bad habit of blanking unpleasantness from my mind—something I’ve done since I was a child. They often say the best liars half-believe their lies—which makes me the very best because if I repeat a lie often enough I can end up believing it entirely, no half measures involved!
But he is not without his complexity, throughout his escapades, he maintains a sense of loyalty, however he struggles against it. Jalan is not without honor, not without conscience. And he has depths and insights one would hardly expect from someone who is self-professedly "shallow."
Bravery is just a different kind of broken. Scared of being a coward, is that what bravery is? Am I brave because I don’t fear being afraid? You’re of the light; the light reveals. Shine a bright enough light on any kind of bravery and isn’t it just a more complex form of cowardice?”
Snorri cut me off. “I took the prince out of the palace, but the palace is still crammed firmly up the prince’s arse. You need to stop moaning about every hardship, stop chasing every woman you lay eyes on, and concentrate on surviving.
Snorri is Jalan's perfect foil. He is a warrior, through and through, with all the pride that is in his name and heritage. He is a hulking Viking brute to Jalan's sleek, sheltered princeliness. Snorri kills, but he kills with a purpose. He is not without mercy, but only to those who deserve it. Those who betray him will suffer the consequences.
“An axe for me. Swords trick you into thinking you can defend. With an axe all you can do is attack. That’s what my father named me. Snorri. It means ‘attack.’” He lifted the axe above his head. “Men think they can defend against me—but when I knock, they open.”
Snorri is a compassionate man, a loving man, a family man who will--and does--go to the ends of the earth to save his family. He is a man on a mission. Their bond is a tenuous one, but one that works to both their benefits.

The Bromance:
The air between Snorri and me spat and sparked as our hands shaped to grasp the other.
Nope! I didn't misspell that, because THERE IS NO ROMANCE IN THIS BOOK. There's just the joyous bromance of Snorri and Jalan. Ok, fine, so I may be stretching it a little, but come on, a giant of a Viking and a golden-haired prince? A girl can dream.
He brought his hand closer to mine and a pressure built against my skin, all pins and needles and fire.
I kid, I kid. There's no true romance in this book between Snorri and Jalan, just an uneasy alliance that forces them together through magic. But truly, Snorri brings out the best in Jalan, and I can totally ship them for that =)
Snorri’s magic had reached into me again and made me brave. In that moment I wanted to be the one to stand between the child and her attackers. To keep her safe. And failing that, to hunt them to the ends of the earth.
Profile Image for Petrik.
686 reviews45.9k followers
June 20, 2017
4.5/5 Stars

This may be an unpopular opinion but for me, Prince of Fools is single handedly better than the entire 'Broken Empire' trilogy. Heck, it’s even better than ‘Red Sister’,
Mark’s newest book and what most of his fans are calling his best work up to date.

Prince of Fools, the first book in The Red Queen’s War trilogy took place within the same world and during the same period of time with Prince of Thorns (Mark Lawrence���s debut surrounding the infamous Jorg Ancrath). The plot followed the journey of Jalan Kendeth and Snorri ver Snagason, both bound together by a curse spell from the supposedly invisible Silent Sister that cursed them to be infused with Light and Dark magic respectively and now, they can’t be separated too far or have any physical contacts in order to avoid physical pain or maybe even death. Thus began their journey to end their curse together.

Similar to Prince of Thorns, most of the plot in the book revolves simply around them travelling but it was done in a very fun and unexpectedly poignant way at times. You can read this book without reading The Broken Empire trilogy first but I must say, reading this after Broken Empire increased my experience significantly. Don’t get me wrong, The Broken Empire is an okay to good trilogy at best imo, I have mixed feelings about it but character appearances from any previous series I read will always fill me with joy, and this goes for any kind of story medium. The experience, knowledge and facts I gained from reading Jorg’s story, made me glued to the page when Jalan and Snorri met with a lot of characters from Prince of Thorns. Jalan’s encounter with Katherine was definitely one of the main highlight of this book for me.

However, the main strength of this book definitely lies within both the main characters unexpected blooming friendship.

Jalan Kendeth is one of the most realistic protagonists in a fantasy books out there. We all want to be heroes, brave in the face of danger but in reality, most of us would probably run and pee our pants shrieking at the top of our lungs. This is Jalan in a nutshell. He’s a coward, womanizer and a drunkard. He’ll run away from every danger he faced and for me, seeing a story done in 1st POV narrative from this kind of main character is a refreshing and unique experience.

“Battles are all about strategy, and strategy pivots on priorities. Since my priorities were Prince Jalan, Prince Jalan, and Prince Jalan, with “looking good” a distant fourth, I took the opportunity to resume running away.”

Snorri on the other hand, is a polar opposite of Jalan. He’s a Norseman, bent on revenge, brave, powerful, wise and virtuous.

“When you become a father, it changes you." Snorri spoke towards the fire’s glow. "You see the world in new ways. Those who are not changed were not properly men to begin with.”

Picture: Snorri ver Snagason hugging his daughter by Pen Astridge

Right from Snorri’s first appearance in a Gladiator kind of fight, I’m already hooked on his character and it continues to do so until the end of the book. His background revelations told in 3rd POV were done greatly and provide depth to both his character and Jalan’s sense of empathy. This is one of the most unlikely starts to a friendship and yet it ended up being one of the best duos I ever read, just from the first book.

One of the major problem I had with 'The Broken Empire' were the fact that the world took place in Earth that made me feel like I wasn’t reading a high fantasy book. I prefer my high fantasy read to be done on a completely new world. This is still the same case because the story took place on the same setting with Broken Empire, Red March being North Italy and Bitter Ice being Northern Norway to say the least. However, it’s more of a minor con for me now because of Snorri’s Viking background. Norse mythology and Vikings cultures are something I’m a sucker for and to see Mark implement it here is something that I didn’t expect at all, in a good way.

In terms of prose, this is the first time that Mark Lawrence’s prose worked greatly for me. Despite the elegance on the prose, reading too much of Broken Empire and Red Sister literally hurt my head, especially when it gets too philosophical. That problem is completely gone here. Jalan’s personality made the narrative fine balance of beautiful, philosophical and fun simplicity.

Overall, Prince of Fools is a fantastic start to a trilogy. It’s better than all my previous experience with all other Mark’s books and I’m hoping the rest of the sequels continue to deliver at least similar or even better quality. If things goes well, who knows? maybe there will be a new addition to my 'favorites' shelf.

You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest
Profile Image for Robin Hobb.
Author 294 books98.9k followers
April 19, 2014
I was very fortunate to receive this book as an ARC (Advance Reading Copy.) I've enjoyed Mark Lawrence's work before, and I knew that he had a wry twist of humor that he can inject into the darkest of scenes. I was not prepared for 'laugh out loud' moments, especially not when our heroes are in danger up to their brows!
There are special rewards in store here for readers of the The Broken Empire series.
Highly recommended.
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
317 reviews1,342 followers
February 7, 2017
This review contains minor spoilers.

"I'm a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play or bravery."

Prince of Fools, the first story in The Red Queen's War trilogy is set in The Broken Empire and introduces readers to Prince Jalan. He is the Red Queen's grandson, just out of his teenage years and his main interests are gambling, lying, drinking, whoring and running away from any form of confrontation, at high speed.

The start of the tale sees Jalan being chased by a disgruntled brother whose sister he has just been 'involved' with. After scampering away comically and finally finding solace, The Red Queen, to his exhausted dismay, calls an assembly in which she discusses the threat of recent sightings of the dead rising and wrecking havoc, perhaps controlled by the Dead King's necromancers and being raised in opposition against Red March and the whole empire. It is at this early scene that we are introduced to arguably, the novel's most important character, Norse warrior, Snorri ver Snagason.

