Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence is the final book in the Broken Empire trilogy in which Jorg Ancrath tries to consolidate his claim on the Imperial Crown and deal with the threat of the Dead King. This is undercut by a past timeline in which he tries to uncover the secrets of the Builders.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I was at first unengaged by the Broken Empire trilogy, finding it hard to become emotionally invested in such a dark character as Honorous Jorg Ancrath as he was in Prince of Thorns and being somewhat put off by the violence. Having decided to abandon the series, I was persuaded by the promise of great character development to give the second book, King of Thorns, a second chance and am very glad I did. Like many fans, I was eagerly awaiting the release of Emperor of Thorns and picked it up on release day for your reviewing pleasure.
What I liked
Skillfully interwoven multiple plotlines. It has to be said there’s a lot going on in this book; Lawrence is weaving disparate plot threads together with real expertise. We have Jorg’s attempt to become Emperor and the politicking of Congression, his growing knowledge of the Builders and their differing visions for the future, the growing threat of the Dead King. It is truly masterful how these all come together for the conclusion.
Jorg’s character development. Considering I actively disliked the main character in the first book and only semi-reluctantly came back to the series in book two, my emotional investment in Jorg by the end of Emperor of Thorns is a real testament to Lawrence’s skill as a writer. We spend most of the three books in Jorg’s head so we have a good idea of what kind of person he is, and how he is maturing as he grows older. Witnessing his changing priorities and how that affects what he chooses to do in the final act is a joy to read.
The high stakes. Lawrence really sets the stakes high in this book with not only the threat of the Dead King, but also of the Builders. We’re talking about the fate of humankind in the hands of an emotionally scarred, bloodthirsty, mercurial young man. Gulp.
References to our world. There are a lot of them and they were a good deal of fun to spot.
The ending. Holy crap, what an ending! I will say that I have not been as emotionally moved by the final chapters of a book since Jordan/Sanderson’s A Memory of Light. All the various plotlines came together perfectly and the conclusion just felt so right. But don’t just take my word for it, go read it for yourself.
What I didn’t like
The violence. It put me off in Prince of Thorns and, it has to be said, there is still a lot of violence, blood and gore in Emperor of Thorns.
In conclusion, the strength of my emotional reaction to the ending of Jorg’s story surprised even myself given my initial ambivalence. It is a fitting end to his tale and a must-read.
I gave Emperor of Thrones five stars out of five.