EMPEROR OF THORNS by Mark Lawrence

Prior to beginning EMPEROR OF THORNS, the third book in the Broken Empire series, I went back and reread the first two books in the series, PRINCE OF THORNS and KING OF THORNS. I’m glad I did, as it refreshed my memories of the characters and plot lines that run throughout the series.

There’s a method to the madness that is the Broken Empire series. As soon as you think you’ve got Jorg or the plot or the series’ strengths and weaknesses figured out, Mark Lawrence finds a way to turn them on their head and twist them inside out.

I entered the final pages of this series feeling pretty damn brilliant — after all, I’d guess the Dead King’s identity several hundred pages earlier — an electric flash of brilliance that left me feeling all warm and clever inside. Then the ending hit me, and I realized that Jorg, a character I’d seen survive time and time again thanks to his ability to surprise everyone in the room, had shocked me one final time.

It’s easy to dismiss this series at first glance, with its young antihero and extra helpings of violence, but there’s heart and wit as well, and I found it fascinating to follow a character we aren’t supposed to feel truly sympathetic for. Jorg is a bad, bad man, and every time you think he’s softening, or beginning to change, he surprises you once again with his ruthlessness. He’s clever and witty and charming in his own Jorgian way, but every time you start to forget about the awful things he did 50 or 100 pages back, he does something brutal again.

This is the last book in the Broken Empire series, and I’m definitely looking forward to Mark Lawrence’s next work. His plotting, voice, characters and world-building were tremendous, and even more importantly, there was a boldness and courage to his storytelling that few authors can bring to the printed page.

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