The Broken Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence consists of Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns following the life of Jorg Ancrath from scorned prince to, as the title suggests, Emperor. All three books have chapters from the present time and flashback chapters from four-five years previous showing Jorg where he came from and how it affected his future self, plus giving us a great chronology of his entire life. This is Grimdark Fantasy to the fullest extent and the novels take no prisoners in that regard. We see wholly unconscious murder, torture, rape, blood, guts, and more. The whole story is one hell of a ride from beginning to end if you can make it through some ultra-violence.
Some might regard this as spoilers, but it is NOT a plot point, it’s about the world, so if you want to experience it on your own, skip down to the next paragraph. —- I loved the setting, never before had I read a story like this. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading even the first book, the setting is post-apocalyptic Europe. Yes, you read that right. This is a fantasy trilogy but set in Europe 1000ish years after what is called “The Day of a Thousand Suns”, hopefully you can extrapolate what that implies. But how is there magic you ask? The books have great explanations for them, I specifically loved how Necromancy is told.
Jorg is such a monstrously beautiful character. He does horrible things, kills without regard, has seemingly no conscious for his actions, and uses any of his men like cannon-fodder, but even with all that, I sympathize with him. That sympathy multiplied in every book as we saw more of his history, more of what happened to him, and more of his journey. I’d call him an anti-hero, if not straight out villain in the vain of Frank Underwood, with more weight on the “anti” than anything.
My two favorite moments come from the 3rd book, Emperor of Thorns, but I had plenty of others through-out the text. Without spoiling anything, the Bishop and the bandits.
I had two main problems with the series, one minor and one…medium? The former is that a few characters who are consistently through-out the series are unutilized in the final book. They seem to just be brushed off to the side in favor of getting the main plot completed. Both of them are secondary characters, given the fact that they both affect Jorg in some way. One of them in particular is mentioned on the back cover summary of the 3rd book, which usually implies some significance in the text, but he doesn’t have a single on screen appearance. My other issue was the ending. It wasn’t bad, it just needed some clarity. I looked up a few discussions online to figure out what exactly happened/meant.
Beyond the few flaws I have with it, this is a great, unique fantasy trilogy. Since the start of the year, I have been reading mostly fantasy books and I got to say, Jorg is the stand out character from every other main character. The nearest comparison from what I have read would probably be Monza Murcatto from Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. If you have been wanting to read a fantasy trilogy with a healthy amount of gore with a unique setting/tone, this will be the one to pick up.