Mark Lawrence’s writing strikes a perfect balance between poetic and straightforward. This is not one of those dark fantasy novels that incorporate brooding atmospheric tension, rather, Lawrence lets the action and the characters’ amorality speak for itself. The efficacy of this approach is more evident in what Lawrence implies rather than actual descriptions of torture and murder.
I loved the humour in Prince of Thorns. Jorg’s dry wit is so entertaining and it’s refreshing to read a dark fantasy that purposefully injects a funny aspect rather than relying on the reader’s sense of humour to find certain scenes comedic.
Jorg isn’t lovable at all, or even relatable, but I did develop a sense of empathy for him. He is a product of violence and cruelty, every bit as brutal as his enemies are, yet tempered somewhat by cold calculation. Which isn’t saying much when you consider that he kills and rapes without any conscience. While he’s younger by far than most lead characters in dark fantasy, there’s nothing childlike about him except, perhaps, for his unwavering certainty in himself. Jorg’s thoughts after having sex for the first time with a willing partner is a heart-breaking reminder of his youth and how violence has corrupted it.
One of the most exciting elements of Prince of Thorns is the worldbuilding. Hints of this being set in a post-apocalyptic world are scattered throughout the novel and incorporate a layer of intrigue into the more familiar fantasy setting. Magic drives the plot in some respects even though it lurks in the background most of the time.
Funny, bloody, and philosophical, Prince of Thorns is a must read for anyone who enjoys dark fantasy.