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King of Thorns - Mark  Lawrence I read the small forgotten books. The ones found behind the rows on the shelves. In locked chests. In pieces to be assembled. They look old. Some are--a hundred years, three hundred, maybe five, but Orrin's are most ancient. Mine though, they look older, as if what is written in them takes its toll, even on parchment and leather. Mine were set down after the Burning, after the Builders ignited their many suns.

I first met Jorg Ancrath in the first book of The Broken Empire called Prince of Thorns. I must insist that anyone interested in reading this series start with book one. Jorg evolves a bit in book two and it would be best...if you wish to keep your head attached to your shoulders...that you know as much about the young whelp as possible before you actually start to like him.


Now Jorg is a complicated guy. He is a prince. In book one he is 14 years old and swings a sword as well as most grown men. He is brutal, angry, unsympathetic, and consumed by revenge. His mother and brother are killed brutally and he is flung during the melee into a thicket of thorns. Now these are not ordinary thorns, but spiny plants with hooks that once beneath the skin can kill a person. Jorg is found hanging in the thorn thicket bleeding from the numerous barbs that hold him suspended above the ground. It turns out to be really inconvenient for a lot of people that Jorg lives. His father moves on quickly marrying again and siring another heir. He doesn't like his son (an asshole in his own right who seems to recognize those tendencies in his son) very much from his first wife and the writing is on the wall that the new heir will inherit. Jorg goes on the road accumulating a band of misfit brothers that he wanders about creating mayhem while he contemplates what to do about the killer of his mother and brother. He resolves the issue in spectacular fashion.

Book one was so gritty, so pleasurably wicked that I didn't even know quite what to say about recommending it to other people. I winced, laughed, felt guilty for really liking the book, felt my own buried hormonal rages stir with delight, and came away from the experience realizing I'd never read anything quite like it before. My 16 year old son asked me about reading the book and I replied that maybe when he got older...somewhere around 30.

So there has not been a more anticipated book for me in a long time than the King of Thorns. At first I was thinking WTF? Did Mark Lawrence grow up between book one and book two. Has he stepped back from the gore and the random violence and the whoring and wrote...what...a more philosophical book? I gnashed my teeth and clipped my fingernails with snippy disdain. I intended to set the book aside for a while, but after reconsidering I thought to myself maybe the fact that I've read 80 pages and no one has been impaled or eviscerated or a village consumed by fire or a priest beheaded is because Lawrence plans to have me in blood up to my elbows for the rest of the book. It is rather disturbing that I found myself feeling this way. I don't as a rule like excessively violent books. I blame Lawrence, somehow the way he writes it makes me want more.

You can cut seven shades from a man. Scarlet arterial blood, purple from the veins, bile like fresh-cut grass, browns from the gut, but it all dries to somewhere between rust and tar.

Now the thing of it is Jorg is in love with Katherine Ap Scorron. Their previous meetings have not gone well. The last contact he had with her in person involved crushing her mother's vase over her head. In Jorg's defense she was trying to stab him at the time. The opening quote in this review is from Katherine's journal which are sprinkled through out the book between chapters. The further I read in the book the more I loved finding those little gems seen through the eyes of Katherine. Now if you have any doubt about how Jorg feels about Katherine and believe me you will have doubts that the young man feels anything for anyone you might be reassured by a few of Jorg's thoughts on the matter.

In memory I study the light on her face, beneath the glow-bulbs of the Tall Castle, beneath the cemetery trees. I envy those patches of sunlight, sliding over her hair, moving unopposed the length of her body, across her cheekbones. I remember everything. I recall the pattern of her breath. In the heat of Drane's kitchen I remember a single bead of sweat and the slow roll of it, down her neck, along the tendon, across her throat. I've killed men and forgotten them. Mislaid the act of taking a life. But that drop of sweat is a diamond in my mind's eye.

Jorg's main rival for control of the empire and for Katherine's hand in marriage is Orrin of Arrow. He is charming ,intelligent, and brilliant swordsman. Even Jorg can't help but like him and there is nothing more annoying than liking your rival. The Prince of Arrow intends to rule the empire and King Jorg is as worrisome to him as a pimple on his chin. Now Orrin has decided that he is god's gift to the people and that everyone would be better off with him commanding the empire. So for their own good he is conquering all the fiefdoms that exist across the Broken Empire and of course eventually he arrives at the gates of Jorg's castle.

Map of the Broken Empire

Now the castle's are left over structures from the Builders. Skycrapers or parking garages that have been fortified and turned into defensive structures. One structure even has a working generator that continues to supply power to dull glowing light bulbs. The builders when they released their suns shattered the structure of civilization and left the world a land of sword wielding soldiers and goat herders. The residual computer image of a builder named Fexler Brews, existing only because that generator continues to function, explained what happened when those thousand suns were unleashed. We weakened the barriers between thought and matter. They did not bring magic into the world, but strengthened the link between want and what is.

Humans are like cockroaches no matter what we do to this world a few will always survive. Some might say we display a lot of pluck, a resiliency to be admired, but ultimately what we do best is adapt.

Voodoo was once explained to me. Voodoo only exists because people believe it exists. If you don't believe in Voodoo it can't hurt you. The magic that exists in this world may be real or may just be a dream, but the dreams to Jorg are very real. "We're not memories, Katherine, we're dreams. All of us. Each part of us a dream, a nightmare of blood and vomit and boredom and fear. And when we wake up--we die."

There is magic in this world, dream travel, and necromancy.

Okay so even though Mark Lawrence didn't give me what I expected with Book Two I have to admit he wrote a better book, a more mature book. We find Jorg beset with new worries, kindness creeps into his soul, and he ponders his own desires and wonders if they are his own or some powerful entity trying to control him. It was written that he should have died on the road with his mother and brother. It is written that the Prince of Arrow is supposed to rule the kingdom. As we know what is written is rarely completely true. Jorg by some miracle has lived to see 18 you'll have to read the book to figure out how that is possible.

I do intend to find Mark Lawrence. He has dual citizenship with Great Britain and the United States. He has security clearance in both countries so he knows a little about playing two ends against the middle. I'm sure he can disappear like a man out of a
John LeCarré novel and maybe he has a bit of magic in his fingertips, but since I am a collector and I don't have his signature I do need to pin him down and put a pen in his hand.

If you see this man please contact me.