'A Dark Time Comes. My Time. If it Offends you, Stop Me.' This one line from the book tells you everything you need to know about Jorg. Or this one, 'Hate Will Keep You Alive Where Love Fails.'
I think I understand why this book receives so much hate. Jorg Ancrath is basically the amalgamation of Roose Bolton and Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones.
I know, it's a little difficult picturing something so grotesque, but Jorg is actually infinitely worse because he is the hero. We all love anti-heroes but, My God, Mark Lawrence really pushed the limits here.
And you can sort of understand the hate, especially from readers that forced their way through all 400 pages of Prince of Thorns because of all the praise the novel has been attracting for the last few years.
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.
From being a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg has the ability to master the living and the dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.
Mark Lawrence's debut novel tells a tale of blood and treachery, magic and brotherhood and paints a compelling and brutal, and sometimes beautiful, picture of an exceptional boy on his journey toward manhood and the throne.
Okay, let's take a closer look at Prince of Thorns. I haven't read a more controversial novel in a long time. And it makes you wonder. What did Mark Lawrence actually want from us? This is neither the hero we want nor the one we deserve.
Yet it is the hero he gave us. Except he wasn't a hero. Jorg is a villain. Which makes you wonder. What sort of reaction did Lawrence want to evoke?
Prince of Thorns is a surprisingly complex story. Written from the first person perspective, it is a coming-of-age tale of sorts (the worst kind) about a boy that bends to the corruption of the world, becoming the vilest of villains in an effort to avenge the death of the only people he ever loved, this while seeking his father's approval and making a name for himself as conqueror, King and Warrior (Necromancer?).
-Why you Must Read Prince of Thorns
Here are three reasons to read Prince of Thorns, and YES, I very much recommend this book:
In hindsight, Jorg is probably no worse than Bolton or Joffrey (Maybe!). Except he is. Why? Because Jorg knows better. He understands the difference between right and wrong, moral and immoral. And he walks his dark path because he chooses to do so, rejecting every chance of salvation.
For that, you hate him. Yet he wasn't always that way. More importantly, Jorg doesn't have to be that way, and he knows that. And it is in trying to understand his actions, the factors that drove Jorg to become the monster he is, and the elements compelling him to consistently commit atrocities that this book proves so complex.
You cannot like Jorg. And I say that as someone that actually tried. He is a villain, deserving only the most painful of deaths for his many crimes. Which is why you have to commend Mark Lawrence because, as much as you dislike Jorg, you cannot hate him.
Unforgivable as his actions might be. Lawrence finds a way to drive you towards rooting for him, if only for a moment. There is an element of unpredictability as a result because you never know what kind of Jorg you will get with each new chapter, and which emotions he will evoke.
It's a fun, albeit frustrating, rollercoaster ride.
2). Writing Style
I hate the first person perspective. There's something restrictive about that whole approach that irks me, which is why I have made a point to shun almost every book written in the first perspective that I have come across.
But I think Mark Lawrence has won me over because his writing style just works. Simple, elegant, easily comprehensible and evocative. Prince of Thorns is such an easy read, yet not so simple that the author seems to be speaking down to you.
I might go so far as to call Mark Lawrence's writing pleasant. You are compelled to keep reading.
3). The World
Prince of Thorns is set in such a dark and violent world. Certainly, if you are a little squeamish, then this book simply won't do for you. However, beyond the blood and the gore, the book also creates an intriguing universe, filled with mysteries, magic, and political intrigue.
You get just enough of a taste of the supernatural to know that it infuses some aspect of the real world. Yet the magic never really overtakes the realism. The story is still wholly grounded in the natural world, so much so that the supernatural aspects are treated more like a delightful treat you cannot help but look forward to.
There is a twist in this book that I didn't see coming. I thought I knew where we were in history. Then a sudden revelation shattered my expectations and revealed the truth.
-Why You Might Avoid Prince of Thorns
If I am being honest, Prince of Thorns isn't for everyone, and I can see why some people outright hated it.
There are conflicting fantasy novels out there, which thrive on creating morally gray situations within which characters can play. There is nothing morally gray about Prince of Thorns. The book is outrightly dark, and some people might find the depths to which Mark Lawrence descends a little unappealing.
Think about this: Jorg, the primary protagonist, is 14 years old. Now ask yourself if you are comfortable reading about a 14-year-old pillaging villages, eviscerating perfectly innocent peasants, and raping at least one helpless woman during his adventures.
If any of that sounds distasteful, then, yeah, Prince of Thorns will disturb you.
Mark Lawrence created Jorg purposefully for us to hate him, and he succeeded because, outside of the scenes with his father (who might be the foulest character in fantasy history, second only to Bayaz), Jorg is completely irredeemable.
But, believe it or not, that is what makes Prince of Thorns work. As terrible as you think Jorg might be, there are people out there who are actually worse. As such, Prince of Thorns boils down to a battle of the vilest.
From my point of view, Prince of Thorns is a must-read because it is so drastically different from most fantasy novels out there. Even if you hate every second of your experience, you are better off forcing yourself to slog through Prince of Thorns. There's something to appreciate.
Admittedly, I found Jorg’s ridiculous levels of competence in almost all fields a little irritating. That he seemed almost too capable is the one issue I have with Prince of Thorns.
+RATING: 8/10, this is the closest book to Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy that I have read.
The finale really surprised me, mostly because I was dreading certain Fairy Tale-esque situations. But to my surprise, my fears were unfounded because Lawrence’s finale is actually quite solid. There was a point near the end, during a particularly decisive battle, when I was prepared to throw my book away if Jorg won through sheer force of will.