In the past couple of months I’ve read two books by Mark Lawrence, Prince of Thorns and Prince of Fools. Prince of Thorns is the first book of the Broken Empire trilogy and Prince of Fools is the first book of the Red Queen’s War trilogy. I saw Prince of Fools on a library shelf, checked it out, and started reading it before I realized the Red Queen’s War was actually a sequel to the Broken Empire. As it turns out, reading out of sequence didn’t really spoil anything since the series are more like co-quels and run in parallel–at least the first books in each do.
Anyway, I enjoyed both books. Lawrence’s writing is solid and engaging. Prince of Fools was my favorite of the two, but I was more impressed by the writing in Prince of Thorns. The lead protagonist in Prince of Thorns, Jorg, is an unlikeable anti-hero. I recall anti-heroes being all the rage in comic books back in the 1990s because they were edgy and ‘kewl’. This works in a periodical based visual medium, but edginess and ‘kewlness’ wear thin over the course of a novel (and series). The reader needs to care enough about the main character to keep reading. While I don’t particularly like Jorg, Lawrence has constructed him with a layered complexity that kept me interested and engaged.
The main character of Prince of Fools, Jalan (sounds familiar!), is by no means a prototypical hero, but he is extremely relatable and someone you want to cheer for. His interaction with the secondary protagonist, Snorri, is well executed. These are two very different characters. They would likely have nothing to do with each other under normal circumstances, but are thrown together in extraordinary circumstances. The interactions between Jalan and Snorri are the highlights of the book and bring a degree of lightness to a dark fantasy.
I would recommend both of these books to those that enjoy dark fantasy. I definitely plan to read the remaining four books.