Snorri, as he is known to his friends; at first seems like he is nothing more than a well-chiselled warrior brute. Magical circumstances make it so that Jalan and Snorri, an unlikely traveling duo, have to work together to achieved a prophecised goal they do not truly understand. Secondary to this in the grand scheme of things yet, Snorri's main focus is to rescue his wife and child from the notorious Sven Broke-Oar, and Snorri divulges information about his mission to Jalan as the story progresses through late night campfire stories of his past. Snorri is like an epic warrior hero straight out of a Norse or Icelandic saga. He reminded me a bit of Egill Skallagrímsson. Still relating to the similarities to the saga's, I have to applaud Lawrence's knowledge and research of this age which is present throughout the tale. Nice simple touches such as revering the God's Odin, Loki, Thor etc... but if you look a bit deeper, there are a few gems such as the fact that his namesake, Snorri Sturluson wrote the Poetic Edda which was a collection of Old Norse poems, and Snorri's horse is named Sleipnir. This just so happens to be the same name as Odin's legendary eight-legged steed in mythology.

The map of The Broken Empire is highly reminiscent of Europe. The tale takes our duo from Red March, which is approximately Greece, up to the Black Fort and The Bitter Ice which is the equivalent of Northern Sweden or Finland. It is quite a trek. A large amount of action happens across the journeying, such as hanging out with Circus entertainers, fighting Undead, running through a fiery forest that seems to be alive and also, chilling in an inn in Ancrith whilst some young Prince has returned to his homeland after many years absent.

This tale is set concurrently with Prince of Thorns. I won't say too much but, Jalan and Snorri do cross paths with a few of the Road Brothers, mostly drunken banter with Snorri, and we hear actions described that we know from the above-mentioned story such as Jorg's dual with Sir Gallan. This story definitely works as a stand-alone if someone had not read Lawrence' prior works, but layers are added if you have read Prince of Thorns.

Now bear with me here, the world of the Broken Empire is not as well envisaged as certain fantasy worlds created by some of the genre's heavyweights. The reason for this is that the world is so similar to our own with the Gods, philosophers and map layout as already discussed. This adds to the charm of the world so actually works in the author's favour. Sometimes in fantasy, you lose yourself in a world, here, we always have one foot in our world and one foot within Lawrence's creation, The Broken Empire. I hope that makes sense, but it is definitely a positive. This story is littered with cool lines that relate to our world in this fantasy opus. My favourite was an Elephant called Nelly to which Jalan responds something along the lines of, what else would it be called?

Like the majority of first novels in an epic trilogy or more, flashback sections are frequent to add weight and depth to the characters. These are presented in two distinctive ways. Jalan, as our 1st person narrative, reminiscent of Jorg's internal monologue, talks about his past through his thoughts when an event makes him take a walk down memory lane. Snorri's backstory, as briefly mentioned is him spinning his tale of tribulation late at night to Jalan over the warmth of the campfire with the stars as the backdrop to his tragedy.

Jalan and Snorri are one of the finest duos I have had the pleasure of reading about. They are so different. Jalan, the majority of the time is scheming, thinking of a way to run away, however; against his self-centred better judgment, he and Snorri do become great friends. Their relationship is up there with Tehol and Bugg and Legolas and Gimli.

I was lucky enough to read Mark Lawrence's - Red Sister as an advanced review and rated it highly. This is different, but in my opinion, it is just as good for an opening to a trilogy. I thought this was stunning and cannot wait to read The Liar's Key.

James www.youandibooks.wordpress.com <<
Profile Image for Anne.
4,053 reviews69.5k followers
August 25, 2023
Re-read as I dive back into this series. It's been a few years and every now and then my (now grown) kid will still harass me about finishing because it's still one of his favorites.
Tim Gerard Reynolds was a fantastic narrator if you decide to go the audiobook route.

4.5 stars

I really love the way Mark Lawrence writes.
And I'm not sure what I was expecting from Prince of Fools, but it definitely wasn't to absolutely love it the way I did. I've been super busy lately, and I've ended up DNFing quite a bit of reading material because of it.
This? This, I magically made time for.


And here's the thing, I only picked it up because my oldest son kept on and on and on and on about how funny and awesome Jalen was and how I had to read this book. And I felt like it would be one of those shitty parent moments if I just ignored him. Or, you know, told him to piss off while I got drunk off cheap booze and ranted about the state of the world these days.
I mean, not that I would do that...


Alright, putting my failures as a human being aside, I'm going to have to admit that my kid was 100% right and that this was an amazing story. So. Thank you, kid. You've earned your gruel for the day and you don't have to sleep in the backyard for the rest of the week.


Now, the biggest problem (if you can call it that) was that I wasn't aware this series was running alongside the The Broken Empire stuff. Not that it makes anything confusing or unreadable, but I probably would have finished that one out first had I known. I managed to catch a few fun references to those books' main character, Jorg. BUT. It also made me realize that I want to try and get back into that little bastard's head.
I stopped after the first book because...? Well, it was a really good story, but Jorg is just an extremely unlikable character. And I'm not talking about loveably rotten.
No. That kid is just rotten.


Then again, anyone can change is a lie we often tell ourselves!
And to completely understand Jalen and the situation that he and Snorri find themselves in, I'm going to have to see what the Thorne Prince has been up to lately.


What's so great about Prince of Fools?
Well, there's action, adventure, an unlikely friendship, magic, etc., etc., etc....
But the real draw is pretty much exactly what my kid told me - Jalen's self-centered inner voice. He's not a terrible person, per se, but he represents the worst half of most of us. He's the part of yourself that you have to squash and tuck away into the secret corner of your brain.
Every. Single. Day.
Not me, of course, but probably you.


There's also the Odd Couple thing between Snorri & Jalen that was just awesome. Snorri was the injection of goodness needed to remind the reader that they can be the better version of themselves.
Again, you, not me. I'm kinda perfect, as is.


The plot is fun and twisty, and the characters are fun and twisty, as well.
Good stuff!
Highly recommended.
Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 5 books511 followers
May 12, 2023
My complete review is published in Grimdark Magazine.

Every magnet has two poles, north and south, which can never be separated. The power of the magnet—indeed, the very concept of a magnet itself—necessitates a pairing of these two opposite but complementary poles.

In Prince of Fools, author Mark Lawrence has personified this concept of inseparable magnetic poles with Jalan Kendeth, the fun-loving playboy prince from the southern part of the Broken Empire, and Snorri ver Snagason, the serious and honest Viking from the north.

Prince Jalan is a self-admitted coward, liar, and cheat. He wants to live the good life of a royal who is tenth in line to the crown, full of wine, women, and gambling. Responsibility is overrated.

But fate deals Jalan a different hand when he meets Snorri, a hulking Norseman who has been captured and sold into slavery. Jalan and Snorri become bound together through a magic spell cast by the Silent Sister, the mysterious sibling of the Red Queen, Jalan’s grandmother, whom only Jalan and Snorri are able to see.

Jalan and Snorri set off together to the icy lands of the North on a quest that neither of them fully understands. As part of the Silent Sister’s spell, one becomes dark-sworn and the other light-sworn, two complementary forces representing the yin and yang of their relationship. Although the forces of dark and light appear as opposites, they are actually interdependent, a lesson that Jalan will need to learn throughout his journey with Snorri.

Prince of Fools is the first volume of the Red Queen’s War trilogy, which takes place in the same neo-feudal, post-apocalyptic world as Prince of Thorns and the rest of Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series. Utilizing the perspective of Jalan Kendeth, Lawrence has crafted a very different experience in this same dark world.

The tone of Prince of Fools is more lighthearted compared to that of Prince of Thorns, primarily due to having Jalan as narrator. Despite his many shortcomings, Jalan is a good person with a self-deprecating sense of humor. I laughed out loud several times while reading Prince of Fools.

I love the friendship that develops gradually between Jalan and Snorri, a perfect odd couple who play well off each other throughout the trilogy. Snorri always believes the best in Jalan, despite Jalan continually trying to cut himself down.

