Series: The Broken Empire #1
Published: 2011 by Harper Voyager
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Do you ever come across a book that everybody tells you to read, but you don’t get around to for months or even years because there are so many other books on your TBR pile? Prince of Thorns was one of those books. It had been recommended to me by other bloggers, and then Mike read the whole series and has been waiting impatiently for me to read it so we could talk about it. I FINALLY READ IT! It’s every bit as amazing as you all said it would be, and I regret not having gotten to it sooner.
The basic premise of the story is that the protagonist, Prince Jorg, survives an attack from the Count of Renar. His mother and little brother are both brutally murdered. Jorg only survives because he’s trapped in a thorn bush and unable to escape without severely injuring himself, but from his vantage point, he is able to see his family’s fate in excruciating detail. Jorg vows his revenge, becoming increasingly angry and bitter as he sees his father’s nonchalant reaction to the attack. He runs away from home with a gang of bandits, where he bides his time and becomes stronger. He swears that by the time he is fifteen, he will be king.
Prince of Thorns stands out from every other fantasy book I’ve read because the protagonist is a dick. Prince Jorg is not a nice person. He does terrible things. He leads a band of outlaws that rape, pillage, and murder innocents in the name of profit and/or fun. By all rights, he should be completely unlikeable. As much as I don’t like Jorg and think his actions are morally reprehensible, I find myself rooting for him against all better judgement. The kid certainly has nerve. He takes risks to accomplish his goals, and is a brilliant strategist. More importantly, Jorg seems like the only person who can end a war that has been fragmenting the empire for generations. He’s the only chance to restore the kind of stability that could create a lasting peace.
The worldbuilding in Prince of Thorns is unique because the story is set in a world that resembles our own, but in a far distant future after a major catastrophe forces the world back into a quasi-medieval social structure. Most knowledge of technology has been lost and relegated to myth and legend. There’s magic, but it’s unclear how much of magic is real magic and how much is just forgotten knowledge. I think there’s plenty of room for both, although I’ll be curious to see how it’s developed as the series progresses.
Overall, Prince of Thorns was a fascinating read. I expected it to take me close to a week to read (that’s on average how long it takes me to read a book, although I tend to read 2-3 books at a time), but ended up finishing it within two days because I couldn’t put it down. I look forward to continuing the series and seeing if Jorg can finagle his way into becoming emperor.