Thursday, January 1, 2015

Thorns for Reading

Prince of Thorns
by Mark Lawrence

Prince Jorg Ancrath was born again when he was left for dead in a briar patch at the age of 9. His mother and young brother murdered in front of him by his uncle's men, he wanted revenge.  At age 13, he already leads his own murderous crew but he has other plans. He wants to be king.

Jorg heads home to his father's castle but old memories and new betrayals await him at every turn. 


So after finishing this novel, I still feel a little conflicted and uneasy about it.  I enjoyed the book, mostly, but a lot about this first novel in the Broken Empire trilogy bothers me to no end.

The main character Jorg Ancrath is possibly the only main character that I have completely disliked upon reading a novel.  His hateful and vicious thoughts and his overall childish behavior is made so much worse when you find out that he is, in fact, a 14-year-old boy who leads a band of bandits and thieves.  I could not for the life of me understand his motivations for the longest time until that reveal towards the end, but I felt that it came a bit too late.  I was frustrated with his character too much to be okay with it.  The reveal also doesn't mean he changes much.

I am not new to dark and unfeeling characters.  I actually enjoy them.  Dexter Morgan from Jeff Lindsay's series is an example.  I think they're definitely rich and complex characters.  There is so much to do with them.  However, Jorg happens to be exceedingly annoying. I hate saying all this but I want to be honest.  The only good thing is that he does not offer excuses for the way he is.  If he did, I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot less.

But Prince of Thorns is not a bad novel.  The writing is very solid since what kept me reading was seeing how the next scene would unfold and the action during battle.  I found the battle with the necromancer to be really exciting and frightening because of Lawrence's ability to describe what was happening without making it seem like reading a list of actions.  I really loved the book's whole lore about the ghosts of the dead, the leucrota and the necromancers. The story is also quite interesting.  The political intrigue and the decisions made by characters are fun to watch.  Things happened that I didn't see coming, which was fun. Reading all of that was highly enjoyable.

I also wanted to take a moment to discuss that parts of this book made me uncomfortable.  Mostly, how women were presented and used.  Considering what happened to Jorg's mother and the revenge he believes he is due, how he could condone the same acts being done to other women mystifies me.  And really, Jorg's treatment of the women he meets in general is awful.  The first, he wants to murder because he likes her. The second, he uses as an object.  She isn't even a person.

If you think for a moment that I should not feel this way because it reflects what has happened in the real world or that this is just the way Lawrence's world is built then you should take a step back.  If it's reprehensible in a real society then it is reprehensible everywhere else.  I should not have to accept it.  Also, I think this brings up a larger issue.  If sexual violence and misogyny are used in fantasy and science fiction like they are common place and characters do not react then there is a problem.

I have chosen to check out the next book in the series, King of Thorns, since I am very interested in seeing what happens next in the story.

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