The intersecting plotlines between Prince of Fools and Prince of Thorns are another highlight. Both novels take place concurrently, and there are several overlapping characters, including the enigmatic Dr. Elias Taproot. I was particularly amused seeing Jalan’s perspective on Jorg Ancrath and his band of Road Brothers from Prince of Thorns, including one of them who is harboring a surprising secret.

Although I am emphasizing the more lighthearted elements of Prince of Fools, this is still grimdark fantasy full of violent action (cue Snorri picking out pieces of lung from his overgrown beard). Jalan Kendeth is a morally gray narrator, but much more immediately likeable than Jorg Ancrath in Prince of Thorns.

Which trilogy should be read first? There is no wrong answer to this question, since the Broken Empire and Red Queen’s War trilogies can be read in either order and provide complementary perspectives on the same world. If you want to turn the grimdark dial up to eleven, then Prince of Thorns is the better place to start. However, readers who are not yet ready to dive into the pitch-black heart of Jorg Ancrath may find Prince of Fools to be a better entry point to Mark Lawrence’s world of the Broken Empire. Prince of Fools also has a more accessible writing style and linear narrative structure compared to Prince of Thorns, making it an easier read. Overall, the Red Queen’s War trilogy also offers more expansive worldbuilding compared to the Broken Empire trilogy.

On the other hand, each book of the Red Queen’s War has a scene that overlaps with the corresponding volume of the Broken Empire trilogy, and I think readers will enjoy those scenes more if they already know the context from the Broken Empire. Regardless of which series you read first, I highly recommend both the Broken Empire and Red Queen’s War trilogies.

Overall, I've never had such a good time in a post-apocalyptic world as I did in Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Fools. Lawrence has created a gleefully fun and surprisingly complex main character in Jalan Kendeth, who provides a perfect balance to the dark world he inhabits.
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
350 reviews941 followers
August 31, 2017
Actual Rating: 2.5 Stars

It's times like this I really wish Goodreads had half-star options because this one is a true 2.5 for me. I feel like this is a little bit of a "it's me, not you" situation, but not so much so that I can convince myself to round up my rating.

This is a quest story starring self-centered, uber-brat, Prince Jalan Kendeth & large, lovable father-figure Viking, Snorri. Now, one of my personal struggles with this set up was that it felt very similar to Disney's The Emperor's New Groove but with more Norse mythology. And more zombies. Or maybe the zombies canonically exist in Norse mythology, I don't claim to be an expert in that realm.

Anyway, for a lot of people I'm sure that comparison sounds encouraging. In some ways it is a good thing, but while reading I felt a lot less engaged in this story than I am every time I re-watch The Emperor's New Groove.


On the positive side, the comedy aspect in this book is S T E L L A R. I completely enjoyed Jalan's egocentric sense of humor. His number one priority is himself, and it was hilariously brilliant to watch him navigate this incredibly inconvenient turn of events.

The story is cleverly written & that was definitely another high point for me. I appreciate Lawrence's ability create visuals without become too wordy & felt his style of description really fit the humorous nature of the story.

On the negative side, I never felt myself become interested in the plot of the story whatsoever. I consistently floated in and out of concentrating on what was happening, often only pulled back in when Jalan made a comedic observation.

The Norse mythology influence didn't strike me as particularly unique or remarkable; it seemed like the story relied too heavily on the audience's knowledge of the Norse tales to flesh out the world instead of actually presenting something new.

Something that was brought to my attention later that I didn't completely realize while reading is that the setting is actually Earth? Or post-apocalyptic Europe?

As a result some of the elements included, such as Jesus the religious figure & some modern idioms, ended up feeling quite disjointed from what I typically expect in my Fantasy. Kudos for trying something different, but this in combination with the Norse influence didn't do much for me in the world building department.

I kept waiting to fall in love with this but unfortunately I never fully connected to the book. I'm sure the next installment will be a riot, but I'm just not committed enough to the story itself to stick around for the amusement.

I've heard from a handful of people that this story is more enjoyable if you've read Lawrence's series The Broken Empire beforehand, so if you pick this up keep that in mind!
Profile Image for Bookwraiths.
698 reviews1,063 followers
May 27, 2016
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths.

My rating is 3.5 stars.

The Broken Empire trilogy stands as a seminal work in the fantasy genre, a grimdark extravagance which turned many a head. Jorg Ancrath an unforgettable protagonist who changed the genre forever in my mind. Mark Lawrence’s brilliance as a storyteller a revelation. But like all stories, no matter how great, Jorg’s personal journey came to an end, and fans of the series cried out for more! This fascinating post-apocalyptic world too glorious, too rich with untold stories to leave just yet.

Well, thankfully, Mr. Lawrence himself wasn’t ready to depart the Broken Empire. The Red Queen’s War returning to this mesmerizing place, introducing a new, very different main character in Prince Jalan Kendeth, third son of the Red Queen’s third son: a liar, gambler, womanizer, cheat, and — above all else — a coward!

No matter Prince Jalan’s intentions of spending his life carousing the bars and gambling dens with his friends, leaping from ladies’ windows while evading enraged brothers, and attempting to make the most of being the tenth in line to the throne, he cannot escape the dark sorcery and momentous machinations permeating the Broken Empire. His destiny to become an integral part of the Red Queen’s War: the lifelong struggle his grandmother has been waging against hidden foes bent on the destruction of the whole world. The conflict now supposedly escalating into into an undead army being raised by the Dead King. But Jalan finds it all incredibly boring and tedious. His grandmother’s constant speeches about it all mind numbing. Rather he views it all as telltale signs the old crone is on her last leg, nearly ready to go ahead and graciously die already.

But then fate intervenes in the Prince’s life. A boring evening at the opera turning into a near death experience, as Jalan barely escapes being caught in a devastating spell cast by the Red Queen’s mysterious (and seemingly invisible) witch the Silent Sister. When the magic goes awry, it binds Jalan to a muscle-bound northman named Snorri ver Snagason, who is on a quest to the icy north to rescue his family and confront the minions of the Dead King. So, naturally, Jalan attempts to get the hell away from the lunatic as fast as possible — only to find the spell will kill him if he does not stay close to his new companion.

Forced to “volunteer” for Snorri’s suicide mission, Jalan finds himself traveling across the Broken Empire, confronting many familiar faces from Mark Lawrence’s previous trilogy and attempting to runaway from all the dangers he stumbles into. Each step into the north leading him closer to an epic confrontation with the most heinous foe. More importantly, each step means Jalan is running out of time to break the spell, get the hell away from Snorri, and return home to the inviting arms of the DeVeer sisters — all of them!

As much as I was enraptured by Jorg Ancrath’s tale in The Broken Empire, I have to go ahead and confess that I much prefer reading about Jalan. A rakish playboy with an easy charm and a witty comment for any situation he instantaneously becomes the guy you’d like to hang out with and drink a few beers, go gambling with, or watch some fights. No, you would never trust him with your money or your honey, but the guy is damn likable. Even his penchant for getting the hell out of the way of danger is more a foible which is understandable and clever than a horrible character trait. (I mean, who wouldn’t want to run the other way if you were facing certain death.) So while the book had a much different tone than Prince of Thorns, it worked amazingly well for me, because of Jalan.

For those more concerned with how Jalan’s tale and the Red Queen’s War fit into the Broken Empire saga, I have to assure you Mr. Lawrence does an outstanding job harmonizing the two: Jorg’s personal journey meshing seamlessly with the Red Queen’s War, separate and distinct yet part of the same overarching struggle. He is even able to find entertaining, fitting ways for Jalan and Jorg to nearly crossing paths on a few occasions without it impacting the previous trilogy. Our cowardly prince having some page turning encounters with prominent figures from The Broken Empire. Jalan’s humor always front-and-center, turning the bleakest, most depressing Ancrath moment into sheer comedic genius. This whole story line gifting readers with some of the best moments in the book by far.

