Just gripping. The Emperor of Thorns drags you in from the very beginning and won’t let loose its teeth. I could barely put the book down. Mark Lawrence has twisted the knife to the breaking point in this exciting conclusion to his Broken Empire series.
In this third and final entry in the series we follow King Honorous Jorg Renar, King of Ancrath and all of his ill-begotten titles, in his quest to become emperor and unite the fractured, battling kingdoms. Jorg has grown to manhood in this book, at once resigned to his destiny of revenge and yet still questioning his actions at the same time. He stays true to his character throughout, showing no mercy, making rash, quick, and often gruesome decisions. Precisely what the empire needs as the Dead King slaughters his way to claim his own place on the throne.
Somehow I missed reading the second installment in this series and perhaps that is why I did find this book not as enjoyable reading as a ‘stand alone’ book. Many of the characters jump out to play large roles here that presumably were from either the first or second books. I would have really benefited from just a little brief description of who they were and how they related to our hero Jorg. For example maybe because I missed the second book, I had forgotten who or what Gorgoth was and how he came to be with Jorg. Eventually I did recall many of the characters or at least a smattering of memory, enough to still enjoy the interaction.
Also, the book is written with juxtaposing of past and present. I found that a bit confusing, losing some momentum as I had to reach back every so often to “Five years earlier”, then return to the present and have to pick up the path.
It was really satisfying to finally be introduced to the mysterious ‘Builders’ and discover their secrets; although we have suspected all along who they might really be and what were the results of their actions. We also learn more of the Dead King, which induces a final “aha!” moment at the end of the book. There was a deep, intriguing complexity in Emperor of Thorns; Lawrence weaves marvelous schemes and designs of the characters. And of course, there is the delicious slicing and dicing sprinkled just right throughout.
As always, though, Lawrence writes with a cruel streak, always fresh. His images are rich and lush with attention to the smallest detail and feel of atmosphere, environment, metaphor and simile. My stomach heaved right along with necromancer Chella as she reached into the dung hole to attempt to retrieve a fallen brooch. My nose burned with the pleasant sting of spices and my ears were bombarded with the din from the bustling hoards on the docks as Jorg lands ashore.
Often, in an effort to milk that “cash cow” that Lawrence alludes to, writers will prolong that ending to their books or leave us hanging with vague foreshadowing or just inconclusive endings. It was quite gratifying that Lawrence presents a final end to the Broken Empire saga. You must read this trilogy to find out just what that end might be!