“War, my friends, is a thing of beauty. Those as says otherwise are losing.”
― Mark Lawrence, Prince of Thorns
This book starts with one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever read. And it is pure GENIUS in so many ways. First It is brutal enough to chase anyone with a more “delicate disposition” away. Second it shows a 13 year old prince with a broken sense of, not only morality but also reality. He sees people, everyone, Himself included as just pieces in a game. it’s all just a game, and he is going to win the game no matter what.
If you make it past the first few pages then you soon learn that Prince Jorg had a major psychotic breakdown after seeing his little brother’s head smashed in and his mother raped and killed while being stuck in a thorn bush.
“When they killed him, Mother wouldn’t hold her peace, so they slit her throat. I was stupid then, being only nine, and I fought to save them both. But the thorns held me tight. I’ve learned to appreciate thorns since. The thorns taught me the game. They let me understand what all those grim and serious men who’ve fought the Hundred War have yet to learn. You can only win the game when you understand that it IS a game. Let a man play chess, and tell him that every pawn is his friend. Let him think both bishops holy. Let him remember happy days in the shadows of his castles. Let him love his queen. Watch him loose them all.”
A thorn bush called a Hook Brier. It has inches long curved thorns. Jorg is pierced all over his body with points like giant fish hooks. The tips of the Hook Brier, like many real thorn bushes break off when touched.
Jorg has hundreds of these thorn tips in his skin. So even after being rescued he almost dies from infection.
“I guess even at nine I had a serious lack of spiritual purity, for my wounds soured within two days, and for nine weeks I lay in fever, chasing dark dreams along death’s borderlands.”
He is delirious and close to death for nine weeks. I know from experience that being close to death changes a person fundamentally. When it happens at a young age even more so. When I was eleven years old I had my first of three Sinus surgeries to remove tumors. They removed over 8 1/2 pounds of tumors from my eleven year old head. They filled all that empty space in my head with absorbent packing to stop bleeding. The pain from the pressure was so intense. The second night, I would have killed myself if my mom hadn’t stopped me. After the packing was removed (See photo below but a foot long and one out of each side.)
I felt indestructible and became a wild kid. Drinking and partying by twelve. I wasn’t as bad as Jorg but I did doge a few bullets and cracked a few heads. (Literally like with a baseball bat)
“And, because in some hard core of me, in some stubborn trench of selfish refusal, I could not, even at ten years of age, surrender to anything or anyone, I fought that pain. I analyzed its offensive, and found its lines of attack. It festered, like the corruption in a wound turned sour, drawing strength from me. I knew enough to know the remedy. Hot iron for infection, cauterize, burn, make it pure. I cut from myself all the weakness of care. The love for my dead, I put aside, secure in a casket, an object of study, a dry exhibit, no longer bleeding, cut loose, set free. The capacity for new love, I burned out. I watered it with acid until the ground lay barren and nothing there would sprout, no flower take root.”
“Hate will keep you alive where love fails”
That is where we see how Jorg has turned off his emotions. He is only thinking not feeling.
“The pain became my enemy. More than the Count Renar, more than my father’s bartering with lives he should have held more precious than crown, or glory, or Jesu on the cross.”
What is he thinking about you may ask? Good question.
Well he is thinking about revenge and on how to win the game.
“The way to break the cycle is to kill every single one of the bastards that fucked you over. Every last one of them. Kill them all. Kill their mother, kill their brothers, kill their children, kill their dog.”
Not reading this book because the POV is a meanieface is not a valid reason. I hope that helps you to understand why Jorg is the way he is. Now on to reasons why you should read this book.
First the Prose is amazing. I would classify it as First-person unreliable. But whatever it is called it’s done extremely well. The pacing and structure make it almost poetic. (Don’t worry I mean that in a good way) The dialog is absolutely amazing. Half shocking half hilarious 1/3rd scary 2/34ths father son bonding….. Wait what was I talking about? Fractions always did confuse me.
Oh yeah Dialog. Almost every page of this book has at least one “quote” worthy sentence. Why did I “” the word Quote? This Review is getting way to long for me. So I will end it by saying “Read this book remembering the lessons above.”
I gave Prince of Thorns 4 out of 5 stars when I read it two years ago, and as I re-listen to the Audio Book I want to change that to 5 stars. But to help keep Mark humble ill only move it to a 4.5 out of five stars.