Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review - Prince of Thorns

Prince of Thorns – Mark Lawrence       
This book caused quite a stir when it burst on to the scene last year. Many found the opening sequences and the subsequent material offensive. They said the protagonist was too psychotic and they could not identify with him in any capacity. I read one review that they couldn’t get past the first chapter as they found it so repulsive. Others simply loved the book and thought it was refreshing. I am not overly squeamish and needless to say I was really looking forward to the furore Mark Lawrence had created.
The Blurb:
When he was nine, he watched his mother and brother killed before him. By the time he was thirteen, he was the leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king...

It's time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what's rightfully his. Since the day he was hung on the thorns of a briar patch and forced to watch Count Renar's men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him-and he has nothing left to lose.

But treachery awaits him in his father's castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce, can the will of one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?
Initially I was most disappointed in the novel. I was left scratching my head as to what all the fuss was over as there is nothing included that I would deem offensive. Yes, Jorg is unsavoury and devoid of emotional attachment would be an understatement as he kills without remorse.
However, this was not why I was disappointed. The story did not grab me in any way. I guess I agree with those that struggled to find something in common with Jorg but not because of who he was but more so that he doesn’t do anything interesting. Jorg and his men meander though downs, plundering and killing but there seems to be no purpose to their actions. The only thing that kept me interested were the mention of Jorg’s past.
Around 33% of the way through (got to love the Kindle), things start to get more interesting as the flashbacks to Jorg’s past become more frequent. This was far more engaging for the reader and whilst it is a struggle to match the young boy Jorg was to the teenager he is now, you can begin to see the link
Despite the improvement, there were still elements of the book that I did not like. There are frequent references to Plutarch, Plato and even Robin Hood thoughout the narrative. This makes it difficult to place the setting of the novel. Credit to Mark Lawrence for moving away from the faux medieval world but I was left very unclear as to what kind of setting the book was supposed to be in.
One scene about two thirds of the way in, implies the world is set way in the future. If this was the case it throws up a whole raft of questions, especially since none of the locations resemble anything familiar. This kept me from focussing on the actual plot itself which spoilt my enjoyment.
Prince of Thorns is basically a revenge novel, however, I never got a sense of clarity regarding the direction of the plot. Jorg is clearly not one to plan out his next move but from a reader’s point of view, I found it hard to engage with the characters. Instead it felt like I was reading a collection of various scenes loosely tied together. Some were excellent and others needed more attention.
The secondary characters are o.k. but nothing to get excited about. See Joe Abercrombie’s Heroes as an example of how to write a collection of soldiers. In comparison, Liar, Rike et al come across as rather bland. The Nuban is interesting though as is Makin.
The ending is pretty synonymous with the rest of the novel. Jorg is saved by a Deus Ex Machina that is laughable, he behaves in a callous way true to himself but we never see the outcome of his decision other than we are informed everything is alright with his actions and the showdown I was waiting for never happened.
Overall, sometimes you get to the end of a book that you were disappointed with and that is it. You feel no compulsion to read anymore from that author. Mark is a talented writer and I am definitely looking forward to reading more of his work. I just felt that he was capable of more with this novel.
My rating: 7.2