Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns will be published by Voyager (HarperCollins) in August 2011. It's the first book of a projected trilogy called The Broken Empire.

Mark Lawrence's official website can be found here.

Here's the official description of Prince of Thorns from the publisher's website:

"Prince of Thorns is the first volume in a powerful new epic fantasy trilogy, original, absorbing and challenging.

Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother's tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that's true enough, but there's something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse.

From being a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg has the ability to master the living and the dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.

Mark Lawrence's debut novel tells a tale of blood and treachery, magic and brotherhood and paints a compelling and brutal, and sometimes beautiful, picture of an exceptional boy on his journey toward manhood and the throne."

And here's the review:

A REVIEW OF MARK LAWRENCE'S PRINCE OF THORNS

Before I write anything else, I'll mention that when I began to read this book I wasn't sure if I'd like it or not, because I usually want a bit more meat around the bones when I read fantasy books, but fortunately the story was so good that it made a huge impression on me. Prince of Thorns felt fresh and exciting, because it differed from other fantasy books. I think it's also good to mention that this book is much closer to dark fantasy than normal fantasy.

Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns is a dark, gritty and vicious, but brutally beautiful and unforgettable story about an immoral boy, Jorg Ancrath, who leads a group of outlaws and lusts for revenge. Prince of Thorns is an adult fantasy book, because there's plenty of blood, gore and guts (this book is so gritty that you can almost see the blood dripping from the pages in certain scenes).

Jorg's story is told in the first person. This increases the power of the words – the emotional impact of this story is often stunning, because Jorg is haunted by darkness and dark thoughts. What makes Jorg fascinating is that he can't be called a normal hero, because there's nothing normal or likeable in him, but he's an interesting character and his evilness is simply charming. He's a very dark person and he's incapable of feeling love, because his thoughts are filled with darkness and desire for revenge. He was once a privileged royal son, but due to unexpected circumstances he became a Prince of Thorns. I think it would be approriate to call Jorg a teenage psychopath, because he's totally immoral and doesn't hesitate to kill those who are in his way. The events, which led to the breaking of his mind, happened when Jorg was a child. He witnessed the brutal murder of his mother and brother while he was lying helplessly in a bush of hook-briar and sharp thorns were pushing into his body. This changed his life and he became a new person, because his mind was broken by this ordeal. He's a charming, but dangerous and calculating boy, who's willing to do anything to get what he wants.

What makes this book an interesting and unforgettable reading experience is that Jorg is the story of this book. In other words, his character is the true soul of this book. The gritty and blunt portrayal of the bleak landscape of Jorg's broken mind is fantastic. His dark thoughts aren't pretty, but they offer an interesting glimpse into the mind of a young boy who only has one thing on his mind. Mark Lawrence writes about Jorg so fluently that it's easy to forget that you're reading about a fictional character.

There were several fascinating things and scenes in this book. For example, the monsters of Leucrota were interesting and so was the family reunion between father and son (and the ending was also great). I also liked the pitch black humour (there wasn't much humour in this book, but certain scenes were infused with black humour). It was also interesting that this book contained references to Plato and Nietzsche.

The events took place on Earth, but it was a bit difficult to figure out the exact time. The world reminded me of the Dark Middle Ages, but then I realized that the events were postapocalyptic, because there were fascinating references to modern science.

Prince of Thorns was a surprisingly short novel, because there were hardly any descriptions about the surroundings etc. The author concentrated mostly on Jorg and his life, so he didn't write much about towns, forests, fields and other places. I love good old-fashioned storytelling with lavish descriptions about places and people, but I have to admit that this kind of intense storytelling has its advantages. I'm sure that several readers will like this kind of storytelling, because the story moves fast forward and there aren't any boring moments.

There wasn't actually anything new in this book, because other writers (Joe Abercrombie, Richard K. Morgan etc) have already written gritty fantasy books, but the way Mark Lawrence used the words and wrote about the happenings felt fresh and exciting. He managed to bring the story alive and wrote unflichingly about nasty things and the atrocities committed by Jorg and his men. The prose was at its best almost brutally poetic in its sharpness and grittiness, because the sentences and chapters were short and punchy.

Some people will probably try to compare Prince of Thorns to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga, but in my opinion this comparison is unnecessary and unwarranted, because they have little in common. Prince of Thorns is much closer in style to Joe Abercombie than George R.R. Martin.

There wasn't a map in the ARC version, but fortunately I found a map from the author's official website. The map isn't really necessary to understand what's going on, but in my opinion maps are an essential part of several fantasy books (I'm not sure if there'll be a map in the hardcover edition or not, but hopefully there will be a map).

Prince of Thorns is without a doubt the most original and most memorable fantasy debut of 2011. It's difficult to imagine how another book could top this one. The adventures of Jorg were fascinatingly violent and even surprising, because there were some unexpected outbursts of violence. I've read several fantasy books which contain themes of betrayal, revenge and war, but it's difficult to find this kind of fresh books, because most books lack one important thing and that thing is called originality. Fortunately Mark Lawrence has realized that originality is important and he's written a deliciously vicious and original story which will either charm or shock the readers depending on how they feel about gritty and realistic fantasy.

I love this kind of gritty fantasy, but it's possible that some readers may feel it's a bit too gritty and violent for their taste. This book will probably split the readership into two groups: those who love it and those who hate it (if you like gritty stories, you'll love this book, but if you don't like gritty stories, you'll probably hate this book).

Because I liked Prince of Thorns, I can recommend it to fantasy readers. Readers who are fed up with typical hero stories will be delighted to read this book, because it's something different. Mark Lawrence is definitely an author to watch!

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