Before we start, one quick disclaimer. I listened to this book as an audiobook instead of just plain reading it. That’s not a huge deal and I do make a point to always listen to unabridged audiobooks, but I thought it only fair to warn you ahead of time!
Now, let’s get to it!
Prince of Thorns doesn’t sound like a very bubbly title, so you don’t go in expecting happy-fun-candy-times. And by Jove, it isn’t. The protagonist is all of 14 years old and is already leading a band of bloodthirsty bandits and has done things that make priests blush (literally).
Down to its bones, it’s a tale of revenge. The young prince gallivanting off with his bandits and seeking vengeance against the man who murdered his family. Sounds like fairly standard fare right? Although perhaps not pretty, revenge sounds straight forward enough. You killed my father (or in this case mother), prepare to die. Bad dubbing not mandatory.
One of the things that I really loved about this was the setting. At first it seems like some fairly standard fantasy fare, maybe a bit grimy but that’s not to be unexpected. Again, I think that this also helps with it being an audiobook because the map that I would usually take a look at, I didn’t get a chance to, I just dove right in with the listenin’. It turns out that the world is ours but in a post-apocalyptic setting. I think one of the reasons that I loved it so much, is because I didn’t look at the map and didn’t realise. You just get hints here and there, the world already comes out strong and you get to put pieces together. It’s wonderful.
(Although, I’m sorry I’ve ruined the surprise there…)
The fact that it’s an audiobook is a double edged sword for the writing (Not that I have a problem with the writing at all). You have to like the reader, and the reader for this audiobook had a weird thing that he’d put a downward inflection on every sentence. I got why he did it. It worked well the protagonist, but up to a point it takes away from some of the performance because there’s only a distant irreverence with his reading. There are some parts that he does put a nice performance on and it’s by no way monotonous, but take some getting used to.
The flip side of the audibook is that you really look over every word, rather than perhaps skipping a section when you’re reading because you think it might not be relevant. (I’m sure we’ve all done it) And there were several times that I had to think “wow that was an awesome sentence”, and if it hadn’t been already saying the next sentence I would have spent a bit of time just mulling it over.
It runs the risk of becoming repetitive as the character is driven by a single goal and so the first person perspective might see the all consuming drive put off the readers. But this is not the case, the character, Prince Jorg, heads back to his father’s castle and tries to prove himself and claim his rightful place as heir. This seemingly routine series of events spins the whole story off onto a fantastical journey and I loved every minute of it.
Something about the world that Mark Lawrence has created, the way he presents it, and the characters he fills it with just clicks. It was so thoroughly enjoyable I listened to the whole thing in a couple of days. If you like your fantasy a little dark, I seriously recommend this book. It was pure and simple awesome.