King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Prince Jorg is now a King, four years after the events in Prince of Thorns. And he has a nemesis in the Prince of Arrows, his Antithesis is almost every way. In a series of flashbacks we discover that Jorg has two running conflicts going. An external one to become emperor and an internal one against unseen foes that are trying to destroy his soul.
He has grown as a character and developed more empathy and humanity (leaving your teens helps!, but he can’t afford to lose his edge. And he can’t afford to lose his drive if he wants to be Emperor.
So he enlists the aid of two kingdoms as well as a surprise “ghost” which gives him some very useful knowledge about the “builders”. The people who made the previous civilization so mighty.
Lawrence is one of the best of this new breed of fantasy writers who are producing what I like to term “Fantasy Noir”. A more realistic and grounded type of fantasy that deals with the complexities of human nature in a style that’s almost like good crime fiction. It’s fantasy that loses all the tropes and tries for new territory.
He doesn’t lay it on too thick, What elevates him above a lot of writers is a lean prose style that doesn’t waste verbiage. It’s tight and to the point. He doesn’t bury you in exposition or info dumps. He feeds you little nibbles of back story, just enough to keep you hungry for more. No prolixity, which is something I detest the more I read.
And because he works in a science field, his “magic rules” are much closer to credible physics and quantum theory. That makes it more interesting to this science geek. I’m especially curious where he goes with his mathemagicans. I’ve long had a fascination with Pythagoras theory that math is magical.
After Emperor of Thorns he has another series planned in the same world. I suspect we will be much entertained.