Series: The Broken Empire #2
Author: Mark Lawrence
Pages: 597 (paperback)
Published: April 25th 2013
Published by: Ace Books
To reach greatness you must step on bodies, and many brothers lie trodden in my wake. I’ve walked from pawn to player and I’ll win this game of ours, though the cost of it may drown the world in blood…
The land burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings fight for the Broken Empire. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.
A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg's gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.
Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan.
We join Jorg Ancrath four years after Prince of Thorns. Well, initially at least. But we soon move back to the period soon after Jorg's attack on Renar, and this is the timeline which makes up more of the book, I think. Which is a little unfortunate, because the current timeline is probably the better of the two. I found it more enjoyable and exciting (and decidedly less icky in places), and whenever I wasn't reading about it I was waiting for it to start up again. On top of this, there are lost memories from the past timeline recovered in the present timeline. And there are even a few bits and pieces from before the start of this book...I think. It was rather confusing at times...
The pre-book stuff was a bit pointless in my opinion, and the 'mystery' surrounding what had happened during Jorg's memory loss wasn't all that much of a mystery. I understand it was trying to build tension, but I though it was pretty obvious what had gone on. For me it was much more interesting seeing what tricks Jorg was going to come up with next to survive the current trouble he's landed himself in the middle of.
Because Jorg is still the strongest aspect of this series. Yeah, there are other good characters - and I'm particularly interested to see more of Miana after her wonderful, though brief, appearances here - but Jorg is what makes the books. He's quick and clever, and always seems to be about six steps ahead of everyone else. But he does meet some people who blind-side him, and not everything goes his way, which is good. Otherwise he'd just be annoying. There's more at work at him now, due to events both in Prince of Thorns and in the early pages of this book, and seeing him dabble in things pretty much well beyond his ken was interesting.
We also get to see a bit more of Katherine in this book. Before she was always a presence, often thought about but little seen. Here, she gets her own voice. There's not a lot of it, but what there is is easy to read and interesting. She is very clever, and allows us to learn more of the magic in this world.
The writing was engaging, but a little excessive at times. Jorg was a little over-philosophical at times and all his talky-talk fell a bit flat for me. There were whole pages which I read without really paying attention, and while the conclusions he reached were sometimes illuminating (or usefully inventive - though not always revealed until later!) I think the road to them could have been shortened a little. Jorg has always been more of a thinker, but some of the thinking in this book didn't really strike true for me.