Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence is a rip-roaring good time of a read that encompasses all the best traits of the duo-buddy quest story. I have not read The Broken Empire series and I am glad I didn’t as I think this is a better introduction to Mark Lawrence.
I received this book from Mark Lawrence in exchange for an honest review. He was nice enough to send me a signed copy from the U.K. to the U.S. Lawrence is highly visible in the fantasy community, is a good guy, and discusses his opinion without hesitation about issues relating to the fantasy genre.
3/5 Original score was a 4/5
“Some truths you can’t speak. Some truths come barbed; each word would tear you inside out if you forced them from your lips.”- Prince of Fools, pg 346
Type of story: An unlikely rogue/warrior fated together for an adventure quest.
– Great main characters with diverse personalities that plays well off each other.
– An author that knows his characters inside out and it shows.
– Narrowly focused story with greater implications.
– Fast-paced writing with well written battle scenes that is Tarantino in style.
– Great use of first person point of view to really understand the desire and personality of our main character.
– Jagged flow of the story near the beginning that jumps scenes while the reader is trying to figure out what is important and what is not important.
– Not a whole lot of description or secondary characters. This is a story focusing on our two main characters without a lot of distraction. This was good for me but might be a con for others.
Similar Books/Media: Imagine Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean teaming up with Jayne from Firefly. Perhaps imagine an entire book with Tyrion and Tormund Giantsbane from A Song of Ice and Fire together. I felt that the pacing and the writing was in some ways similar to some of R.A. Salvatore’s books.
Plot – 3(strong): Prince of Fools centers around a young adult named Jalan that lives his life to please only one person, himself. He is self-centered, a womanizer, and a self pronounced coward. He is not ashamed of his cowardice, in fact he revels in being the best at getting himself out of a sticky situation. When he finds himself cursed along with a large Norseman barbarian and unable to leave his side, he goes reluctantly on a journey that will put his skill in being a coward to test.
Snorri, the large Norseman barbarian is out for revenge on the other vikings that attacked his village and took his family. He soon finds out that more sinister and powerful players are involved in this attack on his village. Being bound with Jalan, someone he believes is a trustworthy man, they fight undead, necromancers, and find themselves involved in something much larger.
What is great about the plot of Prince of Fools is that it starts out relatively small and grows to encompass everything. Small pieces scattered through out the book converge to create an over-arching story line. Lawrence doesn’t spoon feed you too much of the overall story, he lets it unravel as the characters progress. I love stories like this because you learn about the world and plot while the characters learn about it. If the reader read the previous trilogy by Mark Lawrence, The Broken Empire, there would be even more nuggets of information to create this world wide story, that I probably missed because I read Prince of Fools first.
Characters – 4(strong): Jalan and Snorri are great characters. Jalan is much more than your typical rogue character that chases women, he is extremely flawed. A lot of rogue characters end up doing things remarkably well even though they are care free but Jalan really can’t do a whole lot. That makes his character quite disarming and even though he is a prat at times, you can’t help but like him. We like him because he is honest about how he feels and who he is.
At first Snorri might seem like your typical “hulk-smash” type character but there are clues through out the story that make you realize that Snorri has a past that is worth learning about. When Jalan realizes that too, they end up coming to understand each other better. One of the strengths of this book is simply the dynamic between these two characters. Their conversations and trying to figure each other out is what makes this book a fun read. Many times I had a large smile on my face while reading their jabs at each other.
Setting/World Building – 3(fine): Lawrence creates an extremely interesting world in both The Broken Empire and now Prince of Fools. The world is our Europe but a post-apocalyptic Europe that has forgotten about technology and reverted back to more medieval times. There are a lot of familiar names and places in Prince of Fools that have a slight variation in spelling or pronunciation. It isn’t something that hits you over the head and demands attention, Lawrence subtly throws in scenes that make the reader think, “ahhhh alright, that used to be ____.” Those realizations make the reader happy because the reader is figuring it out and in turn makes the reader feel smart.
As this story progresses the world building will continue to improve. Because Mark is writing a story from a limited first person view, he can’t go into too much detail, and we wouldn’t want him to. As this series progresses we will learn more about the Silent Sister, Red Queen, Dead King, Skilfar, Garyus, and the Lady Blue. I believe, and I could be wrong about this, that this story is running parallel with The Broken Empire and that each story will fill in gaps with each other that showcase this giant over-arching story.
I gave this only a 3 though because I felt that the setting could of lend itself to more description as they traveled. The differing countries could have been more unique from each other. However, the fast paced story was well suited to less description in the setting. I also really enjoyed the light and dark guardian that our characters had with them and the Norse mythology.
Writing Style – 3(fine): Mark Lawrence’s writing style is fine. There are times that I had to reread a few passages because I found myself thinking about something else though. That is my fault for not focusing well enough while reading but I think sometimes the paragraphs jumped scenes or thoughts rather abruptly at times and made me have to reread.
Mark’s ability to create fine sentences giving us an insight into Jalan is remarkable. There are some gems in this book that make you think, “yah that Jalan makes a lot of sense.” Lawrence definitely made me see the strength of being a coward unlike any other author I’ve ever read.
Heart and Mind Factor – 3(fine): I cared about the characters and wanted them to succeed. Jalan ended up being someone that would be great to listen to at the tavern telling his stories. Honestly, Jalan’s selfishness is something that entices me to take more time for myself. Through him I’ve learned that sometimes you don’t have to fight, you can just let it go, and go back to having a good time. Some things just aren’t worth the trouble.
I laughed a few times while reading Prince of Fools and I smiled about a dozen times as well but nothing that really struck me profoundly and made me feel a strong emotion. Intellectually there wasn’t much other than Jalan’s view on bravery and cowardice that really made me think when I wasn’t reading.
Recommendation: Overall I recommend Prince of Fools to anyone looking for a good adventure quest book with limited characters that allows the reader to get a better understanding of what makes those characters tick. I would recommend Prince of Fools as the first book someone would read of Mark Lawrence. Once they understand a little more about what type of writer Mark is and what to expect from The Broken Empire trilogy, I think they would accept that first trilogy easier. I know that I will be reading the first trilogy and Lawrence has made a fan out of me.