Monday, 18 January 2016

Making of a Murderer - Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

A six foot tall psychopathic raping little pube of a thirteen year old, severely messed up with parental issues steaming out of the ears. Jorg is a beloved character in fantasy circles it seems, I went into the book knowing he was an arsehole, knowing that he is engaging and compelling and captured readers minds when Lawrence made his debut with this novel. 

I completely agree. The book is incredibly compelling, fast paced and ballsy. It's as grim and dark as grimdark can get, Jorg is the epitome of the anti-hero, and it is only with great reticence I have to refer to him as such, being more 'anti' than 'hero'. 

The writing is vivid and punchy, and is one of the leanest fantasy books I've read in a while, there's not an ounce of fat left on this book (except the Necromancer portion perhaps). Lawrence tells the story he wants to, lets us inside this psycho's mind and guides us neatly through how he came to be and the blood soaked fallout from them.

It always surprises me how much we are willing to let a character get away with simply because they are our protagonist. Nestled inside Jorg's very warped little mind we perceive his clear genius, the sharp strategic intelligence and murdering ambition at every surface that rushes through him. 

There is maybe one significant female character in this book, she is in it for a few pages. The rest are nameless farmer's daughters to be raped or prostitutes to whore around with. It left a bit of a bitter tastes as I was reading.
It looks at the Bechdel test and laughs as it goes sailing by. This is the main issue I have with the book. That and Jorg himself.

He's a disgusting character, impressive in his infamy sure, but like a grotesque vile genius he is hard to read about. But the terms I have seen attributed, that I'll root for him, care and even like him are wide of the mark for me personally. I definitely wanted to keep reading and I'm fascinated by the character, the world and his story, but if Jorg was to die I'd be more than happy. 

I remember on an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast, with special guest Scott Lynch, they discussed how to write 'rogues'. A simple process being you surround them with even more despicable figures for your protagonist to fight against, chuck in some witty lines and charm and you have your roguish character, mixed with great writing like Lawrence's you are able to excuse the acts the character does and the reader feels connected to them.

Jorg definitely fits this bill, and Lawrence has clearly nailed that achievement. It is a stunning debut for a novelist. But I just don't buy him as a character, and with the introduction of the particular mages in the book, it went some way to excuse his actions in his young life, while taking great pains to make sure Jorg explains his own violent acts were rooted from his volition alone. 

Definitely won't be able to forget about this book, and I am intrigued where the story goes from here, the rather obvious goals of 'King' and 'Emperor' of Thorns notwithstanding of course...

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