Back when I reviewed Prince of Thorns I had two complaints that kept my rating at a 3 instead of a 4. Those were:
1. World-Building. If my roommate hadn’t told me about the fact that this was supposed to be in our distant future and that we’re the builders I wouldn’t have had a clue. I love Mark Lawrence’s style, but much of this novel may well have been taking place in a setting bubble for as much as I grasped from the page.
2. Bad guy out of nowhere with 10% more book to read. We learn a LOT about what/who has been motivating Jorg in the tail end of the book (and then go on a glorious rampage) but it came out of left field, to me. I had to put the book down and walk away to make sense of what I had just read, and then go back in a day later.
I am happy to report that I had no such problem with King of Thorns. There are many more easter eggs of information waiting for the reader to give a hint at how people in the Broken Empire are making use of what remains of the Builders, and also what baffles them. There is also no new Big Bad, but that means that we are able to build on the understanding of who the baddies are to understand the battle ahead of Jorg, both for his very survival and for his ultimate goal of being the emperor.
King of Thorns utilizes the same then and now narrative device that Prince did. While it is not flawlessly executed (we stay in the past too long sometimes for my particular taste) it does serve to give us a road story as well as a battle story all in the same novel, happening simultaneously for the reader. It also works to illuminate various details slowly, making the reading as much a discovery as ‘living’ it would be for the secondary characters waiting for Jorg to tell them what’s next.
In the present, Jorg is a man with many (literal) demons and a lack of memory. Some memories have been taken from him and put into a box for safety, others he has taken out himself, hiding them from his would be assailant. Mark Lawrence takes this plot contrivance and wrings from it a great amount of tension.
Read this book, if only to hand out with Jorg some more. He’s worth it.
P.S. the Amazon link above is for the Kindle version.