By Andy Wright
I must admit that I had to fight through the early chapters of Prince of Thorns. I like a good anti-hero as much as the next bloke, but I initially found nothing redeeming in Jorg Ancrath: he was a merciless and reprehensible tyrant. In short he was pure evil and I simply didn’t like him. I’m not quite sure when this began to change, perhaps as I got to know where he came from and what made him the person he is today. I say person because he is only thirteen when we join the action, the youngest roving murderer this side of Westeros.
Through these flashbacks to his childhood, Jorg becomes a human being. We gradually see why he had to become what he is. In a broken world, where it’s the tough and the mean that end up on top, Jorg is determined to be the toughest and meanest of them all, and that is when I began to root for him. It is easy to say that he is the underdog, which he is, in his quest to piece together the Broken Empire, under himself of course. But it’s his unwillingness to accept his lot in life which is so appealing, and it is this one admirable characteristic that keeps you reading on, hoping that he can kill his way to the top. Despite everything that is put in front of him, he keeps marching forward, sword outstretched.
Set in a fantastically realised post-apocalyptic fantasy world, Mark Lawrence writes in a beautifully simplistic and darkly humorous tone. The fantasy elements are subtle yet all-encompassing, permeating and infecting the world around them, guiding the actions of men great and small, and Jorg does not like to be guided.
The Broken Empire series isn’t one for the faint hearted, but the payoffs are massive. The action is riveting and often surprising, the world is rich and unlike anything you’re likely to have read before, and in Jorg Ancrath, you have a protagonist who is amongst the most intriguing I have come across and one who grows and adapts throughout the series.
So, it is my hearty recommendation that you cringe your way through the rape and murder, endure the nightmares about Jorg’s dog Justice, and sit back to enjoy one of the best fantasy series of modern times. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll move onto something a little lighter. What chapter of Storm of Swords was the Red Wedding again?
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