Book Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Thorns

Genre: Dark Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: The Broken Empire
Author info:

This is not your typical fantasy book. This is something completely different and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. If you like grimdark, Mark Lawrence is your man. If you read my reviews you will know that I don’t easily give out 5 solidus ratings. This is one of the very few books in the fantasy genre which gets the full marks from me. (No wonder it got reviews from big shot famous authors on Goodreads!)

The prose is simple, there is no fancy vocabulary or elaborate descriptions yet it’s very powerful storytelling -incredibly powerful and realistic. The book (as the rest of the books in the series) is written from the point of view of Jorg Ancrath, who is not a hero, not even an antihero, but a pure villain. Jorg is a cruel, heartless, vicious boy who spent 4 years of his childhood with highwaymen pillaging, raping and mass murdering. This book is a fresh breath in the fantasy genre. (Ok it sounds kind of weird to write this sentence after mentioning the pillaging, raping, mass murdering evil guy, but there is so much more than this… Trust me, you will understand if you read the book!)

Oh there are fantasy elements such as dark sorcerers, necromancers and mutant monsters, but it’s still extremely realistic.

If you are tired of the cliche heroic good guys, here is your chance to see the world from the eyes of a villain. It’s no easy feat to write from the POV of the bad guy -I’m a writer myself so I know- and Mark Lawrence has done a brilliant job of it. The story takes us into the world and the depths of the mind of a world class sociopath. Jorg’s philosophical muses and world view are reflected really well.

The book is action packed, but it still has some philosophy, which I value in fantasy literature. There are also some rather unexpected ‘surprises’ which were deftly weaved into the story, I am not saying more for the sake of keeping this review spoiler free but it deserves the bonus points for the excellent originality. Character development is well done, even though there isn’t much dialog with some of the supporting characters, Jorg’s thoughts and memories about them gave me a very clear picture.

Kudos to Mark Lawrence for creating something original, not using the traditional fantasy tropes and giving us the POV of the bad guy.

Verdict: Buy it now. Now!

Rating: 5/5 Roman Solidus.


22 thoughts on “Book Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

  1. Is Jorg entertaining as a protagonist? I often find I can forgive a villain ANYTHING as long as they’re funny, but I’ve avoided this book so far because it’s meant to be so grim and I need a little humour with my darkness 🙂


    • There is some twisted dark humor, and his philosophical muses are full of it. It’s not nearly as brutal as R. Scott Bakker’s The Prince of Nothing series, tho. The Prince of Nothing is the epitomy of grim (and it totally blew my mind with the superlative prose and genius chess game)


  2. Sounds a bit too grim for me, but sounds like it was an interesting read. You’re right about it being hard to write from the perspective of a villain, especially the kind of villain that Lawrence seemed to have created. You should check out the Corvis Rebaine books by Ari Marmell – grim, but with some humor. The main character is an evil warlord who gets pulled out of retirement to finish what he started decades before. It’s a dark tale with a villain protagonist – and a lot of the philosophy you were talking about. No elves, either.


    • Ouch if you think that is grim then you won’t like my book! Though I managed to put some humor and cute cuddly cats in it. The humor and the cats soften it, though the general atmosphere is still quite grim (since it’s based on the medieval Byzantine history, which is far more brutal than any work of fiction, including The Broken Empire series!) I added the Corvis Rebaine books to my Goodreads TBR shelf, thanks for the rec! It sounds quite interesting.


    • Already started reading King of Thorns. After I finish reading this series I will start reading Mark Lawrence’s new series, too, he is brilliant. This is one of the most original things I’ve read in the fantasy genre, so different and powerful.


  3. Pingback: Short Story Review: Sleeping Beauty by Mark Lawrence | Leona's Blog of Shadows

    • As for the non hero POV, Michael Moorcock’s Elric Saga is great. It’s not grimdark, but its POV is an antihero which influenced RA Salvatore’s Drizzt and the mighty Raistlin of Dragonlance (i reviewed the first book of Elric series in my blog somewhere under book reviews)


  4. I actually have never read any grimdark, but I’ve been meaning to read this series. Not too sure how I’ll feel about the villain protagonist that pillages and rapes though, but it’ll be refreshing to read about a non-hero main. Thank you for following my blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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