Okay, I have to amend the above statement... just a bit. See, beginnings are everything--I had to hook you with my opening. Now that I have, I'll be honest. The cover for Prince of Thorns never did it for me. I saw the book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, and never even bothered picking it up--because the illustration is too... I don't know... graphic-novelish for my taste. (Not to bag on graphic novels or their readers--I've just never gotten into them.) But I did say that a cover caught my eye, which is why I put the cover for book two, King of Thorns, up as well. I haven't yet read KoT, but holy crap! That is an amazing cover! Without knowing a thing about Lawrence and his series, I knew I had to read it after seeing that badass owning the throne on a pile of corpses.
So the cover for book one didn't catch me, but the story and characters did. The tale Lawrence spins is at times terrifying, and then beautiful. I almost feel guilty for liking the main character, Jorg, so much, because he is one hard bastard. It's quite refreshing, though, to read about a character who is so honest--so brutal because his world has made him so. In my mind, Jorg compares to Jaime Lannister from GRRM's series (Jaime is by far my favorite character in Martin's world). Both are the toughest dogs in the yard, and both do terrible things for gain. Like Jaime, though, Jorg is deeper than his outward actions. It takes knowing Jorg's past (which we receive in flash-back chapters) to understand him. I don't know that understanding him means sympathizing with him, but I believed his arc because of his history. Pulling this type of character off is no easy feat. Mark Lawrence knows his business. I can only stand with my mouth open that PoT is this guy's debut.
Prince of Thorns is the tale of Honorous Prince Jorg of Ancrath, told in his own words. A brutal tragedy shapes his life at the young age of ten, and he sets off on a path of fire and blood to carve out his destiny in a post-apocalyptic Europe (I think about a thousand years in the future). The setting is very medieval, with hints of our current civilization in decay. There are sorcerers, necromancers, mutant-monsters, knights, whores, and blood.
PoT reminded me of two series while I listened to it (besides Jorg's likeness to Jaime Lannister). There's a lot of similarities with Stephen King's Dark Tower series (at least the first book, Gunslinger, anyway), and Bernard Cornwell's Saxon series. The world in PoT reminded me of Roland Deschain's, while Jorg's telling of his story made me think of Uhtred of Bebbanburg. Both are great comparisons to me. If you're a fan of either series, you'll probably enjoy Lawrence's work.
Well, I guess that's enough gushing. You'll hear more from me on this series and author soon after I give a listen to book two. (Here's hoping the audio is out the same day as the hardcover--only a couple of weeks away.) Prince of Thorns gets 4 stars out of 5. Go read it!
-Also, check out Lawrence's post about how he became a published author. It's quite inspiring.