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Emperor of Thorns - Mark  Lawrence

”I failed my brother. I hung in the thorns and let him die and the world has been wrong since that night. I failed him, and though I’ve let many brothers die since, that first pain has not diminished. The best part of me still hangs there, on those thorns. Life can tear away what’s vital to a man, hook it from him, one scrap at a time, leaving him empty-handed and beggared by the years. Every man has his thorns, not of him, but in him, deep as bones. The scars of the briar mark me, a calligraphy of violence, a message blood-writ, requiring a lifetime to translate.”

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The Prince, The King, The Man

Jorg Ancrath is king of seven kingdoms at the tender age of twenty. He did not achieve this feat with political intrigue. Oh no, that would have taken too long and required the type of patience of which he has very little. At fourteen he could swing a sword as well as any grown man. He is a natural born leader of rogues, thieves, and murderers and soon learns how to best use their skills to obtain what he desires. He has seven principalities, but he didn’t come so far so fast to stop there. He wants to rule the entire Broken Empire.

You are either with him or you are against him dead.

We don’t know what kind of man Jorg would have become if he had not witnessed the brutal deaths of his brother and mother while he hung in the thorns, hooked, bleeding, and too scared to rip himself loose. His father made it clear that the wrong son died. William was better at everything. Jorg might have spent his days whoring, gambling, and drinking, taking full advantage of being the neerdowell second son, but with William dead and his father rejecting him... well... he went psychotic.

”Whatever lay broken inside me had started to wind too tight to be ignored. I would shake the world until its teeth rattled if that was required to have it spit out an answer. Why?

The trilogy is set in the future. The Builders who despite the wonderful technologies or maybe because of them destroyed themselves. It was the day of a thousand suns taking the world from the height of civilization back to medieval in about the time it took everyone to say…oh shit.
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Anybody who has studied a bit of history knows that in medieval times if there were laws they were only enforceable by those with the brawny strength to uphold them. Might made right and with Jorg’s warped; and yet, at times astute view of world he is a man of his time.

”Dark times call for dark choices. Choose me.”

Jorg will sacrifice any friend no matter how precious or how loyal to achieve his ends. He will rape, pillage, and murder because he is bored or annoyed or needs something to chase away the pain in his head. Now here is where Mark Lawrence works his own bit of necromancy. Despite the fact that Jorg is this despicable little bastard with a moral compass that spins with the wind you will start to like him. It will scare you. It might even make you retch. You will spend time with heart palpitating and all that you hold dear being re-evaluated when you realize that Jorg has reached into your soul and touched a darkness that you didn’t even know was there.

You will not be able to return to Mayberry.

Jorg has a wife, an arranged marriage, that by some twist of the universe has paired two people that are entirely suited to each other. There are no illusions, no love, no trust, but something more important is formed a bond of mutual respect. Miana is pregnant and it makes me tremble to think of this child, forged in such fury, let loose upon a world trying to climb one step closer to civilization. He will either be the savior or the final destruction. One of the enemies that Jorg has made is the pope of Rome, a bloated, fat woman that confirms the reason why gluttony should be a sin in a world where so many go hungry. She sends an assassin.

”Sometimes it cuts to see other men more passionate than I about the things that I should care for. I knew that if the Pope’s assassin had killed Miana and our unborn child I would have grieved. But also I knew that some terrible part of me, down at the core, would have raised its face to the world with a red grin, welcoming the chance, the excuse, for the coming moments of purity in which my revenge would sail upon a tide of blood. And I knew that rage would have swept away everything else, including sorrow.”

Jorg responds by deciding to rebuild a church which when one first hears of this you might think that Jorg is growing up thinking more about repairing alliances than thinking about revenge. You would be wrong. The pope has to come and consecrate a new church which would put her within sword length and as we know that has proven to be a too close to continue breathing for enemies of Jorg in the past.

The Congression is being called and all the leadership from all the principalities is coming together for a vote for King of the Broken Empire. The Dead King is marching his armies with the intent to rule what is left of humanity. His army builds as they kill people and turn them into their puppet soldiers. Jorg by murder, mayhem, and trickery is trying to obtain the votes necessary to be declared King of the known world as The Dead King’s army knocks at the gates.

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Brass Balls award goes to…Mark Lawrence.

I don’t normally read fantasy. This is the first fantasy series that I’ve read all the books. A tip of the hat to Mark Lawrence to have the brass balls to end a successful series at three volumes. Part of the reason that I don’t read fantasy is generally by the time I take notice of a series it already has ten volumes or more. The characters have been facsimiled so many times they are merely a gray shade of themselves in the text. Lawrence is getting out clean with Jorg showing all the sharp edges of a man ready to step out of the text into the real world, and believe me you better have your sword drawn when you see the tip of his nose emerging.

These books are bloody, brutal, dark, and marvelous. I do not contest any reviewers decision to give this book series one star or three stars or five stars. It is a series that will force the reader to evaluate their own capacity for violence. We all like to think of ourselves as good people, and we can maintain that illusion usually right up until the time we are truly tested.

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1) review. You'll have to forgive the brevity as I was a pup reviewer then. Link for my Prince of Thorns review

King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #2) review. A much more Keetenesque review. Link for my King of Thorns Review