Emperor of Thorns (Broken Empire #3)
Since this is a review for the third book in the trilogy, it contains spoilers for the first and second book. No spoilers for this actual book tho.
I can think of no protagonist that I hate more than Honorous Jorg Ancrath- he is truly a sick evil bastard. Time and time again, he is given the chance to do good, to make things right, to redeem himself- and time and time again, he disappoints. Yet I never stop hoping that somehow, someday he will make the right choice. It is that tension- between hate and hope- that has kept me turning the 1200+ pages of this trilogy.
It doesn’t hurt that Mark Lawrence is an exceptional writer- clever, sarcastic, a master of character portrayal and conjuror of vivid settings so that people and scenes leap from the page. He has me by turns cursing and laughing as I read. And how often do you find an author who quotes Shakespeare, the Beatles and the Bible- in the dialogue of a ruthless bastard king?!
I appreciated that Mark Lawrence provided a summary at the beginning of the book, since he jumps right into the action, following his previous pattern of telling parallel stories separated by a number of years.
In the present, 20 year old Jorg is king of 7 of the 100 kingdoms that make up the shattered empire of roughly Western Europe, having basically killed his way to a crown. His wife Miana is expecting their first child. Jorg is headed to the Congression, where the kings try (and have failed, for centuries) to elect an emperor.
In the past story, Jorg is 15 and is on a long journey across what we would call North Africa. He is seeking revenge (as always) but ends up finding a little bit of wisdom.
Mark Lawrence’s fantasy world, at first glance, seems to be a typical magical take on medieval Europe. But gradually he makes it clear that the story is set in a post present time, after a nuclear apocalypse, and traces of our present civilization linger. This is one of the more fun reveals of the first book, but it takes on a great deal more importance in this final book. Which exact technologies Lawrence is referencing in his descriptions take some guesswork, but there is no question that they become a vital part of Jorg’s story.
Jorg makes it to the Congression and makes his bid for the crown. But is his will to rule strong enough to accomplish this last goal? Can he stop being an evil bastard long enough to be emperor? Like all the pages before, the last page of this trilogy left me cursing and laughing at once, still holding to hate and hope for Jorg.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did win a prize in an online contest and thus received a mug and signed bookplates from Mark Lawrence. They were not in exchange for- and had no impact on- this review.
You might like: Game of Thrones series by GRR Martin. The Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks.