Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence
Posted Winter 2019
I was alerted to this trilogy, starting with Prince of Thorns, by a friend of mine some five or so years ago. I don't think I had the word 'grimdark' in my repertoire by the point, but my friend informed me that the book featured a bad-ass antihero and the setting was some far-flung post-apocalyptia with medieval technology. I was intrigued. So I picked it up.
The review 4/5
So, there are three novels in total that make up the trilogy: Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns. It has been a little while since I read the books so I am mostly operating off of memory. The protagonist is Jorg Ancrath, and the story starts off when he is in his teenage years. He is a formidable warrior-cum-vicious shitheel. He is the son of a king of one of the wrecked European continental countries, somewhere in France, I believe. He watches his mother and brother get slaughtered when he is a child, and grows up with an ever-growing chip on his shoulder. He wants to be King and he hates his father, who has remarried and somewhat disowned the boy. Jorg comes for blood, and he has his Road Brothers, a bunch of men who respect him for his incredible combat talents and the ice-cold ichor that flows within the boy's veins.
I do not want to spoil the plot too much, and it really has been a while, but the intrigues spiral out and around, starting with the feud with the man who killed his mother, moving to one with a bizarre dream mage, dredging up a lich king master of the undead. Also featured are mutants who know how to wield magic, a trip to Northern Africa, an encounter with a mathemagician-type character, as well as the relationship between Jorg and his allies. There is military showdown after military showdown. There are arcane references to the civilization ending technology that allowed magic to seep into the world. There are glints of humanity in Jorg, but they are buried beneath the shadowy shell that loves his share of violence, pillage, and plunder.
Jorg does find some measure of revenge, and he does become a bit less of a shitheel, but we are talking degrees. Here is a man who has given himself over to the dark side. Whatever pleasures he gets in life are tainted by the karmic resonance of the pain and suffering he inflicts. He is a bit of a black alchemist, transforming his own anguish into weapons to use on his enemies. What successes he enjoys are usually marred by the chaos that he sows.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mark Lawrence's prose. He has a very engaging style - paced quickly but also quite descriptive. I find some authors tend to get bogged down in the detail but I did not find this to be the case. He simply writes well - he has tapped into the ether from which magic springs and is channeling it for all of us. In fact, I feel like some of his escritorial flair has rubbed off into my own writing, so vividly does he write. To be honest, though I really enjoyed the Broken Empire trilogy, it was The Red Queen's War that made me into a die-hard fan of the author.
I would probably have more to say, but it has been a while and details elude me. Still, I would have no problem recommending this trilogy to anyone, fantasy fan or not. Be careful, once you get sucked in, you will not be able to put the book down until you're done. Like I said, if you want more, The Red Queen's War awaits.