Even with all that being said though, this isn’t really a “happier” story than Jorg’s tale. Here we have the fate of Snorri’s family and the sense of impending doom from the Dead King’s minions filling the majority of scenes. Sure, there is more humor and camaraderie between Jalan and Snorri than anyone in Thorns, but these are only brief interludes before shadows close back in, smothering the tale in grimdark gloom — which might or might not be a bad thing according to your perspective.

All of which is a perfect segue into my main criticism of Prince of Fools: the journey. As I mentioned, I loved Jalan, really warmed to his humor and his rakish ways, but once he leaves his homeland to journey north with Snorri, there were many times were I grew horribly bored with it all. Not the times where Jalan is crossing paths with Jorg or other Thorns alumni, but when the companions are traversing these seemingly endless, totally dull countries, sailing across oceans, or interacting with the Viking-esque northmen, nothing much happens other than Snorri and his tragic history being introduced. Yes, my heart wept for this man and his lost family, but I kept asking myself when were we going to get to see Jalan do something fun again. Maybe that is shallow of me, yet it is exactly what I was thinking up until the rousing ending, which saved the second half of the book for me.

On the whole, Prince of Fools is a great introduction to an amazing new character in Jalan. Mr. Lawrence having now created two, stellar protagonists who are absolutely nothing alike except in their ability to make readers fall in love with them. Definitely, new readers should probably start their journey through the Broken Empire with Jorg’s tale in Thorns, but if the more bloodthirsty approach of my favorite Ancrath is too much, you could hop on Jalan’s journey without missing too much. Just understand going in that Snorri might make you snore and that the journey does seem like it is to the ends of the earth.
Author 1 book360 followers
February 28, 2017
I bought this book one and a half years ago. All this time it was resting in my special bookcase (I have 2 bookcases, the big one, and the special one for my favorite authors). I was looking at it, and it was staring back. We fell in love, but I consider myself a gentleman, so I never lay a hand, not until the wedding at least (publication of the 3rd & final book).

Four days ago I decided it was time. I said to myself "Let's start it today Peter, and read it in 15-20 days, to extend the pleasure."
It lasted 4 days.


Prince of Fools was simply marvelous. Mark Lawrence is perhaps the best in the art of marrying fantasy, historical fiction & dystopian elements, all together in such harmony. The pace is fast yet relaxing, a hard combination to find. The events of this trilogy are taking place in the same place (and time) as with The Broken Empire, so the world is already established, but Mark doesn't stop there. He keeps expanding and enriching it with new elements. The characters are exceptionally developed, as Mark succeeds best in the details and fully-flavored characterizations. The general plot arc is plain, yet interesting at the same time. What seemed as a perfectly orchestrated scheme in The Broken Empire trilogy, is further developed here. In a scenario or two I thought I could see the strings being pulled in an obvious cliche of the genre, but I was proved wrong. As for the protagonist, Jalan manages to be both an everyday man and yet also a singular & highly individual motherfucker.

“I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play, or bravery.”

All in all, if you loved Mark's previous trilogy, you should definitely elevate this one to the top of your TBR list.
The Liar's Key, here I come!

You can find more of my reviews over at http://BookNest.eu/
Profile Image for Kainat 《HUFFLEPUFF & PROUD》.
293 reviews724 followers
May 10, 2017
“Humanity can be divided into madmen and cowards.
My personal tragedy is being born into a world where sanity is held to be a character flaw.”

What a fun read this was! This reminded me when i first started reading for fun. No judgement, no criticism, just enjoyed the ride. Prince Jalan is indeed a prince of fools *says in the most affectionate tone*
November 19, 2015
BR with my MacHalo Freaks starting Oct. 1, 2015.

DNF at 35%. And it took me two whole months to get there.

I'm sorry. I can't do this. Even though I'm in love with Jal. Sigh. It was a beautiful thing, what Jal and I had. It was love at first page. He said:
I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play, or bravery [...] I’ve always found hitting a man from behind to be the best way to go about things.
And I said: "you! Harem! Now!" Ah, young love! So passionate, so romantic! So full of crap! ← oops, sorry about that. Just a slight overreaction on my part due to the anger, disappointment and utter disenchantment I experienced at the hands of Mr Lawrence.

Yes, I'm afraid this is all Mr Lawrence's fault. Had he not tried to turn this book into the perfect cure for insomnia I would still be naïve, young and in love. Now my life has no meaning. Excuse me while I sob for a minute {insert desperate crying and howling and wailing here} How could you, Mr Lawrence? This started out pretty well. The story was pretty good. Jal was Jal. And then…then…then…then..then…then…NOTHING…and…nothing… and…nothing… and…nothing… and…nothing… and…nothing…

Because I was so in love with Jal, I tried. I really tried. Put the book down. Picked it up again. Read 1 page. Fell asleep. Put the book down. Picked it up again. Read 1 page. Fell asleep. Put the book down. Picked it up again. Read 1 page. Fell asleep. Put the book down. Picked it up again. Read 1 page. Fell asleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Last thing I read Jal and Snorri (no, I will not mention how ridiculous that name is. Then again, maybe I will. Snorri? Snoring? Haha. You're hilarious, Mr Lawrence) were on a boat. Actually, no. They were still on a boat. They'd been on that boat for too long some time. Come to think of it, these two must have been on that boat for the last 10 years. At least. Fascinating stuff. Wow. Super exciting. I want more. Most thrilling adventures I was ever given to read. Non-stop action and all that. Such a frantic, gripping pace I almost had a heart attack. And a seizure. At the same time. This book should come with a warning. It's hazardous to the reader's health.

I have DNFed quite a few books in the past. Either because they were pure crap or because I wanted to kill them with fire. But DNFing an otherwise enjoyable story just because it's boring? Now that's a first. Congratulations on this achievement, Mr Lawrence. You outdid yourself here.

Profile Image for Luna. ✨.
92 reviews1,231 followers
June 21, 2017

“Bravery is just a different kind of broken.”

I'm really confused and feeling pretty conflicted with this novel. Some things I loved most things I hated. There's something about Marks prose that irks me and I'm gonna put it down to him trying too hard to write beautiful and eloquent sentences. Yes you get less of it in this novel then you do with his 'Broken Empire trilogy' however for me his writing feels extremely forced, beautiful prose should be effortless. But this is just my opinion and I'm in a very small minority of disliking this authors style. His writing comes across as half arsed and choppy, I always feel confused while reading his novels and I don't enjoy them like everyone else does, I guess I'm just a massive first person perspective snob, I hate first person novels, I find it hard to connect with the story and yeah it's just not for me. So I'm gonna to say that this was another 'meh' novel for me. Mark knows how to write awesome main characters but that's all I ever love about his novels, I hate his world building and dislike pretty much everything else. I'm gonna to keep this review short and do a dot point presentation of what I liked and didn't because, I'm conflicted.

“I was more ass than assassin.”

- I loved his use of Norse Mythology, I don't know anyone who hates Vikings.
- I thought Jalan was an extremely loveable character and I found him to be very realistic. If I was in a fight with a bunch of guys with swords, I'd run for the hills aswell while screaming like a little bitch. Also, What is it about liars that us girls love so much? We sit around saying how we love honest men, but as soon as a handsome, confident, arrogant, lying son of a bitch walks into a room we are all swooning. This is why we all love Jalan.
- The fact that Jalan is a twin of David Beckham.. *cue drooling*
- I LOVE SNORRI. I'm prepared to finish this series just because, I LOVE SNORRI. I'm only here for him. My perfect badass protective Viking dad who is tough AF.
- The bromance that blossomed between my boys.
- I liked the idea of the plot but found the execution poor.
- I like the cameo appearance of the guys from the 'Broken Empire' series.
- The humour was okay.. Like I didn't laugh out loud, but it had me smiling from ear to ear.
- Umm...
- That's literally it..

