I let them strap me into my armour, pieces of silvered steel, well crafted and without adornment. I carried no crest, no emblems on this mail. Decoration is for peacetime, for people playing games but not understanding that they do.
The Hundred War, you must know, is a game. And to win it you must play your pieces. The secret is to know that there is only one game and the only rules are your own.
Mark Lawrence King of Thorns
I suppose writing the second book review when the first became viral is much like an author writing the second book when the first was so well received. It becomes a matter of how to duplicate similar success without losing your integrity or your original intention. For Lawrence, he was fortunate to write the King of Thorns before the Prince of Thorns was published, so he had the advantage of simply writing and developing the storyline. I will try to simply write a review without getting a big head about it — I suppose that is one reason I have been so late in getting this written!
I almost didn’t continue to read King of Thorns beyond the fourth or fifth chapter. I was having a really hard time following the plot. While the story from the first book continues, I felt like I had missed something between this book and Prince of Thorns. Why was he being haunted by spirits when ghosts didn’t faze him as a prince? What is this tempting memory box he is carrying around? Where did those new scars come from? Despite the weight of revenge, Prince Jorg was a lighter character to watch and follow. In this book, his character, now King Jorg, is heavier somehow. Something weighs him down and it isn’t simple revenge.
Just as we should not give up on those we love and care about when they seem overly burdened or even like a stranger, don’t give up on King of Thorns! There is a purpose to the way Lawrence has structured the book. I promise that everything will be made clear and Lawrence will have revealed many surprises for you by the end. The chapters are not written in a linear fashion, so the reader must pay close attention to the chapter titles and the journal dates. In addition, I do have to caution gentle-readers that much of the subject matter is again violent, oppressive and gory. Many of the characters are not sympathetic – including King Jorg for much of the book. He continues to be the trickster boy that everyone hates to like — yet you will find yourself liking him anyway.
What did this book have to do with my faith? Previously, Jorg was motivated by revenge for the death of his mother and brother. As a King, Jorg is weighed down by guilt. I find the juxtaposition very interesting because I don’t think of people who have revenge as their life goal to be very burdened by any kind of guilt. Perhaps that is what keeps the reader sympathetic with/to Jorg. Guilt is a very Judeo/Christian feeling, usually accompanied by shame. I took an entire course in seminary on guilt and shame, so I know how prevalent the idea of guilt is for a believer in Christ. Even when we are followers and understand ourselves as forgiven, we often continue to carry our guilt around with us. Perhaps we don’t have ghost children on the periphery of our vision to remind us of our sins, but we do have ghosts of a sort haunting us. I carry some guilt around from one of my previous assignments as a minister as the position I held no longer exists due to a lack of funds. One of my job descriptions was to raise money and I feel guilty about not carrying that part of my job out. Recently, several of the ministers that I worked with tell me how much they appreciated my leadership, so I know I did some good work and I can see the fruits of my labors…but the guilt still weighs me down. Just like King Jorg, I have to find a way to live with that guilt or learn to forgive myself.
Because I continued to read, I found myself enjoying King of Thorns as much as Prince of Thorns – high compliments indeed! I highly recommend this book.