King of Thorns – Mark Lawrence

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And now, an exhaustive look at the dos and don’ts of kicking a severed head, as told by Jorg Ancrath:

“I dropped the head and kicked it into the crowd. I say ‘kicked’ but in truth it’s a bad idea to kick a head. I learned that years ago, a lesson that cost me two broken toes. What you want to do is shove the head with the side of your foot, like you’re throwing it. It’s going to roll anyhow so you don’t need that much force. See, the thing about severed heads is the owner no longer has any interest in minimizing the force of the blow, or any ability to do so for that matter. When you kick somebody in the head as you do from time to time, they tend to be actively trying to move themselves out of the way and the contact is lessened. A severed head is dead weight, even if it’s watching you.”

I just finished King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, and I am literally in awe of this author. This is some of the best dark fantasy I’ve ever read, easy. For all the grittiness and horror and bleakness in this series, Mark Lawrence writes beautifully, and turns a phrase as well as anyone.

The story is told along two timelines: One that picks up almost immediately where Prince of Thorns left off, and another set four years ahead. There’s a lot of bouncing back and forth, and it can get a little complicated, but for the most part it’s easy enough to keep the events straight. There’s also an added POV to this book, as Jorg has gotten ahold of his Aunt Katherine’s diary at some point. It’s an added element of depth to the series, and it’s nice to get out of Jorg’s head once in awhile!

The range of emotion on display here is staggering. Jorg is truly one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read about. Arrogant, yet reliant on others. Vengeful, yet oddly tender. Hateful and hedonistic, and still somehow hopeful, almost righteous. It’s hard to even wrap your head around it all, and this being a first-person novel, you are struck with how introspective this guy really is.

This book is a huge leap forward in the series. As much as I loved Prince of Thorns, this book is significantly better. There is also an element of deep weirdness to this story, and I think in another writer’s hands, things could go off the rails. Lawrence keeps the series grounded, while throwing in some dizzying “what the fuck” moments throughout.

There are some absolute gut-punch emotional moments in this book, and the story is laced with scathing and darkly funny passages. It speaks volumes about Mark Lawrence’s skill as a writer that a lead character who is, by his own admission, a pretty reprehensible guy could be this likable.

I cannot wait to finish this series. King of Thorns was fucking outstanding!!

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