That's how many times I attempted this book before it stuck. Three. (Could I be more annoying?)
Each time I picked up the book, I couldn't stand the main character, Prince Jalan. Hated him in fact. Yes, it was written superbly, it's Mark Lawrence for crying out loud. Yes, he was witty and hilarious and I already wanted to write down 10 quotes in just as many pages.
Such as this brilliant social commentary:
“We all practice self-deception to a degree; no man can handle complete honesty without being cut at each turn. There's not enough room in a man's head for sanity alongside each grief, each worry, each terror that he owns.”
But I HATED the main character. I couldn't make it past the first chapter or two.
But then I realized, this is not Lawrence's first run around with a dislikeable character. Jorg, the eponymous Prince of Thorns, was terrible. I hated him too! But at least I agreed with his mentality ... somewhat. He had the kind of attitude that I love. He wouldn't stand down to anyone though 11 years old. He wanted the world kneeling before him and would take nothing less. And he was a brilliant character, quite possibly one of the best put to the page, especially in terms of his growth.
What's different about Prince Jalan is that he's pretty much the opposite. He's an admitted coward, who prefers running from problems rather than sorting them out. I couldn't get behind him until I remembered Lawrence's magic with Jorg.
I knew I had to push past my initial dislike for the character ... and you guessed it ... but wait, there's more!
I mean, I'm glad I did.
Seriously, get on the bandwagon already. Mark Lawrence continues to solidify himself as one of the great new voices in fantasy. What's brilliant about this coward/womanizer is that it sets him up for all kinds of great one-liners that are riddled throughout the book. I love quotes, a bit too much sometimes, and Prince of Fools is chock-full of them.
Couple him with an honorable Viking who loves to smash things and need I say more?
And honestly, I think the reason I disliked Jalan so much is that it probably hits a little close to home. I have to admit to a certain amount of coward in me. I try to psych myself up to stand up to wrongs and injustices, but too often I run away just as Jalan does.
And many times, Jalan stumbles into a situation where he appears honorable and allows others to believe it. I don't know if that's all bad and it could be true even though he doesn't even believe it himself. However, I know I'm guilty of the same, not all the time but sometimes, and I don't like it.
Lawrence has written another winner and I'm excited for the rest of the trilogy. The only real complaint I have is that I guess I was expecting Jalan and Snorri to not get along more because of their differing takes on honor (one having it and one not) and it wasn't like that at all. But I realize that was a failing of my own, not the author.
The Broken Empire was one of my favorite trilogies of late and Mark Lawrence has hit another one out of the park. If there were any doubt he's on my "must-buy" list, there's definitely no question now.
4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)
P.s. I've got the title of Mark Lawrence's next series ... The Prince of Princes. You can view the contact info above for all the royalty checks. Thanks.