Book Review: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence - The Fantasy Review

Book Review: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

The Fantasy Review’s review of King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, book two in The Broken Empire trilogy.

You can read our review of book one, Prince of Thorns here.

I am sorry to say that after absolutely loving Prince of Thorns, I was profoundly disappointed with its sequel, King of Thorns.

A Glorified Travelogue

Travelogues are a staple of the fantasy genre, and they can be a useful way to develop characters, show off an incredible fantasy world, and make a book feel epic in scope with all the miles the characters have travelled.

In King of Thorns, I found myself wishing for an end to all the walking and talking very quickly. It isn’t that characters weren’t developed, or that the story didn’t feel large in scope, but the main issue was that this travelogue was told through flashback chapters which took up 80% of the book.

The “present day” chapters are what kept me going. These were fantastic, promising an epic clash of armies, siege warfare, and wondering how Jorg was going to overcome such insurmountable odds (because, of course, he must!). I will talk more on this storyline later.

The flashbacks make up the bulk of King of Thorns and they are dull. There was a brief run-in with a necromancer which chilled my bones and set me on edge; “finally!” I thought, “it’s getting exciting!”. But that was it. We just kept on bloody walking.

I don’t want to go into spoilers, so suffice to say I just felt like nothing happened. There was a bit of character development, but how much can Lawrence hope to develop Jorg when his psychopathic nature is the main attraction of these books?!

There were moments of worldbuilding I found enjoyable, especially when seeing artefacts from long before the “present day”, from before the apocalypse, but for the most part we walked from town to town, village to village, until we hit the sea. Then we got into a boat and went to another settlement. Then it was over.

Punchy Prose

The plot might not have gripped me, but the prose certainly did. Lawrence is a highly talented writer. He doesn’t write overly complicated, wordy prose, but there is a poetry to his writing. I found myself drawn deeper and deeper into King of Thorns on the writing style alone. 

During the intense amount of travelling involved in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World, I would lose track of where I was on the page, attempt to trace back to where I was, and just skip on after giving up. With King of Thorns, the plot of the travelling wasn’t to my taste, but at least the writing was punchy and easily digestible. 

A Disappointing Climax

I promised I would come back to the end of this book, and here we are. This was the greatest disappointment of them all. 

In the “present day” plot we had this incredible threat looming over Jorg and his kingdom. I knew he would find a way out, he always does, and I knew it would be a little Mary Sue-ish, but that’s just what these books are like, and I don’t mind that – so long as the method of escaping the threat is satisfying and fairly logical.

As Jord began dealing with this threat, I was hooked. There are some exciting moments and some genuinely cool and clever tricks he pulls to attempt to destroy his opponents massive advantage.

Then things got silly. I won’t get into spoilers, but I will say that there was almost no foreshadowing of this conclusion, except a tiny bit very close to the end anyway. I wanted to see Jorg do something intelligent, and instead the plot gave him an out.

Final Thoughts

I probably won’t be reading Emperor of Thorns. If you can convince me that it is good in the comments below, I will try, but for now this trilogy goes on the backburner while I read other things.I will certainly come back to other books by Mark Lawrence, as I loved Prince of Thorns and his writing style is addictive as hell!

Perhaps Red Sister will be my next foray into his writing, instead of Prince of Fools, as I don’t particularly feel the need to go back into this world again, at least not for a long time.

Related to Our Review of King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Owner and Editor of The Fantasy Review. Loves all fantasy and science fiction books, graphic novels, TV and Films. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature and Creative writing, they would like to go on to do a PhD. Favourite authors are Trudi Canavan, Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson.

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