- Everything I didn't mention in my likes list.
- The writing.
- The execution.
- The confusing plot.
- The horrible pacing.
- The magic system.
- The middle was so boring, I hate when characters just travel for an entire novel.
- Jalans only badass moment in the whole entire novel was cut off.
- First person POV (matter of personal preference)

(I'll be writing these dot points into a proper review later but for now enjoy my mindless rant)

Snorri fanart by Peastri

“I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play, or bravery.”

The end.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
March 31, 2016
”I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play or bravery.”

Prince Jalan Kendeth is tenth in line for the throne. His grandmother, the spry 70 year old Red Queen, may have prudently dropped him down the list due to a whole host of his self inflicted bouts of poor conduct. He doesn’t exactly stipulate his disgruntlement, but we get the idea that he believes he might be more deserving of, say, eighth in line. I think we can all agree though that several warm bodies between Jalan and the throne is an excellent idea.

As I’ve watched the Windsor boys grow up, one of the things that has always made me smile to think about is how much more fun Prince Harry can have being the spare rather than what Prince William can have being the heir presumptive. Prince Charles I always think of as the man who is still waiting. He is trying to live long enough to be king, but with each passing year he looks more and more fragile, while his mother, Queen Elizabeth, looks like she is good to go for decades yet.

Prince Jalan is even further removed from the throne than Prince Harry, though if William and Katherine keep having children, Harry might find himself someday in the double digits on the list of succession. Not a problem for Harry, and really, truth be known, Jalan doesn’t want the responsibility of...well...anything. He drinks too much when funds allow him. He gambles too recklessly whenever someone will extend him credit. He has one sore finger, barely healed, from the last time he didn’t pay his debts. He is glib of tongue and has hands that deftly survey the landscape of a woman’s body well before she has even decided yes or no. Jalan often finds himself making a mad dashes for freedom from a woman’s bed chamber, a half step ahead of her well armed and murderous relatives.

Jalan is not a very likeable person. He is not a very productive or useful person, and it isn’t such a bad thing that he is a natural born coward, but it is annoying that he constantly reminds us about his lack of courage. “Humanity can be divided into madmen and cowards. My personal tragedy is in being born into a world where sanity is held to be a character flaw.” After all, few of us know how we would react in the midst of a battle until we are actually in the middle of a conflict. I could see myself screaming and running as fast as I can in the other direction if I’m faced with a line of giant Vikings or even midget ninjas. Or I might be overcome with bloodlust and charge like a bloody fool with the intent of planting my battle axe into someone’s skull. I don’t know and frankly hope I never will, but if I proved cowardly, I would do my best to gloss over that detail.

My sneaking suspicion is that Jalan is not the coward he thinks he is. He just may not have encountered the proper motivation to be courageous.

His grandmother, the Red Queen, has a sister called the Silent Sister, who for whatever reason seems to have a special affinity for haunting Jalan. She gives him the heebie jeebies.

She turned that awful face towards me, one eye dark, the other milk and pearl. It had felt hot, suddenly, as if all the great hearths had roared into life with one scorching voice, sparked into fury on a fine summer’s day, the flames leaping from iron grates as if they wanted nothing more than to be amongst us.

She curses him. Well, in the Broken Empire how is one to know if someone cares for them if they don’t put a big, fat, nasty curse on them. This curse is a pairing curse, and Jalan finds himself with an albatross around his neck in the form of a Viking so large that he makes other Vikings look like underfed wastrels. His size is not the problem, but his desire to launch himself into the middle of every conflict he encounters is a huge problem. See, the curse doesn’t allow Jalan to ever be very far away from the Viking, so whenever Snorri Ver Sagason decides to make a mess of blood and guts out of someone or a whole tribe of someones, Jalan is forced to be right in the middle with him.

They must break this curse before Snorri gets Jalan killed!

Now this story is running parallel to the Broken Empire trilogy starring Jorg Ancrath. Jorg and Jalan exist in the same world, but that is about as much as they have in common, and in this book they even breath the same air for a very brief amount of time. The meeting that left me chortling was between Jalan and Katherine Ap Scorron, who has a relationship with Jorg Ancrath that would be labelled complicated on Facebook. I was already wincing before there was an audible double crack. “I've always felt that the placement of a man's testicles is an eloquent argument against intelligent design.” Jalan discovers that Katherine, despite how she looks, is not a hot house orchid waiting to be plucked by any random prince who happens to find her mildly attractive.

Despite his murderous tendencies, I warmed to Jorg rather quickly, but I found myself struggling to appreciate Jalan as much as I thought I should. He is honest about himself almost to a fault, but he lacks that ambitious drive that made me begrudgingly respect Jorg. The world that Mark Lawrence has created in the Broken Empire trilogy continues to be extended in Prince of Fools. I am certainly curious as to where Lawrence will take his characters next and what more he will reveal about this world forever altered by the explosions of thousands of suns.

I’ve officially called off the search and undisclosed reward I called for to find Mark Lawrence in my review of King of Thorns. My agents must have been getting close, despite the slippery cold warrior tactics of Mr. Lawrence because he finally capitulated and sent me a signed copy of Prince of Fools. Thank you, Mark, for your generosity, but really, was it the Nubian Nightmare or the Russian Wrecker who finally made the writing pen tremble in your hand?

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,639 reviews1,509 followers
September 30, 2017
Sale Alert 9/30/17: on Amazon for $2.99

This is a tale of two heroes
”Two heroes, one led willy-nilly by his cock, the other northward by his heart. Neither bringing their brain into any decision of import.

Prince Jal has been pretty useless his entire life. He is really a prince of no importance and mainly uses his status as a prince to get laid. However, he is one of the most likable horrible cads I’ve ever read. I loved his entire narrative and every messed up musing that he had throughout the book. He tells you right away everything that you need to know about him.
I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play, or bravery

You should read this book just for Prince Jal alone but then there is more. There is Snorri a man with a mission to save his family. Where Jal is everything selfish and selfserving Snorri is the honorable white knight with great strength and morals that you can really root for.
”An axe for me. Swords trick you into thinking you can defend. With an axe all you can do is attack. That’s what my father named me. Snorri. It means ‘attack’.” He lifted the axe above his head. “Men think they can defend against me—but when I knock, they open.”

They are so different from each other but are trapped together by some spell giving each of them half of a power. They will be stuck that way until they finish the spells intended task or die. Just one catch…well besides that other thing I just mention. They have to stay close to each other which Jal isn’t exactly excited about since Snorri wants to travel north to save his family. But since the only option is travel with him or die Jal opts for door number one, at least until he can find a way out of it.

Jal makes this book. Every selfish, semi-horrible thing he says and does is just fantastic. I like most of the women around him totally swooned for his bullshit and loved every minute of it.

There is a lot of traveling in this book. A lot of times when that is the case I get really bored with the storyline and I might of here too except I really loved Jal. He was witty, funny and totally charismatic. The fact that he has an angel stuck in his head and preaches to him about all of his sins every morning trying to make him a better person…well it was hilarious.

Honestly I didn’t think a lot actually happened in the book until the very end and they everything happened…all at once and huge. I was WOWed and horrified by it. I loved the developments at the end for the characters and really can’t wait to see where their story takes them next. It was a crazy character driven ride for the most part but I really loved it all. Someone has a key to deaths door and wants it open. Anything could happen now.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,118 reviews44.8k followers
February 13, 2016
The Broken Empire Trilogy had such a terrible ending that it should have kept me away from this author for good. But, alas, I was taken in by the write up of this and thought I’d give the author another shot. I most ardently regret it. I should have been wise enough to avoid this book because I found Mark Lawrence’s other novels rather confused and a little jumbled. This is no less true with this one. Indeed, this was a complete disappointment.

I know the ending

The main problem with this book is that if you’ve read The Broken Empire Trilogy you’ll know what happens with the Dead King. From the third chapter the Dead King is set up as a threat but we know how that ends already. He may not be the main focus of this book, but I feel like he is the biggest threat to this fantasy series, so knowing his fate left this feeling a little flat. I think this should have been written after the events of that series, but it seems to me that the author was so desperate to allow Jorg, the protagonist of the previous series, an appearance that he has compromised this novel.

