Author: Mark Lawrence

The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence – review

The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence – reviewThe Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence
Series: The Red Queen's War #3
Also in this series: Prince of Fools
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Tim Gerard Reynolds
Length: 18 hrs and 58 mins
Genres: Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence is the third and final book in his Red Queen’s War trilogy.  It continues the story of Jalan Kendeth as he continues to follow the path upon which fate has set him.

The Red Queen’s War trilogy is set in the same world as, and dovetails with, Lawrence’s earlier Broken Empire trilogy.  In some ways that is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s a blessing because the world in which the trilogies are set is awesome.  It’s set in our world in the future, millennia after a nuclear war (the Day of A Thousand Suns) decimated the world and let magic in for the survivors.  Some remnants of our world survive, but the current inhabitants have no cultural knowledge or background of them.  So plastic shop dummies (I knew those things could survive nuclear attacks) confuse the heck out of them!  This leads to one of the funniest moments in Wheel of Osheim involving an “iron pineapple.”  You’ll just have to read it to find out what I’m talking about.

It is a blessing because the protagonists of both series, Jorg and Jalan, are on separate quests to discover more about the Builders (aka us) and to prevent the destruction of the world.  The knowledge they obtain on their separate journeys adds up to more than the sum of its parts and creates an ever more vivid picture of the Builders and the Day of A Thousand Suns.  I suspect I’ll have to reread Broken Empire with the new knowledge I have from Red Queen’s War.

It is also a joy to have cameos from characters from Broken Empire.  Particularly this final instalment adds so much more to their stories.

On the negative side, it is made clear that Wheel of Osheim takes place just prior to Emperor of Thorns – Jalan meets Jorg on his way to the Congression which takes place in Emperor.  Knowing how Emperor ends is a clear indication of how Wheel doesn’t wrap up.  This robs Wheel somewhat of its narrative tension as it’s pretty clear what action Jalan chooses in the end, despite the dramatic chapter break.

I will say thought, it’s not necessary to read Broken Empire to enjoy Red Queen’s War.  Indeed, Red Queen’s War is more young adult than Broken Empire which is definitely much, much darker in tone.  That is something to bear in mind if you are thinking of checking out Jorg’s story.

So onto Wheel of Osheim.

What I liked

The world.  As I mentioned above, I adore the world Lawrence has created.  I was completely fascinated by the truth behind the Wheel.  The concept that it can make whatever your imagination creates a reality and the trick of Snorri’s stories worked very very well.

The narration.  Tim Gerard Reynolds did the honours for Wheel of Time.  Jalan as a character can be rather snarky and at times indignant and this came across beautifully in the narration.  Many times I smiled or even laughed at Reynolds’ interpretation of Jalan’s indignation.  Very well done. 

What I didn’t like

The pacing.  At times I felt it was a little slow.  

I really enjoyed Wheel of Osheim and gave it four stars out of five.

four-stars

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence – Review (Spoilers for Broken Empire trilogy)

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence – Review (Spoilers for Broken Empire trilogy)Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
Series: The Red Queen's War #1
Also in this series: The Wheel of Osheim
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Tim Gerard Reynolds
Length: 14 hours and 37 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Prince of Fools is the first in a new series – The Red Queen’s War – by Mark Lawrence who wrote the Broken Empire trilogy.  This new series is set in the same world as The Broken Empire, but focusses on a different set of characters.  Emperor of Thorns was one of my top reads for 2013, so I had high expectations of Prince of Fools – I’m happy to say it lived up to them.

What I liked

The setting.  Both Red Queen’s War and Broken Empire trilogy are set in a world which is strongly implied to be ours many millennia after a cataclysmic event (the “thousand suns”) in which magic plays a part.  Some references to our world bleed through but often in an almost unrecognisable form.  It’s a great deal of fun spotting these references.  These are very subtle – for example our protagonists meet a circus elephant, who is, of course, called Nellie.  A week later I still can’t get the children’s song out of my brain and now you can’t either.  You’re welcome.  

Anyway to return to the setting.  One very interesting choice Lawrence made with the Red Queen’s War trilogy is to set it concurrently with the events of Broken Empire.  Certain events make it clear where in the events of the narrative of the first trilogy this second series is set.  Indeed, the protagonists of Prince of Fools actually cross paths with those of Broken Empire at one point.  This intersection of storylines doesn’t seem to have affected either at this point, but it will be interesting to see if there are more such instances.  

Choice of antagonist.  Another interesting aspect is that it is implied that both series share the same Big Bad.  Given that those of us who have read the first series believe we know how this ends, some  good questions are raised.  Did Broken Empire end the way we think it did?  What will Jal’s role be?  Will there be a different threat for Jal to face in the end?   I should point out that it is not necessary to have read Broken Empire to enjoy Prince of Fools, but it will add extra layers to the enjoyment.  

The characters.  One of Lawrence’s real skills as a writer is in writing three dimensional, fully developed characters and he has done the same here for Jalan Kendeth.  Jalan is very different to Jorg Ancrath of the Broken Empire, but still a very engaging character.  Whereas Jorg was a broken spirit even from when we first got to know him, Jal is perfectly content with his life and focussed on little more than his own pleasures and self preservation until he is drawn into this adventure against his will.  At this point, Jalan himself wouldn’t claim much depth of character beyond his interests in women and wine, but there are hints of good character development and knowing Lawrence’s writing, there is an interesting character arc ahead of him.  I look forward to seeing where it goes.

I also enjoyed the contrasts between Jalan and Snorri.  They are portrayed as being complete opposites in every way, both physically and character wise.  Jalan is dark haired and better suited to running away than fighting, whereas Snorri is tall,  blond and built like the Hulk.  Personality wise, Snorri is straightforward, honourable and focussed on others, whereas Jalan is definitely more self centred.  There are many light/dark references to the two of them and I look forward to seeing how that plays out in future books.

The narration.  The narration was done by Tim Gerard Reynolds and while I enjoyed it, I would say it was competent rather than fantastic. 

What I didn’t like.

There was nothing I didn’t like about Prince of Fools.  I gave it four and a half stars out of five,

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four-half-stars

Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – Review

Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – ReviewEmperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
Series: Broken Empire #3
Format: eBook
Pages: 593
Genres: Grimdark
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

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.

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five-stars
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