The King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Rate: 4/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers):

This second book of The Broken Empire trilogy assumes a fairly heart wrenching pattern early on, that continues throughout this predictably dark read. The timelines yo-yo back and forth from past to present, which allows Lawrence to add depth and connection to existing characters who were relegated to more of a peripheral role in book one. Then as soon as you grow attached to said character, they meet some grizzly demise in the following chapters. By the end of this read, I couldn’t help but wonder if Lawrence would run out of characters for the last book of the trilogy at the rate he was cooking up fatal accidents. With the background now established for many of the characters we were first introduced to in Prince of Thorns, I find myself wanting to do a reread to see how their new depth reshapes book one. 

In King of Thorns, mainly three different timelines are volleyed between. While it might take several chapters to acclimate, this formatting adds delightful complexity. As one progresses through this read, the new revelations along with the increasing levels of suspense are exponentially dolled out until the frantic conclusion. By juggling the different timelines, it was crucial that the dominoes fall in just the right order, serving to heighten the tension while managing to make Jorg’s reoccurring, lifesaving epiphanies not fall into the realm of convenient coincidences. At this point, I’m imagining Lawrence, while writing, having a wall dedicated to the complex, overlapping plot twists that is covered in a confusing assortment of connecting strings. 

King of Thorns is my fifth book by Lawrence, and I fully acknowledge that I have already hashed out the topic I’m about to delve into but it would be remiss of me not to mention it at least in passing. Lawrence checks the boxes with regard to elaborate worldbuilding and elaborately detailed stories. My favorite aspect of his writing though is the unique protagonists that his stories focus upon. In The Broken Earth trilogy, the story revolves around a broken Jorg who is not likable, difficult, and honestly does some really evil things. That being said, you can’t help but root for him (though part of me really wanted to cheer on Orrin) despite his enemy imbuing characteristics one would typically associate with the hero. Glimpses of a ‘good’ Jorg from time to time arise, however usually when he does something honorable, the reasons behind his actions are not quite what you expect them to be. 

Overall, King of Thorns was chock full of worldbuilding and details one expects in the middle installment of a trilogy, however ends on a fight sequence worthy of a finale. 

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • I had to laugh that the enemy in King of Thorns was Orrin of Arrow who seemed like a golden Prince and regular old hero of legend. I yo-yoed between wanting to root for him or Jorg. 
  • I hated that Egan killed Orrin, but it was ever so fitting to this dark read.
  • Poor Katherine’s story is especially tragic. Did she actually die? 
  • Did Gog really die? I’m not going to lie, that whole sequence of events had me a bit confused. Plus, the whole mission was to save Gog, instead they ended up fighting someone else.
  •  One complaint I’ve had with both the Broken Empire and the Red Queen’s War is the lack of strong females. I’m so excited to see how Miana evolves in the last installment of this trilogy!
  • Oh man, there were a few key scenes that were so very difficult to read. One, mentioned in passing, involving eating spiders. I shudder even now as I struggle to write this sentence without actually remembering the details of the scene itself. A second scene involved a horrifying punishment involving a pet dog crafted by Jorg’s father. Both of these scenes, especially the punishment one, highlight Lawrence’s skilled wordcraft because the events come to life in your imagination in brutal detail. 

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