The Broken Empire Trilogy – by Mark Lawrence
The Broken Empire trilogy, by Mark Lawrence is actually quite hard to categorise. It is, I suppose, fantasy fiction – but it is definitely very different to many (most?) of the other titles in the genre. It is a fresh approach, and fantasy fans will love it.
“Mark Lawrence is the best thing to happen to fantasy in recent years”
- Peter V. Brett, International best selling author
All of the books in the series are related in the first person by the main protagonist; Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath, and a very interesting character he is. I think that it would be wrong to describe Jorg as an “anti-hero”.
Those anti-hero guys are usually people who have done bad things but have a good heart and who eventually do the right thing. Prince Jorg has certainly done bad things. Whether or not he has a good heart probably depends on your own personal frame of reference.
Whether or not he will – eventually – do the right thing is something that will be revealed at the end of the trilogy. However, once you’re even a few pages in, you probably wouldn’t want to place any bets on it.
Neither should you expect a lot of soul searching and angst regarding Jorg’s various misdemeanours or the people who have suffered as a result. He seems to have a fairly pragmatic view of it all. Revenge is definitely something he understands much more intimately than remorse.
Prince Jorg isn’t necessarily bad, although he has done, and continues to do bad things. In fact, you will feel fairly confident that he will be doing bad things in future. He probably has a list that he’s working through or something.
Of course, and to be fair, he has been through quite a bit and had some bad things visited upon his head himself. More of that later.
Unlike many other works in the genre, Jorg doesn’t seem to be on a heroic quest. If he has a clear heroic goal, it’s not immediately apparent. He does certainly have ambitions and plans – but these are self serving in the main. Prince Jorg doesn’t exactly “go with the flow”, but he is driven by self preservation and advancement, a keen eye for the main chance and a certain amount of, rather endearing, natural curiosity.
Hopefully I’m not painting too black a picture of the main character here. The thing is, you will, in all probability, like Jorg and root for him as he gets into a variety of scrapes and tight corners.
As mentioned earlier, the story is told entirely in the first person, from Prince Jorg’s, at times somewhat jaundiced, perspective. This has two main effects. Firstly, the books in the series are fast paced and very engaging tales. Secondly, you will get to know Jorg rather well. You may even begin to understand and, to a certain extent, sympathise with his outlook on life.
If you’re a lover of fantasy, then you will probably enjoy this trilogy immensely.
Prince Of Thorns – by Mark Lawrence
However, when we first meet up with Jorg, he is leading a band of vagabonds and cut-throats through a landscape that seems to be in a permanent state of warfare. This is due to the fact that the position of Emperor is vacant – and has been for some time. One hundred Kings, Princes and other nobles spend pretty much all of their time manoeuvring for position, something which involves a fair bit of bloodshed unfortunately.
It’s a very un-princely way of life, and it isn’t clear how Jorg found himself in this situation. Not even his companions of the road are aware of his high status. The facts are gradually, teasingly at times, revealed, both to the reader and his companions, as the plot unfolds.
The first person narrative moves things along at a fair old lick, and flashbacks, still in the first person, are used to flesh out the history of the world and develop the plot. As you get further into the book, details about the history of the world are hinted at and drip fed to the reader, until it becomes clear that this isn’t the standard fantasy backdrop to this type of novel.
It’s a great read, a real page turner. The character of Jorg, being both the main protagonist and the narrator, is absolutely central to everything. He will drag you along as the story unfolds, and you’ll be more than happy to hang on to his coat tails.
If you like fantasy, but maybe you’ve had enough of dragons, orcs and wizards for a while, take a break and try this. It’s fresh and different, but with all of the elements required for a truly great epic fantasy novel.
I enjoyed this immensely. I had barely finished it when I was downloading the second volume in the series. Can’t really say any more than that.
King Of Thorns – Broken Empire Trilogy Volume II
Unfortunately, the arrival of a 20,000 strong army, who have definitely not come to wish Jorg good luck on his imminent wedding to a very young princess, looks set to put a bit of a damper on things. It’s a force which is too large, too well trained and too experienced for Jorg’s small kingdom to resist – unless Jorg comes up with some clever, or sneaky, plan.
There’s going to be one almighty battle, and Jorg needs to think of something to tip the scales in his favour. Just as well that he’s such a very resourceful (and unscrupulous) chap.
The battle is epic and entertaining – but it’s really just the backdrop for the author’s larger story.
Whereas Prince of Thorns was entirely in the first person, King of Thorns is mainly in the first person. Mark Lawrence introduces some elements which are written from the point of view of Katherine, Jorg’s step-aunt (and love interest).
Katherine’s perspective takes the form of journal entries. It is interesting to get another point of view of events, and Jorg’s part in them of course. It does mean that this volume is just a little less fast paced than the first one, but it’s hardly pedestrian.
Emperor Of Thorns – Broken Empire Trilogy Volume III
Needless to say, Jorg has ambitions to fill the role. He is the ruler of seven kingdoms by this time, and an expectant father to boot. Even so, the odds are stacked against him – as usual.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a novel of dry negotiations and political intrigue, although there is intrigue aplenty. It may be the most violent of the books in the trilogy – action packed if you prefer.
Once again a lot of the narrative is in the first person, with extensive use of flashbacks to develop the plot and set the scene. Mark Lawrence provides quite a bit more detail about the history of the world in which these events take place. Readers who enjoyed the first two novels in the series, but who had some queries, may well find them answered here.
It’s a great ending to a wonderful series of books. Highly recommended.
The Broken Empire In Summary
This trilogy is a refreshingly different approach to fantasy fiction – and one which fantasy fans will love. The central character drags you along with him on a series of adventures and escapades and, despite his many, many character flaws, you will empathise with, and root for him every step of the way.
It’s interesting to see how Jorg’s character is developed and explained as the books progress – and the background history to the world, the Broken Empire, is also fleshed out piece by tantalising piece.
It’s an immersive read. Definitely one of the best additions to the genre for a long time.