A Total Inability To Connect

Prince of Thorns - Mark  Lawrence Note: I've edited this review a bit to reflect the fact that I totally misinterpreted some items the first time around. I re-read the book recently and have a different outlook than I did before.

Honorous Jorg Ancrath is my new favorite anti-hero. While the theme of anti-heroes has been a prominent one in fantasy (in the last half decade in particular,), very few authors have the ability to write one as ruthless and badass as Jorg. Even fewer authors have the guts to stick with it through the whole book, without having to delve into the anti-hero's feelings and emotions too much, without having to give them a weakness or soft spot. Jorg is unbridled badass, full of hate, lust for vengeance, and massive ambitions that grow as the story goes on.

I'm not as wary or critical as some about first-person narration, as I feel that if done right (See: Robin Hobb's Farseer books, Pat Rothfuss), it can be really insightful and engaging. And this book is both of those, and full of excitement, action, and some of the darkest and grungiest "real" feeling fantasy I've read. I'm a total sucker for the new style gritty, dirty, violent and vulgar fantasy (I worship one Joe Abercrombie, for instance), and this is probably the harshest I've read so far. Which to me is a good thing.

The world setting of a kind of made up part of medieval Europe was an intriguing change as well. The kingdoms were made up names or alterations of actual areas in Europe, but actual European history was frequently mentioned, the characters quoting the bible, Plato, etc on a frequent basis. This is unique, at least as far as I've read, and then there was an interesting twist. That twist was when they came across an "ancient" computer, and you suddenly became aware that the setting of this book was not what it seemed. And then there was the bomb...

Lawrence's writing is jarring compared to many others, abrupt, to the point, but still beautiful. I loved it immensely.

(Arguable) Downsides to the book: Quite short - only a couple hundred pages, and something like 9.5 hours of audiobook (the narrator was fantastic, however) - this is not necessarily a downside to me, as I intentionally pick books in the 300-450 page range in between bigger books, as kind of a break from massive 800 page epics. The aforementioned random modern technology also was a huge distraction for me, and seemed pointless and arbitrary. The first person narrative meant a narrow scope, as you only get to focus on Jorg and nothing else; which is fine, as long as you're not looking for a variety of different characters, or a broader scope of world politics, etc. The writing of the book was good, an engaging style with fun dialogue.

All in all, I enjoyed it a lot more than many other reviewers did, and look forward to the sequel(s), which I will start immediately. It's an exciting change to have a true ruthless anti-hero in a very gritty and harsh world that felt very realistic in so many ways.