The first few chapters of Prince of Thorns quite surprised me. What a cruel and weird book, I thought. The main characters are cruel people doing cruel deeds and laughing about it. It reminded me of A Clockwork Orange. I started to wonder whether this was going to grip me or annoy me, but the writing was crisp and the chapters were short and I was drawn in.
Lawrence presents the reader with a challenge: his main character is a psychopath, and we follow the story through his eyes. You either get annoyed, insulted, or watch in fascinated horror. Prince Jorg of Ancrath, 14 years of age, is surely evil. He is an enfant terrible who grabs you by the throat if he feels disrespected. He always pushes back, no matter what, and in every conversation he struggles with an urge to whip out his knife and murder someone. At one point, he was faced with a monster and felt scared momentarily, but then he got angry for feeling scared and he jumped forward to make the monster startle. That’s the character in a nutshell.
Reading this book is like watching a train wreck. It is horrible, but you can’t look away. And afterwards you feel dirty. After the first third of the book I was starting to lose interest because there were no characters to root for because everyone is an asshole, but the book is written and read so swiftly that I still read on, and after a while you begin to expect horrible things to happen. You read about a conversation in which Prince Jorg is ignored or disrespected and you just know that when you flip the page, something outrageous will happen.
You either start hoping for Jorg to flip out, or you throw the book away in disgust.
Lawrence’s writing style is what saved this book for me. His fast-paced style drew me in and kept me reading. It’s fast, sharp and no-nonsense, much like his merciless main character. Shocking decisions are made in the moment, action follows immediately, and most of the action and dialogue is quite good. If it had been only a little bit slower, the “edginess” of following a monstrous character would not have kept my interest. Later in the book, Jorg’s character starts changing a bit, because of reasons.
And not only is it fast, Lawrence’s style has a melodious flow to it. His prose is eminently readable, so much so that this first book immediately propels him to the upper regions of prose stylists of the fantasy genre.
In short, if you can stomach the first 100 pages of brutality for shock value and you haven’t discarded the book in disgust by then, then you’ll receive a treasure of wonderful sing-song prose, fast plotting and stunning action.
Review of part 2: King of Thorns