Moreover, this would have worked a lot better if it was in a completely new fantasy universe. But, again, it’s in the old one. Moreover, the protagonist is plain frustrating and just not that interesting. His accomplice was ok, but nothing original. I do think Snorri would have made for a better protagonist because, at the very least, he had some purpose. If this novel would have been about his story, and his goals, in a new fantasy world, then this would have been readable.

A very confused world

The setting of an already confused fantasy universe becomes even more confusing. In the last series we learn that this is a post apocalypse fantasy. Fair enough. In this fantasy universe we have a Roman Catholic Pope; I struggle to see how the church could survive, but I could just about accept it. Now we have Viking cultural elements. I’m really unsure what this place is. I can’t get a clear picture of anything other than a cultural clash that makes no sense whatsoever. As readers we need a theme that needs to be kept constant, and something we can understand. I find it difficult to imagine a place that’s civilisation is an amalgamation of things that don’t go together. I’m so frustrated with it.

The first two books of The Broken Empire series had some small degree of charm, but their originality made them moderately worthwhile. This feels like the author has almost copied himself. There are too many references to the other novels, and just too much cross over. The author also uses the same basis of an anti-hero. I will not be reading the rest of the series nor anything else the author writes. I don’t think the authors writing has improved across books and, if anything, has gotten decidedly worse.

A very frustrated one star
Profile Image for Myke Cole.
Author 31 books1,739 followers
April 18, 2014
When there are no choices, all men are equally brave.

This quote captures the spirit of Lawrence's latest book, which marks an unbroken and steady ascent to the top of my favorite-fantasy pile. Like Abercrombie, Rothfuss, Brett and Polansky, Lawrence gets better with each book he writes, the experience he provides the reader more nuanced and diverse, while keeping to the mainstays that made his Broken Empire trilogy so amazing.

In Jal and Snorri, we see the familiar pairing of dark-humored prince and honorable straight-man that we loved so much with Jorg and Sir Makin. But Snorri's story is fundamentally about family, and Jorg's vicious ascent into destiny is wholly different from Jal's hapless stumbling to glory.

In the end, PRINCE OF FOOLS is a story about our inability to see our own heroism for what it is, how humility and shame and fear can get tangled. It's about how self-perception lies, and heroism sometimes lies in things as capricious as which direction you happen to run.

Jal is a hero who bumbles through to glory, who sets out to fake it until he makes it, only to find that when you do that well enough, you can wind up faking the rest of your life.

I feel like that sometimes. Hell, a lot of the time. Call me an egomaniac, but I like reading about people like me.
Profile Image for Kyle.
168 reviews59 followers
February 12, 2017

I really had a love/hate relationship with this one!

First, the hate: The main character, Prince Jalan Kendeth, was the type of character I really hated. The entire novel he spent trying to get “away” from what was happening. He was more likely to run away from conflict than anything else. If his new friends needed help he was probably the last one they could depend on. His main focus of the entire book? Find a way to get back home to his gambling, drinking, and women. Find a solution to the conflict that was plaguing the world? Not his problem.

The love? Snorri ver Snagason, the Viking! He was the exact opposite of Prince Jalan. If he saw something wrong, he was the first one there to make it right. If there was a conflict, he was the first one to rush in swing his great big ax. HIs fighting prowess was unequaled. He is the one throughout the book pushing forward toward the final conflict. Jalan is the main character of the book and the story is told through his eyes but Snorri is the driving force of the book. Without him, there would be no story, no plot, no conflict, nothing.

Another problem I struggled with was the lack of action throughout the first 80% of the book. There were bits and pieces here and there but it just was not enough to keep the book exciting for me. It seemed to be page after page of listening to Jalan bitch about his gambling debts, being chased by some girls older brother because he’d slept with his sister, the ground is too hard to sleep on, it’s too hot, too cold, he want’s to go home, or some other complaint. It just went on for page after page after page and continued throughout the novel. I get that was Jalan and it was his character but it got old for me after the first 25%. It just didn’t add anything to the story and slowed everything down. Made it hard to want to come back to the book when I had time to read.

For me, the great thing about Mark Lawrence’s writing are the descriptions. They are stunning in their detail and realism. He describes these vast frozen wastelands and it’s like being there yourself. You can’t help but shiver! Don’t even get me started on the fights! For me, this is what really made the book worth reading.

I am hoping book two spends a lot less time with character building. I know Jalan is an ass. We can move on now. Let’s just concentrate on the plot now.

Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,144 reviews1,846 followers
December 6, 2017
Well, one of my friends has already expressed how...underwhelmed he is with this book. I suppose we can't all agree. I mean I'll give you that this is no great work of fiction. I'll also say up front that you've seen some of these characters...no actually you may have seen all these characters depending on how much fantasy and epic fantasy you've read.

But they're handled so well.

We meet our...hero(?) Jalan who is the quintessential rogue. As a matter of fact I think if you look up "rogue" in a roll-play dictionary you may find Jalan's picture. He's a prince born too late to hope for any real inheritance and so he's done the logical thing. he's become an irresponsible, dissolute, wastrel deeply (hopelessly) in debt from gambling spending his days drinking...ummm..."mating"...and getting more deeply in debt. His Grand-Mother (the Red Queen) is far from happy with him.

Oh by the way for some reason Jalan can see his Grand-Mother's "silent sister" (a sorceress) and no one else seems to be able to...

Well no one except Snorri. Snorri is a barbarian whom Jalan attempts to "shaft" and ends up magically bound to....

Anyway I'm moving dangerously close to spoilers here so I'll just say that I really enjoyed this read and look forward to the next in the series. With a rogue and a barbarian/semi-paladin traveling together we get a fine yarn. I'm almost never big on stories revolving around the "cowardly rogue" but here I still hold out hope for Jalan...

Though to be honest I may be deceiving myself.

Recommended. Enjoy.
Profile Image for seak.
434 reviews473 followers
December 30, 2014

Three times.

That's how many times I attempted this book before it stuck. Three. (Could I be more annoying?)

Each time I picked up the book, I couldn't stand the main character, Prince Jalan. Hated him in fact. Yes, it was written superbly, it's Mark Lawrence for crying out loud. Yes, he was witty and hilarious and I already wanted to write down 10 quotes in just as many pages.

Such as this brilliant social commentary:
“We all practice self-deception to a degree; no man can handle complete honesty without being cut at each turn. There's not enough room in a man's head for sanity alongside each grief, each worry, each terror that he owns.”

But I HATED the main character. I couldn't make it past the first chapter or two.

But then I realized, this is not Lawrence's first run around with a dislikeable character. Jorg, the eponymous Prince of Thorns, was terrible. I hated him too! But at least I agreed with his mentality ... somewhat. He had the kind of attitude that I love. He wouldn't stand down to anyone though 11 years old. He wanted the world kneeling before him and would take nothing less. And he was a brilliant character, quite possibly one of the best put to the page, especially in terms of his growth.

What's different about Prince Jalan is that he's pretty much the opposite. He's an admitted coward, who prefers running from problems rather than sorting them out. I couldn't get behind him until I remembered Lawrence's magic with Jorg.

I knew I had to push past my initial dislike for the character ... and you guessed it ... but wait, there's more!

I mean, I'm glad I did.

Seriously, get on the bandwagon already. Mark Lawrence continues to solidify himself as one of the great new voices in fantasy. What's brilliant about this coward/womanizer is that it sets him up for all kinds of great one-liners that are riddled throughout the book. I love quotes, a bit too much sometimes, and Prince of Fools is chock-full of them.

Couple him with an honorable Viking who loves to smash things and need I say more?

