Sunday, 16 December 2012

A Game Of Thorns

A Review of Prince Of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Having received the King of Thorns recently to review here, I wanted to do a review of the first book before starting on the sequel. I read it a while ago and came away with prickly feelings about the book, but as I was now going to review it I thought I would give it a second read and see if those feelings remained the same. I am not going to outline the story here, as you can find that elsewhere on other reviews. This is just my opinions on what I read and my feeling about the book.

My initial problem with the book is the voice of the main character Jorg, he just doesn't come across as a 14 year old, but instead it sounds more like someone the age of the writer. It also remains a mystery why a band of cutthroats would follow someone like this. There is no apparent reason why the character had to be this age, and if you were going to do it then you would expect something to be made of the age, and maybe how he could get control of these ruffians at such a young age.

The world building is also strange. It is set in a post apocalypse future that has returned to medieval times, but it seems weird that they can remember Greek philosophers, Shakespeare, and Robin Hood, but have no knowledge of the technology or world from our times. And why have we got this perfect recreation of a medieval world, how did this come about from the ruins of a modern world? You would expect it to be different in many ways, but the weapons and armour all retain exactly the same names and terms.

The violence is of a cold nature, told more in a fashion of bragging about how bad he is. His brothers on the road are merely a series of names with maybe a single distinguishing feature to them if you are lucky, yes we got it that Rike is a big person. And even when you get 300 men going with Jorg on a mission you might still be hard pressed to know it.

We are told that thoughts of revenge were removed from Jorg’s mind until two thirds of the way through the tale, but I am sure he has been going on about it since the first page, so again a bit confused. And when that revenge comes it is very much a rushed execution. I could imagine this would be a great tale for drunken Klingons to share in some faraway place, but it doesn't have much honour. There is little to feel about the character. And despite how evil or nasty someone is there always has to be something in there for the reader to hook onto. It could be humour or their charisma, or even just expecting that they are eventually going to get what they deserve, but Jorge in the way he comes across hold very little hook.

So after a second read I still remain unsure about this book. The writer can certainly write, but I feel there are fundamental problems at the world’s core that make it not gel with me. I am still interested in seeing where the second book goes, and I did read this one all the way through twice, it is not a long read and the short chapters do make it race past, and maybe that is the problem. We don't spend enough time with the tale and are left with the loss of characters that are in the end little more than just names. The world and characters could have been greatly expanded, and a more cohesive setting established with a little bit more work and planning.

These opinions are of course mine and you might think this was one of the best fantasies of 2011, but then that would be your opinion, and I wouldn't dream about  trying to change that.

Two Stars