Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence seems to be one of those quintessential fantasy books of the modern era that a lot of people talk about. This is a basic story about revenge but what makes this fantasy book different than a lot of other fantasy revenge plots is that our protagonist is rather young. Jorg is around 13/14 years old for most of this book and around 9 at the beginning. When his brother and mother are brutally murdered Jorg turns to a group of prisoners to exact his revenge. After he helps them escape, they become a band of outlaws in the countryside, finding ways to hurt the rival kingdom that had his family assassinated.
Due to what happened to Jorg, the company he now keeps, and his overall lack of empathy, Jorg is not a hero in the traditional sense. He kills without mercy and his men take what they want. I have read a lot of different opinions on this book and some people have a hard time with Jorg and his men’s actions because they talk about rape a small amount. I want to make this clear, there is not an actual scene describing the rapes, these are just horrible men saying that they did. This is a relatively small part of the book in my opinion but I can still understand why some people might not want to read it. For reference, this book reminded me a lot of The Vikings television show. Jorg is a lot like Ragnar Lothbrok in his leadership abilities and charisma. If Vikings or Game of Thrones bothered you with their content then this book might be one you want to skip.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Prince of Thorns because it was a fast and a mostly exciting read. This book was rather short and a lot of the long traveling scenes are really cut out to focus on the different scenes. There are some really memorable scenes in this book that had me completely engaged. There is a throne room scene that was absolutely amazing. The characters are interesting and the reveal of the dark forces behind things make things really intriguing going forward in this series. I like how the magic is very unknowable and mystical in nature this early in the series.
Unfortunately, I never really completely believed that Jorg, as a pre-teen/young teen, could actually garner the respect that he got from his men. I also had a hard time that Jorg was able to best a lot of fully grown men in combat. Yes, he uses his cunning a lot to win battles, but he is still a teenager. Yes, I understood that he might have some “assistance” but I couldn’t help but scratch my head at times. Also, because this book is so short, it can seem rather jumpy from scene to scene. I did really like how the book showed flashbacks rather seamlessly to make the reader have more context in the current present scene.
Prince of Thorns was a good book but I really hope that King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns impresses me more. I’m looking forward to unpacking the mysteries of this world, especially the magically entities controlling from the background. I don’t think that Mark Lawrence justifies the hate he gets from some readers. I’m not a fan of when readers attack an author for the actions of their characters or world building. Dislike the book, not the author. This author hate attitude only makes sense when the actions of the author in real life line up with the content of the book and from everything I’ve seen Lawrence is a good guy that does a lot for the fantasy community.
14/25 Possible Score
3/5 – Plot
3/5 – Characters
3/5 – World Building
3/5 – Writing Style
2/5 – Heart & Mind Aspect