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Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
Book Name: Prince of Thorns
Author: Mark Lawrence
Publisher(s): Ace Books
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Dark Fantasy
Release Date: August 2, 2011

Disturbing, Beautiful, Chaotic, Poetic, Haunting, Exhilarating… Believe it or not, these are all words I would use to describe a single book. Prince of Thorns is the debut novel of British author Mark Lawrence.

“Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother’s tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that’s true enough, but there’s something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse.”

The story is told by and revolves around a broken child named Jorg Ancrath. He lives in a world that has been thrust into darkness. Kingdoms are at bloody war, the dead walk and his band of ‘brothers’ are getting harder to control.

At the start of the novel Jorg is just 13 years old and as well as openly telling you that he will be King by his 15th birthday, he has a disturbing past behind him.

Whilst travelling with his mother and brother – the Queen and Prince – his carriage was stopped as a show of hostility by Count Renar’s men. Before he knew what was happening Jorg was thrust deep into thorned brush so he could not be found by the captors. Here Jorg was held by their density, being forced to watch the events unfold in front of him. Even the slightest movements tore his skin – he had no way of helping, no way of escaping. He watched his mother’s throat slashed, and witnessed the breaking of his little brother’s body at the hands of this Count Renar…all the while remaining helpless.

That day broke Jorg in many ways, but in many others, it built him and made him impenetrable. When his father, the King, decides that Jorg’s mother and brother’s lives are not worth going to war for, Jorg decides to take matters into his own hands. He decides to leave the comforts of the noble life and seek his own revenge. To do so efficiently he cuts off all emotional attachment. To him killing a human becomes as simple as swinging a sword. He is cold; he feels nothing. “I avenge myself better than most,” he tells us.

Upon finding and connecting with his ‘brothers’, a band of men with nowhere else to go, Jorg begins on a journey across the Kingdom, travelling place to place, destroying towns and looting the bodies of the dead. As veteran bandits, the brothers fear little and Jorg less than any other.

When Jorg finds a man connected to his past and to his father he is forced to return to the King’s castle. Once there me must face his past, he must take the opportunity to win that throne and show his father the mistake he made not destroying those who killed his kin. There is something he must do first though, something that will test even Jorg’s bloodlust.


Prince of Thorns (banner)

Although a fairly conventional storyline of revenge, betrayal, war and becoming, this is one of the freshest, most exciting novels I have read. The way it is told crafts the story into something spectacular. Told in the first person it reads like poetry. Those dark thoughts, those intelligent considerations, the desire for blood and for destruction. The darkness of Jorg haunts us, whilst the charisma of his words enchants us and has us relentlessly tearing through the pages.

Jorg certainly isn’t a hero. He doesn’t feel love, he doesn’t feel emotion and he doesn’t do anything for the greater good. There are times during this novel that you will wince at the utter coldness of Jorg, there are other times you will laugh with him and his brothers, but throughout it all you are held by some emotional connection. I think that because it is told in the first person, each person will enjoy this novel in a different way. Like meeting somebody for the first time, how the novel comes across to you will depend upon how you perceive Jorg’s speech and his actions.

One example of the author’s talent comes about three quarters through the book during a fight scene. Now, for most fantasy readers fight scenes are VERY hit or miss. We like them sharp and over quickly. We had a debate on the forums recently where the overwhelming response from members (myself included) was stick them and stick them quick. Well, I have to say that I surprised myself by being gripped by a ten-page fight scene. A ten-page fight scene is no easy task but Mark Lawrence just has that style to pull it off.

Of course, I like to be critical of a novel somewhere in my reviews, but in this case, it is very, very difficult. The story line is spot on, the pacing is brilliant, no lengthy descriptions, only the necessary world building and the characters are loveable/detestable (you decide). I guess the only thing that ‘may’ bother some people is that it’s a relatively short novel. However, I think the way Mark Lawrence (who by the way has secret level clearance with both the US and UK governments – How cool is that!?) writes, it had to be. This is the first in a trilogy though, so there is plenty more to come.

Prince of Thorns simply works because it carves its own space within the fantasy genre and sits there. It doesn’t try to be something else; it simply is what it is. It’s a quick read, a dark read, a thrilling read, a unique read and a must read. Make sure you check this book out in August 2011 because it is sure to be on the Top 10 Fantasy Books of the Year for pretty much all fantasy sites.

To keep up with the latest news or to discuss the novel you can visit the Prince of Thorns discussion in the forums. You can also read our interview with Mr. Lawrence here.



  1. Avatar Stephanie N says:

    Great review! I also tend to like my fight scenes quick and over with, to the point. This book sounds great and I am looking forward to reading it when it is released.

    • Avatar Overlord says:

      Yeah it is really cool to see someone do fight scenes well. He breaks them up with mockery, talking and switching from one character to another, it’s very tense. It is also in a dimly lit room which works well.

      • Avatar Tim says:

        Nice review, I’m putting this on my wish list now. Is the fight scene ten pages because he slows the action down to note intricate details and motivation-response units? Also, it’s in first person, but he switches back and forth between characters? Is there first person and then breaks when he goes to another character?

  2. Avatar blodeuedd says:

    I need to read this one 😀

  3. Avatar LEC says:

    How have you managed to procure and read both this AND Douglas Hulick’s AMONG THIEVES. Those are two of my most anticipated reads of the year. I’m utterly jealous. Great review – you are really selling this one!

    • Avatar Overlord says:

      Like Amongst Thieves it is simply a special book. I give very few books such high recommendations, but I am in the lucky position of being sent very good books a bit early by publishers… I guess they don’t send me the rubbish ones, lol – but this year I have been sent three 5/5 books already!!!

  4. Avatar Leah (DarkWind) says:

    “To-Read” List … +1!

    Great review, as always 🙂

  5. Avatar excess says:

    so what exactly is the fantasy element here ?
    roaming monsters and dead people ?
    is this a zombie book ?
    btw, i have read several opinion in several books about fight scenes.
    some describe fights as very fast, “10 secs is a long time”.
    i think 10 pages is overly done.

    • Avatar Overlord says:

      Usually I would agree… 2/3 paragraphs is enough for a good fight… one on one they don’t tend to last much longer. However, the way Mark writes he turns a fight scene into an event and piece of poetry almost… it is hard to describe really – you’ll need to wait until August to see how he does it 🙂

      The fantasy element? Fantasy is anything that is not currently believed possible in our world. There are elements of magic, there are necromancers and the setting is very much a fantasy like setting. I can’t say too much on the setting without ruining a huge piece of the book – but it is traditional fantasy style with a twist.

      It’s a great book, it’s hard to explain exactly why / how without showing you extracts, which sadly I was not allowed to do yet 🙁

  6. Fantastic review. I am quite excited to read it, especially after coming across Mr. Lawrence’s detailed article regarding his path to publication — (on the forum in the Writer’s Corner) — that in itself would make a fantastic read! And I love, love, love the cover.

  7. […] the debut novel of British author; ‘Mark Lawrence’… a book I reviewed earlier this year (click here to check out the review). Looking back on the book now, a few months later… I can say that it has stuck with me as […]

  8. […] of Thorns yet, then read this review with caution. You can read Fantasy-Faction’s review of Prince of Thorns here. You will also find that the review is split into three sections. A reflection on Prince of […]

  9. […] took off and followed him fondly from one amazing series of books to the next. From Jorg and the Prince of Thorns, to Jalan and the Prince of […]

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