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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Prince Of Fools by Mark Lawrence (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author website
Order the book HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Prince Of Thorns
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of King Of Thorns

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Mark Lawrence is a research scientist working on artificial intelligence. He lives in England with his wife and four children.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jalan thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.

FORMAT/INFO: Prince Of Fools is 368 pages long divided over thirty-one numbered chapters. Narration is in the first-person, solely via Prince Jalan Kendeth. Prince Of Fools is the first volume of The Red Queen’s War.

June 3, 2014 marked the North American Hardcover publication of Prince Of Fools via Ace Books. The UK version (see below) was published on June 5, 2014 via Harper Voyager. Chris McGrath provides the US cover art and Jason Chan supplies the UK one.

ANALYSIS: Last year after finishing off his debut trilogy in grand style, Mark Lawrence left his readers further conflicted about his main character Jorg, the bleak world encapsulated within & how he capped off the story. This incredible review by Jared does manage to capture in strong essence why so many readers have been conflicted (as well as in awe of) about this series. Beware though it has major spoilers for the entire trilogy but it along with a majority of Jorg haters draws some conclusions that don't necessarily jive with what the author was aiming for.

In his last book Emperor Of Thorns, Mark Lawrence introduced a pair of characters called the Red Queen and the Silent Sister. Both of whom are too rich to be discarded to cameo appearances and thus we have the Red Queen’s War, the new trilogy set in the same world and time frame as the previous one. Of course this story focuses upon Jalan Kendrath & Snorri Ver Snagason, the former a prince and a distant grandson of the deadly Red Queen, and the latter a Viking slave who is far from his homeland but hasn’t lost any of his mettle in all matters related to blood. The story then unfolds in a haphazard manner as the author intended for our mismatched duo to find out why fate has put them together.

Here’s why I thought that this book was so much better than the Prince Of Thorns. Firstly the characterization, the author nails it with Jalan and Snorri, unlike Jorg who was a sociopath and very hard to sympathize with. In this case the author does a fantastic job as he presents two individuals who are vastly different but are both pleasantly relatable. The second aspect is that here as well, the author further explores the fascinating post-apocalyptic world that he has created. Plus we also get to meet (or glimpse) brother Jorg, and the rest of his brethren. This was a cool way to relive a couple of events from the first book, plus we get to meet characters like Chella, Katherine & her sister. These interactions do add depth to the events that we have read previously.

Now going to the pace side of things and this is another factor that made this book factor strongly against Mark’s debut title. In Prince Of Thorns, the pace was slightly uneven and with the story broken into two timelines, it caused a bit of discord for many a reader. This time around there’s no dual timeline, just a singular straightforward plot that will propel the reader rapidly. But while keeping the plot streamlined, the author hasn’t dropped any quality. The humor in his previous was dark and present whenever possible, with this title however the humor while similarly dark is present copiously and that strengthens this particular story.

The author has thrown in some sharp references to his previous work, the best one I thought was:

 “Dropping into a thorn bush can lead to no end of grief!”

Another aspect that I loved was a possible nod to David Gemmell & two of his favorite creations “Snaga & Druss” via the character of Snorri Ver Snagason. Who says this about himself as an axeman:

 “An axe for me. Swords trick you into thinking you can defend. With an axe, all you can do is attack. That’s what my father named me. Snorri, it means attack. Men think they can defend against me, but when I knock they open.”

I loved to read about Snorri & the revelations that were laid bare in the latter half of the story really made the book that much meatier. I loved how the author explored these two personas and the transformation they both undergo as the journey culminated into a horrific climax. Lastly the magic system showcased was also that much more clearer than the previous work in the same milieu and I can’t wait to read more about the Red Queen’s struggle against the Dead King.

Mark Lawrence really hits one out of the park with the opening salvo of the Red Queen’s War and for all those left with a sour taste while following Jorg’s odyssey. Prince Of Fools is sure to change your perception if you give it a read with an open mind. For me, I had no complaints with Prince Of Fools besides the tiny fact that I’ll have to wait for a year atleast to read what happens next.

CONCLUSION: Prince Of Fools is Mark Lawrence’s newest and perhaps best attempt at proving what a talented wordsmith he is. Be sure to read this one if you enjoy dark fantasy rife with superb characterization, black humour & a fast paced plot that will leave you hooked till the very end. Mark wins this round and now it's up to the rest of SFF fandom to accept his ascendancy towards fantasy pantheon’s upper echelons.


Unknown said...

Looks like a good one from Mark, which I will be purchasing this summer. Although, I haven't read his Broken Empire trilogy yet, and am curious if I should read those first before diving into this new series.

The Reader said...

Hi Gef,

You can actually read this one and enjoy it without having read the Thorns trilogy as the stories are not connected. They occur in the same world & in the same time period.

Some characters make an appearance but you don't really have to know their backstory.


Douglas said...

Well put. I certainly enjoyed PoF as well. I liked how the setting was much less a major plot-point in this than in Broken Empire. Though I loved Jorg's story, there was a bit much deus ex machina with builder tech getting him out of a jam.

My thoughts:


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