And honestly, I think the reason I disliked Jalan so much is that it probably hits a little close to home. I have to admit to a certain amount of coward in me. I try to psych myself up to stand up to wrongs and injustices, but too often I run away just as Jalan does.

And many times, Jalan stumbles into a situation where he appears honorable and allows others to believe it. I don't know if that's all bad and it could be true even though he doesn't even believe it himself. However, I know I'm guilty of the same, not all the time but sometimes, and I don't like it.

Lawrence has written another winner and I'm excited for the rest of the trilogy. The only real complaint I have is that I guess I was expecting Jalan and Snorri to not get along more because of their differing takes on honor (one having it and one not) and it wasn't like that at all. But I realize that was a failing of my own, not the author.

The Broken Empire was one of my favorite trilogies of late and Mark Lawrence has hit another one out of the park. If there were any doubt he's on my "must-buy" list, there's definitely no question now.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

P.s. I've got the title of Mark Lawrence's next series ... The Prince of Princes! It's perfect, I know.
Profile Image for Gavin.
883 reviews397 followers
June 29, 2016
This was a fast paced and highly entertaining story. Mark Lawrence has a strange writing style, but lucky for me I find it very engaging. The story had a great blend of action, humour, and an interesting plot.

Prince Jalan of Red March is the wastrel grandson, and not even an important one, of the mighty Red Queen. The Red Queen, and her mage the Silent Sister, are in the midst of a war of intrigue. She seeks to counter the other members of The Hundred, the Dead King, and even the ghosts of the builders. Jalan wants nothing more than to continue his life of idle pleasures. Unfortunately for him a spell of the Silent Sister's, meant for an agent of the Dead King, latches on to Jalan and binds him to Snorri, a fierce Viking warrior. Snorri is set on returning to his homeland to save his family from the clutches of the dead. Jalan, given no choice by the nature of the magic is forced to follow or die!

The story was a lot of fun. Jalan and Snorri were totally different characters, but they made a surprisingly great team. The whole story was told from Jalan's POV and he was a great character to have narrate this story. He was a self confessed coward, but a quick witted one and his constant observations on the things and people he and Snorri encountered were hilarious.

This was set in the same world as Mark Larrence's Broken Empire trilogy. It was even set around the time of the happenings in Prince of Thorns. Jalan and Snorri actually met a 14 year old Jorg on their travels north. The familiarity of the world was both an advantage and a disadvantage for me. It was good because I always felt this post-apocalyptic fantasy setting with its mix of old builder technology and magic was a fascinating one and one with a lot more stories worth the telling. It was not all positive though as the Dead King was the main villain of this story and I already know his story and fate!

How did Jalan compare to Jorg? Quite favourably in my opinion. He was more likeable, if a bit less capable. He had plenty of flaws of his own, but just like Jorg they are easy for us readers to forget as he is such a compelling and witty narrator.

The ending was fun so I'm definitely looking forward to moving on to the second book in the series.

Rating: 4.5 stars.

Audio Note: Tim Gerard Reynolds was fantastic. He really got the humor of the story and is always superb at conveying emotion with his voice acting.
Profile Image for Mili.
395 reviews35 followers
March 16, 2017
This book started so much lighter than the previous trilogy. It was an entertaining journey, first learning to know Jalan. Who was this womanizing brat that did what he wanted because what else should a good looking prince do?! While the start of the book has this carefree plot with Jalan getting into trouble, Jalan only thinking of himself, Jalan not listening when the Red Queen tells something important and ominous. So shit escalates, and there is this evil witch, crone ( awesome word.....), no one sees that lingers next to the queen thats totally involved. But Jalan does....and his soon to be buddy Snorri.

Soon be sooner, Snorri and Jalan set out to find Snorri his wife and child. Two totally different people but kinda stuck thanks to the witchy crone. Magic gone wrong. It turns into this viking adventour, with crazy stuff going on. Love their interaction and chemistry. Very fitting that I read Norse Mythology, a lot of reference to the norse gods is used.

''I understand.' And I did. Some truths you can't speak. Some truths come barbed; each word would tear you inside out if you forced them from your lips.'

Im just gonna quickly continue :)
Profile Image for Emma.
986 reviews1,001 followers
July 3, 2017
Jalan is my favourite. I loved this character right from the start, his internal monologue of honest cowardice allows the the kind of smirking cheer that neither Jorg nor Nona inspire. This prince is all possibility, his professions of self interest are what he believes of himself, yet hiding underneath is potential. We see it sneaking into his actions, these unexplained moments of skill and threat, all bundled up into blank memory and denial. I cannot wait to see what happens when that side of him comes to the fore. Until then, he deals with problems the same way I do:

With Snorri troubles were always put front and centre and dealt with. My style was more to shove them under the rug until the floor got too uneven to navigate, and then to move house.

So much of this book seemed like a reward for the bitter, thorny poetry of the Broken Empire Trilogy. It's more light hearted, despite dark themes and the dead walking, with real humour, wit, and verve in both Jalan and Snorri. I spent much of my time reading Prince of Thorns highlighting passages that spoke to me or were honed killer-sharp, yet here the words blurred beneath my eyes as I sped through the story. In fact, I hadn't noticed how much of this is spent with the two men travelling until I read other reviews on this site (and which garnered a few complaints) because their relationship grew with each step and I could feel every change in the wind. It was particularly impressive for me as i'm not really that into Norse mythology or the whole Viking thing, which is why I put off reading this trilogy, but now I'm fully invested.

Then there's the crossover with characters from Thorns, a moment of meeting that made me do a double take: hang on...is that????

An excellent start to an intriguing series and i'm not stopping till i'm done.
Profile Image for Edward.
377 reviews1,006 followers
February 3, 2022
How has it taken me so long to get to this trilogy? So much fun with Mark Lawrence's characteristically smooth and poetic writing, and his wry sense of humour seeping throughout. Jalan and Snorri are going down as one of fantasy's best duos.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,070 reviews2,631 followers
May 28, 2015
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.blogspot.com/201...

I am glad we’ve not heard the last of Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire, even if Jorg’s chapter of the saga has concluded. As far as endings go, that was a necessary and felicitous curtain call, even though I couldn’t be happier with the way things played out. But of course, that doesn’t mean I’ve had enough of this brilliant dark world.

Regarding his latest novel, Mark Lawrence has stated that what did not want to do was give us Jorg Ancrath again but in new clothes. Well, Mr. Lawrence, you can rest easy about that. I don’t think anyone can mistake that wicked, tortured young psychopath we first met in Prince of Thorns with his new protagonist in Prince of Fools.

Courage is overrated, as a character like the glib but glorious Prince Jalan can attest. A self-confessed liar, coward and cheat, our main character is also a bit of a rakish playboy, with an easy charm to him that makes him instantly endearing, for all his foibles. See? Nothing like Jorg. But the two of them are contemporaries, if you are wondering where The Red Queen’s War fits in relation to the original trilogy. As such, I don’t think fans of The Broken Empire will find much of a problem settling in. We even get to meet Jorg and his Brothers, albeit very briefly, in an unforgettable scene. Despite the mostly new faces though, Mark Lawrence has no trouble convincing me I am back in the haunted, post-apocalyptic milieu with which I first fell in love. As strange as it sounds, given the kind of place we're talking about, it was a bit like coming back home.

But while the writing style and setting may be instantly recognizable, we have a story here that is altogether very different. And yet, even the slippery Prince Jal can’t avoid running afoul of the dark sorcery that is rife in the Broken Empire. Finding his fate magically bound to that of an escaped slave named Snorri ver Snaggason, the two strike up a partnership in order to try to break the spell. We had an inkling of the Broken Empire’s vastness back in Jorg’s story arc, and here we are given the chance to explore even further as Jal and the Norseman’s journey takes them to the frigid and icebound north, towards Snorri’s homeland.

