Prince of Thorns was a seminal work in the fantasy genre. Jorg Ancrath a sociopathic protagonist who became both loved and reviled — seemingly in equal measure. The cry for “More Thorns!” overpowering. Quickly, Mark Lawrence turned Thorn‘s into an epic trilogy; a rousing tale of madness, mayhem, machinations, and meditations on the human condition. And with this final volume, the author has gifted readers with a fitting conclusion, remaining true to Jorg ‘s destructive nature yet giving him a measure of redemption.
Emperor of Thorns begins with our favorite Ancrath tantalizingly close to realizing his lifelong ambitions. At twenty years old, Jorg is already king of seven nations, secure in his power, soon to have an heir, and the annual concave to elect an Emperor of the Broken Empire is fast approaching. While he is not certain of being elected to the throne, Jorg has a plan; one that will allow him to assume the reigns of power.
What stands in Jorg’s way — as always, it seems — is his abusive father as well as the rising threat of the Dead King, who has completed his conquest of the Drowned Isles and has turned his necrotic eyes upon the continent. And so the tables are set for a final role of the dice for Jorg to either win all or lose all!
Interspersed in the tale of Jorg’s procession to the Imperial Conclave is the flashback scenes that Mark Lawrence has made a centerpiece of this series. Here he goes back to Jorg’s time on the Horse Coast years before, detailing his quest to uncover the technology of the ancients in the nuclear wastelands of the peninsula and the further journey that these discoveries produce.
Lastly, there are a few chapters scattered throughout focusing on Chella. This female necromancer has hounded Jorg throughout the trilogy, and here the narrative spotlights her . . . more as a way to introduce and detail the Dead King than for any other reason.
As I mentioned earlier, this novel was a fitting ending to the trilogy. An action-packed extravaganza that was equal parts sociopathic mayhem and philosophical pronouncements as well as two journeys of discovery by Jorg with tidbits of world building, rousing fights and his grimace worthy actions in equal measures.
Is it as awe-inspiring as Prince of Thorns?
Not in my estimation. But worth is in the eyes of the beholder, and my preference for book one might be nothing more than just that: my personal preference of one good thing over the other. Because, honestly, I can’t point to anything that did not feel right about this book. It had wonderful pacing. It showed real growth in the characters. It made revelations about Jorg, his world, and the magic permeating it. Its flashbacks chapters even satisfactorily completed the story begun in King of Thorns . It reveals the Dead King in all his dark might and glory. And in the final conclusion it had the perfect emotional mix of realism, cynicism, and hope to cap this epic journey.
If I was forced to name anything in the book that I did not find wholly appealing, it probably would be the pacing of the final few chapters before Jorg and the Dead King finally meet. It just seemed very rushed. Mark Lawrence frantically attempting to wrap this epic series up as quickly as possible.
All in all, The Broken Empire is a fantasy series that will long be remembered by fans and detractors alike. A series that went somewhere that no other fantasy epics had truly ever been . . . at least, uber popular series. And I for one am very glad that I set aside my disillusion with book two and completed Jorg Ancrath’s journey, because it was quite the ride.