While I despised Jorg in Prince of Thorns, the story itself was highly entertaining and kept me turning pages as quickly as I could read them. However, I did not find this novel as engrossing, perhaps because I've grown somewhat use to the main character's sociopathic behavior.
In any event, since the "shock" value of Jorg didn't overwhelm me this go round, I found myself focusing a great deal on the story itself, which quite honestly was a bit underwhelming. I could write a multi page review about everything I disliked about this book, but in short, the storytelling was lacking, the character growth was non-existent, the plot had glaring holes, and Mr. Lawrence continued his trend of what I like to call: the superpower of the day solution to problems.
Please allow me to explain.
In the first book and now the second, Mr. Lawrence writes our favorite sociopath into situations where no reasonable person can expect success. Things look really grim for Jorg many times. However, whenever he needs it, Jorg miraculously discovers some new superpower (magic, science, math, or whatever) to save his ass. To be specific, in Prince of Thorns, Jorg was given necromancer power that kept him alive when a normal man would have died. In King of Thorns, Jorg gets new, updated necromancer powers, fire-magic skill and Builder tools exactly when he needs them to SAVE HIS ASS YET AGAIN!
Of course, the negative issues with those powers - as shown clearly by their affect on other characters in the novels - miraculously leave Jorg unaffected. And don't even bother to ask how he actually gets a thousand year old Builder's tool in book two, or how a thousand year old tool would still even work. Who knows, because Mr. Lawrence never tells the reader either of those things. Just poof, Jorg has this thousand year old tool, and it works and SAVES HIS ASS AGAIN!
Damn, it is good to be Superman in a Superman comic, isn't it?
But I digress.
Like I stated earlier, I felt this story had glaring holes in the plot. They ranged from unexplained entities controlling everyone to Jorg traveling to seek a fire-mage for no apparent reason to the sheer unbelievability of the battle for Renar and finally the impossible ending. Honestly, I cannot thing of a single thing in the novel which did not just leap out at me as unbelievable and obviously yet another way for Jorg to be provided with a new "superpower."
Now, Mr. Lawrence attempted to minimize these problems, glossed over them as much as possible, and his usual method appearred to be mayhem or gore whenever the story was not really working. However, this time around all the blood and brains Mr. Lawrence splatters across your reading eyes doesn't conceal that this story is not making any sense at this point. Because, unfortunately, too much of King of Thorns is isolated incidents of horrendous gore or ghostly undead or sociopathic musings without any of it coalescing into a coherent story.
Another major issue in this novel was the format, specifically the flashback chapters. I loved the whole flashback concept in Prince of Thorns, as I experienced Jorg's sociopathic behavior played out in present day yet was able to slowly understand how he reached this depraved state when younger, but the "Four Years Earlier" chapters in this book did not work at all. Indeed, the flashbacks in King of Thorns merely interrupted the flow of the story when there was no need to do so, because - other than the one detail contained in the box about Jorq's new, baby brother (which honestly didn't amount to much) - nothing in the back story would have prohibited Mr. Lawrence from beginning at the end of Prince of Thorns and detailing this next four years of Jorg's life in a linear fashion.
And before anyone mentions it, I do not want to hear about Sageous, because he is only trotted out a couple times in the book and is basically a non-entity - except when Mr. Lawrence wants to somehow blame him for every horrendous thing Jorg has ever done in his life. This one, minor character is not a reason for a flashback story.
As for the Katherine diary chapters, they can be summed up as boring and not relevant to Jorg's tale at all. Sorry, they did do one thing: give Jorg unexpected help of exactly the right sort at exactly the right time to SAVE HIS SOCIOPATHIC ASS YET AGAIN!
Did I mention it is good to be Superman in a Superman comic?
Oh, I did, didn't I. Sorry.
I realize most fantasy fans absolutely adore this book. It is hailed as the best thing since sliced bread or the internet or whatever. But, honestly, just like the Emperor didn't have on any clothes, King of Thorns is just an okay novel. Sure, it is entertaining, but it really isn't more than that.
I suppose if you idolize Jorg, it's great fun to see him rise above impossible odds to gain his desired goal. (Of course, you have to overlook the superpower of the day problem, but fanboys don't really care about that anyway.) But even in fanboy land, it is obvious that this novel does not rise to the shocking brilliance of Prince of Thorns, which - even with its obvious weaknesses - grabbed hold of your throat on the first page and pulled you through its gore coated world whether you wished to follow or not.
And, you know, maybe it was wrong of me to expect Mr. Lawrence to write that sort of book again, because there is only so much raping/killing and other sociopathic behavior one can throw at a reader before he or she grows numb to it. Though the sadistic torture of the innocent dog in this novel was a great try.
However, what I had truly hoped for in King of Thorns was some growth in Jorg's character, and for a while there, I truly believed Mr. Lawrence was providing us that. The encounter with the ghosts of Gelleth and the trip to find his mother's family along the Horse Coast - while out of character for the Jorg portrayed in book one - seemed to hold out the promise of a maturing sociopath. But alas, I was mistaken, because by the end we discover that Jorg's touch of humanity was all an illusion caused by a "magic" box, and now we are back to the same Superman Jorg who knows all, has all the luck, and has all the powers at just the right time with the same old, sociopathic outlook on everything. Zero growth. Same old same old.
And that stupenous post-apocylaptic setting that Mr. Lawrence teased us with in the first book. Great idea. Very intriguing. Not developed at all in this novel. There is a short bit about a holographic projection of a long dead "Builder," but even that doesn't really add anything except a vague explanation of where magic came from. In fact, the main role of this mysterious "Builder" hologram in the story is to give Mr. Lawrence an excuse as to how Jorg finds two Builder toys to (drumroll please) SAVE HIS ASS YET AGAIN!
Quite frankly, this great post-apocalyptic setting is going to waste, used more as a grab bag for weapons for Jorg than anything else. And since we are talking about this, why don't we the reader know anything about the history of this place?
This series is called "The Broken Empire," right?
Jorg Ancrath is trying to reunite it as emperor?
Wouldn't it be useful for a reader to actually know what Empire we are talking about, or maybe why it split apart? Perhaps some history about the last thousand years of human existence since the big apocalypse. I mean, we get lots of talk about ancient Greek legends or ancient philosophy but nothing about this world's history at all.
Are there no legends or stories about the last thousand years?
Guess none of that is as important as watching a sociopath murder or maim someone else. Not nearly as entertaining I suppose.
I realize that as I published this criticism of the beloved sociopath Jorg that I will have offended the pride many of you have in this character. I'll most likely get so much negative feedback that I could drown in it all and that my pride might suffer immensely.
A time of negative comments might come. Bad times for me. The fanboy universe opens up and all the haters come out to get me. But the world holds worse things than pissed off fans, because I'm a hater too. So, the time of haters can come.
It will be my time.
If it - and my dislike of Jorg - offends you.
Damn, I do love me some Jorg quotes though. :P