The two encounter many dangers along the way, including necromancy and other unseen malevolent forces. There is no escaping the Dead King, whose plans run far deeper than anyone can expect. Nightmarish beings called the Unborn are raised and fed by the stolen potential of lost infants, sent to carry out his bidding. Gruesome, disturbing elements such as these serve to push Prince of Fools into Horror territory.

And yet there is also a glimmer of optimism, a thread of light that I can easily pick out amidst the doom and gloom, making me feel that this book is actually “less grimdark” than the original trilogy. Prince Jalan, who assures us he has little ambition – beyond getting drunk, winning bets and seducing women – is really more of a hero than he gives himself credit for. I see a young man who wants to be more than just “that prince who is tenth in line for the throne”, even if he doesn’t care to admit that to himself.

The idea of the unlikely hero is not a new one, certainly, but the difference is Mark Lawrence actually makes me believe that Jalan has it in him. Jal’s growing friendship with Snorri also brings to light a hidden side of him, and vice versa; I think the two of them play off each other perfectly. The story displays the classic quest narrative, one that is very character driven. Forced to work together, the relationship dynamics between this pair of disparate and conflicting personalities is what makes this dark adventure shine.

There is no doubt this is a Mark Lawrence novel – pick it up and you will immediately see the hallmarks of his storytelling and writing style which made The Broken Empire trilogy such a incredibly addictive read, replete with his darkly droll humor and very quotable dialogue. Fans won’t be disappointed. But rest assured Prince of Fools is also a one-of-a-kind tale featuring a very different protagonist. Jal has immense potential, and if this is what Lawrence can achieve with his character in just one book, I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Profile Image for Milda Page Runner.
300 reviews234 followers
September 7, 2017
Wow! That ending!
Well, this was awesome. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard whilst reading a book, and so many times. Whilst there is also a share of horror and bloody action, some philosophy and darkness – this book never ventures too far into the dark zone and I can wholeheartedly recommend to all fantasy lovers.
A must read for Norse gods (especially Loki) and Viking’s fans.

I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play, or bravery.
I’ve always found hitting a man from behind to be the best way to go about things. This can sometimes be accomplished by dint of a simple ruse. Classics such as, “What’s that over there?” work surprisingly often, but for truly optimal results it’s best if the person doesn’t ever know you were there.

I find the important thing in running away is not how fast you run but simply that you run faster than the next man. Unfortunately my lads did a piss-poor job of slowing the Scorrons down, and that left poor Jal running for his life with hardly twenty years under his belt and a great long list of things still to do-with the DeVeer sisters near the top and dying on a Scorron lance not even making the first page.

So here’s the thing: Bravery may be observed when a person tramples one fear whilst in secret flight from a greater terror. And those whose greatest terror is being thought a coward are always brave. I, on the other hand, am a coward. But with a little luck, a dashing smile, and the ability to lie from the hip, I’ve done a surprisingly good job of seeming a hero and of fooling most of the people most of the time.

Grandmother once said she’d been tempted to set the cardinal’s hat on the nearest donkey, but Father had been closer and promised to be more easily led.

I eyed the various escape options open to me. I could jump overboard. Unfortunately I’d always viewed boats as a thin plank between me and drowning, and swimming as the same again but without the plank. The tree offered the next best option, but willow fronds aren’t climbing material unless you happen to be a squirrel. I selected the last option. “What’s that over there?” I pointed to a spot on the riverbank behind the Norseman. He didn’t so much as turn his head. Shit. “Ah, my mistake.” And that was me out of options.

“Pah.” I stood and dusted myself down. “I’d want better soldiers. Look: I felled seven of them while fighting blind.” Snorri nodded. “Though to be fair you did have a screaming girl to help you.” He glanced back down the tunnel. “I wonder where she ran off to.”

Profile Image for Seán.
113 reviews21 followers
August 31, 2018
A thoroughly enjoyable read - Mark Lawrence is quickly becoming my favourite modern writer! The writing is tight and reads at an excellent pace. Lawrence manages some great descriptive writing without being overly wordy. His dialogue flows incredibly well, and the wise-cracking Prince Jalan (who serves as our main perspective) never veers into the annoying side of the 'smart-ass' persona he embodies. There were a number of laugh-out-loud moments, but at the same time the darkness that exists in the Broken Empire is ever present. While not as overt as the original trilogy can be, Jalan and Snorri's adventure is constantly tinged with a darkness that can cut the reader quickly and suddenly. The more light-hearted tone of the main characters (as opposed to Jorg) can make the cut to darkness all the more jarring, and I think this demonstrates Lawrence's excellent control over his writing.

Overall, I feel that this is a positive progression in Mark Lawrence's writing. I absolutely love the Broken Empire trilogy, and have sang praises to the writing style. The writing in The Red Queen's War is still recognisably Lawrence's, but it seems a touch more natural, making the writing in the original trilogy seem a bit more forced in comparison. I am not criticising the writing in any way - the impression I am left with after reading Pricen of Fools is that Lawrence worked harder constructing and shaping every word in Jorg's trilogy whereas the words seemed to flow more easily in the writing of Jalan and Snorri's. This is just an observation and a positive note that I wanted to make on the writing, as well as a point in favour of reading an author's work in the order he/she wrote them, which is how I prefer to to do things if I can.

If you read Jorg's trilogy and are hungry for more in a similar vein, then I highly recommend making a start with The Red Queen's War. If you didn't enjoy the first trilogy - particularly if Jorg just left you with a bad taste in your mouth - then I still recommend picking this up. The tone is lighter, the writing is a bit more natural and the story is captivating. There are some 'easter eggs' for those who read the original trilogy, as well as some plot points which will make more sense, but I don't think that you will be left in the dark if you skipped the original trilogy.

I'm going to five-star this - something that I didn't do with any of the Broken Empire books. It's funny because right now I still prefer Jorg's story overall, but I can now see that there is something slightly forced about the writing there and that this is what made me hesitant to give full marks when reviewing each book. The writing in Prince of Fools feels much more natural, while still being undeniably the same writer. This is just a roundabout way of saying the overall quality - which was already excellent - has improved. I can clearly see with this book that the author has improved his craft and this makes me excited to keep reading not just this this series, but his latest Ancestor series and beyond.

So yeah - five-stars, highly recommended for fans of fantasy and bloody good writing.
464 reviews401 followers
January 10, 2020
I am so, so glad I tried again with Lawrences books, if you've read Prince of Thorns and didn't like Jorg - at least try this first before moving on. Jalan is a self professed coward, he's self centered, but I liked him right off the bat because his mannerisms and inner thoughts sound a lot like deadpool.

The world is a very cool mix of Norse mythology and Christian religion with novel elements as well. It was a nice take on zombies - there's all sorts of zombies drowned men, ice zombies, unborn etc. The world building was just great.

I liked Jalan more and more as I got through the books, I was really sold on him when he prayed for his horse. I'm an animal nut so an easy way to soften me to a character is sympathy for animals. I really loved Snorri though, he's made it into my top 10 favorite characters. I love an odd couple pairing like Royce and Hadrian from Riyria, or Locke and Jean, Granny and Nanny, I'm just a sucker for two opposite people paired together.

I've already bought Liars Key and started it the day I finished.

Edit sp3lling: note to self stop trying to review books on mobile. Your autocorrect hates fantasy names.
Profile Image for Michael.
280 reviews77 followers
October 4, 2020
This was what I'd been waiting for for a long time. A fantasy book that could make me laugh despite the fact it deals with some dark themes.

Prince Jalan is the main character and he is a coward. He isn't my favourite character but he does have the best comedic lines. There really isn't anything to like about him. He lies and cheats and gambles and runs away to wine women and song another day.

Snorri was the character that I felt more invested in here. The big axe-wielding Viking who is out to avenge his family is more like the sort of fantasy I like to read.

Anyway, I think this is the best book I've read by Mark Lawrence so far. My only concern is that I always like the first book in his trilogies and then find the other books mediocre. We shall see. Onward to The Liar's Key!

Thanks for reading.
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