King of Thorns is the second book in the Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence and it is every bit as gripping as the first.
Like the first, there is a dual narration found throughout the novel. It opens four years after Prince of Thorns left off, with Jorg preparing for his wedding day while an army comes knocking at his gate. It is a time of war, with the Prince of Arrow making his way through the lands, conquering and uniting them with his ideals and Jorg’s kingdom – however slight it might be – is next on the list. But although Jorg has grown since the events of before, he is not prepared to make it easy for the Prince.
However, Jorg has dual motives. The majority of the book is told in a flash back, picking up exactly where Prince of Thorns left off, just after Jorg takes his new kingdom. Anxious to hit the road again rather than being confined to duty, Jorg leads some of his brothers off on a new adventure. After an initial run in – and defeat – by the Prince of Arrow, Jorg makes it his mission to find a way of being able to hold his land against the prince. Initially determined to help Gog control the first consuming him, Jorg learns more about the powers running through his own veins as he does so.
Haunted by memories of his aunt, Jorg sets off to reunite with his remaining family on his mother’s side. But there is no sentimental reason behind his actions, Jorg wants allies and he wants powerful ones. Yet he is haunted in more ways than one – a box on his hip containing the memories of a tragic event. The only thing Jorg has is the warning if he opens the box, the powers struggling to control him will tear him apart.
Lawrence has an interesting writing style due to the way the narration bounces between two time frames. Despite it meaning you know who survives at certain points because they are still present four years later, it works effectively for engaging the reader and keeping them gripped. These things have already happened, meaning they are not explained and you have to wait until the timeline begins to catch up with itself in order to know. It is a unique way of writing having the timeline so split and yet following only one narrator, but Lawrence manages it.
The character development from the first book continues with Jorg softening in some aspects of his character but growing in others. He is no longer the child from the first book (if he ever was) but a man who must learn battles aren’t always fought with a sword in his hand, but through politics and careful manoeuvring. Seeing and experiencing those small and subtle lessons with him creates empathy for Jorg, despite him technically being a cold hearted killer. Lawrence has an interesting perspective on characters and a skill at making them likeable despite their flaws.
Another intriguing and gripping book, leaving me excited for the third and final one.