Published by HarperCollins Publishers Limited on 05-06-2014
Source: From the publisher
The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other.
Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures. Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north.
In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the time seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.
Experience does not lend Jalan wisdom; but here and there he unearths a corner of the truth. He discovers that they are all pieces on a board, pieces that may be being played in the long, secret war the Red Queen has waged throughout her reign, against the powers that stand behind thrones and nations, and for higher stakes than land or gold.
Prince Jalan loves his life. There are enough relatives between him and the throne to keep him safe from that responsibility, but being grandson to the Red Queen allows him plenty of freedom….Until he gets caught up in a ridiculous quest with an enormous Norse man and his axe that is. Dragged away from his life of luxury, Jalan reluctantly travels with Snorri, encountering danger, hard conditions, and terrifying truths – and not nearly enough in the way of women, pleasure or wine.
I should start by saying that I’ve read Prince of Thorns from Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy, but not the second or third books (yet!). So far at least the two series seem to link together in the same way as Robin Hobb’s work tends to – you might get a few chuckles and connections if you’ve read both, but you won’t struggle at all to keep up with Prince of Fools if you haven’t read Prince of Thorns.
Jalan is a fantastic character. He likes women, gambling, drinking and generally indulging in life’s pleasures. He’s loose with his morals, and the principles he does have become very flexible if sticking to them seems dangerous. He racks up debts, sleeps with all sorts of women he shouldn’t and above all, Jalan’s number one priority is Jalan.
“Humanity can be divided into madmen and cowards. My personal tragedy is in being born into a world where sanity is held to be a character flaw.”
p400, paperback ARC
I should admit first of all, that I have a definite weakness for this kind of character. Silk in David Edding’s books, Tyrion Lannister from a Song of Ice and Fire, even characters like James Bond and Eric Northman… They’re bad but not evil, and they always make for the funniest, most likeable, most sympathetic characters.
Snorri on the other hand, is more like your typical fantasy hero: he’s a trained warrior, set out on an impossible quest driven by family, honour and revenge. He’s immensely likeable, in a totally different way to Jalan. Jalan is the guy you’d want to go on a night out with – but Snorri is the guy you’d want to save you from getting your ass kicked and for making sure you made it home safe.
The two of them together are absolutely brilliant. They’re thrown together by circumstance, and neither of them is thrilled about it. Jalan wants to stay home and continue on his life of pleasure, but Snorri isn’t about to let a spoiled prince get in the way of saving his family. The two personalities play off each other perfectly, and the story is definitely character driven, which I loved.
“Is there anything good about the North? Anything at all? Any single thing that I can’t better find somewhere warm?”
“Snow’s not good. It’s just cold water gone wrong.”
“Mountains. The mountains are beautiful.”
“Mountains are inconvenient lumps of rock that get in people’s way.”
p324, paperback ARC
I loved the mythology in Prince of Fools. A mixture of traditional fantasy and Norse mythology, the plot is unique, exciting and enthralling. The plot twists, the characters, and the first-person point of view add up to make this one fantasy book you will not want to put down. Lawrence’s humour shines through to add in completely unexpected laugh out loud moments.
Prince of Fools is probably a 4.5 out of 5 for me, mostly because I like a bigger cast of characters in my fantasy! As I don’t give half stars I had to decide between four and five. I eventually settled on the four, because while I think it’s a fantastic start to the series, I thought the world-building wasn’t as clear as it could have been, and my gut feeling is “I really enjoyed it” rather than “I loved it”.
Take one part fantasy, one part Norse mythology, add two fantastically likeable characters, a dash of horror and stir together with humour. A gripping tale that makes you want to stay up late reading it, but also a story you want to savour so it doesn’t have to end.
Buy it? This is definitely one worth buying for me.
In a nutshell: Vikings, humour and great characters – what more could you want? A great start to the series and I’ll be eagerly awaiting book 2!