Title: King of Thorns (The Broken Empire #2)
Author: Mark Lawrence
Publisher: Ace Books, 2012
There's a lot going on with King of Thorns that begs me to go back and read it again soon. Firstly, hats off to Mark Lawrence for juggling a non-linear story structure. We follow Jorg on his wedding day when he goes toe to toe with the golden boy, the prince of Arrow, who's set to become the emperor. Or at least that's what everyone keeps saying. We simultaneously also follow the events that happened to Jorg four years ago, as he settles in his position of king of Renar.
The Jorg we follow in book #2 is still impulsive, but his nasty side has been tempered somewhat. He's haunted by ghosts, and is vastly troubled by his connection to Katherine. But this is no Romeo and Juliet situation. Not by a long shot.
Though we can level accusations at Jorg that he's a killer and capable of all manner of truly terrible things, it's also evident that he's matured. He has begun to realise his own strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps what makes him more dangerous is that he has a better understanding of when to give in to his impulses and when to plan ahead.
Jorg wrestles with the growing realisation that he's merely a pawn on a gaming board, and he absolutely refuses to bow down to others expectations of him. His anger at being played fuels his desire to rip free of this figurative briar patch in which he finds himself.
Lawrence builds tension *very* well. In fact, so well that at times when I was tempted to say, "Oi!, dude! You're withholding key information here!" the next chapter comes along and furnishes us with sufficient backstory. This back-and-forth jumping between past and present will probably annoy some readers, but I'm not one of those. All I can do is stand back in slack-jawed wonder at how Lawrence managed to hold onto all those threads.
It's not so much the world-building that's fantastic. I mean, it's pretty standard – post-tech, post-apocalyptic Medieval setting where reality is a little more malleable than your average SF nut would want to allow. Jorg finds himself in a battleground, yet Jorg himself exists as a nexus point and a battle ground in his own right – between the forces of Death and Fire.
All I can say about my expectations of book #3 is that this story cannot end well, but I'm sure as hell going to enjoy the ride. Jorg is a dark star that burns brightly, a comet that will destroy the world even as he remakes it according to his own vision.
I don't know when last a fantasy series has excited my imagination quite so much. What makes it for me as well is Jorg's observations on the nature of people and the world around him. I don't normally highlight while I read on my kindle but this novel calls for me to make exceptions. Jorg has a particular presence, for lack of better description. He is broken, but instead of moping, he is fuelled by his bad experiences and won't lie down and die, no matter how bad things get. And for that, I admire him.