Overview (No Spoilers):
If I could sum up this book in one word I would have to go with BRUTAL, for both the reader’s emotions and the much of the cast. This description really could be applied throughout this series as a whole. That said, the storytelling, worldbuilding, and character development were all fantastically detailed, keeping the reader glued through each of the precarious predicaments Jorg would find himself mired in. As with the other books in the series, I was again impressed with Lawrence’s ability to successfully connect the reader to Jorg, who from any other perspective would be the quintessential villain. By book three of a series you think I would stop being surprised by Jorg taking actions that are less than honorable and far from expected of a stereotypical main character. That said, I found the change in perspective to be refreshing as Jorg unapologetically does not fit in conventional molds, thereby keeping his actions from being predictable. By the end of Emperor of Thorns, there was an identifiable pattern as you only had to come up with the worst case scenario to achieve the means.
Regarding Jorg’s likability, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to other characters in pop culture that essentially have you rooting for a ‘bad guy’. For example, scores of fans rooted for the protagonist in Dexter, Peaky Blinders, Boardwalk Empire, and Breaking Bad, despite cringing at their dark actions. I did find I was rooting for Jorg to have a redemption arc, similar to a Jamie Lannister in A Song of Ice and Fire, and Jorg actually does reflect on the path he has led and if he could right the ship by following a new life as a ‘good man’. I won’t spoil the decision he makes, but it held true to the feel of the overall trilogy.
Despite being the concluding installment of the trilogy, Lawrence spends significant effort throughout the Emperor of Thorns to continue expanding this detailed literary world. For example, one of the POVs the reader is granted is from Jorg approximately five years in the past as he goes on a quest of sorts. I really enjoyed reading about Jorg experiencing other cultures, along with the many dangerous predicaments he somehow finagles a way out of.
The ending of Emperor of Thorns was a perfect conclusion to this dark trilogy, with several key twists along the way to keep the reader wrapped up in the story and too busy piecing together the puzzle to realize the end was drawing nigh. Indeed the ending snuck up on me as I was curious how Lawrence could satisfactorily be able to wrap everything up in the few pages I had remaining. While the whole book was filled with revelations and suspenseful sequences, the ending was chock full of its own secrets giving way, which really brought the whole trilogy to a close in a most unexpected finale. Based on the general feel of the story, I was not expecting a ‘happy’ ending by any means, however I was pleasantly surprised with how Jorg’s story was resolved, as a fairytale ending would have been jarring.
Overall, the Emperor of Thorns is not for the faint of heart, but the word craft and details throughout the Broken Empire Trilogy are well worth the read, especially as Lawrence delightfully warps the prevailing molds regarding a protagonist’s ethics or even likability.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- The ending felt appropriate with Jorg dying in order to save everyone, especially his brother from becoming the Dead King.
- I still was hoping for a redemption arc for Jorg, but finally had to recognize that it wouldn’t be in the cards when he and Chella had sex in the coach with his wife not far away.
- I enjoyed Chella’s chapters as we were able to gain insight into the Dead King and his motivations, along with the horrors of his minions.
- I was absolutely expecting Makin to be killed off. Why wouldn’t my favorite character be killed off in this series?
- How would the world have fared had the Prince of Arrow actually been crowned Emperor.
- How much did the Mathmagicians predict accurately regarding the eventual ending?
- I loved that in the end we have a computer ‘duplicate’ of Jorg that his son can go visit.
- Will Gorgoth continue to protect Jorg’s son as promised?
- Red Kent and Rike were characters I was surprised to find I’d become attached to, especially by the end.