Book – Prince of Thorns
Author – Mark Lawrence
Year – 2011
Genre – Fantasy
Pages – 373
Bought for me by Robert Hyde

Prince of Thorns is quite unlike any other fantasy book that I have ever read for one reason.  It isn’t very different in its theme – boy tries to fulfil his destiny to become king – or in its presentation – he faces various battles along the way, and is set tasks that he must complete.  It even follows the fantasy standard of having a map at the beginning – a sign that always shows you what kind of a book you are holding.  The big difference is quite simply that every single character in the book – including the titular protagonist – is entirely unlikable.

He is truly horrid.  He does awful things, and does not regret them for a minute.  He is surrounded by murderers and rapists, and doesn’t care.  He doesn’t like any of them, but that is only because he doesn’t like anyone, not because of their choice of what they get up to in their spare time.  It also isn’t a case of the book simply following the bad guy either.  The people he opposes are just as dreadful as he is, and it leaves you rooting for the lead simply because you think you probably ought to, and there are no viable alternatives, not because of any fondness for anything he ever says, does or thinks.

Not that this is a criticism in itself.  There is no need for any book to have likable characters in order to make it any good, and it is a brave choice that Lawrence has made to try and write something from this viewpoint.  It is relatively successful as well.  The book is quite the page turner, and I swallowed it up in only a couple of days.  Rob, who bought it for me for my birthday, loved it, and I imagine that there are a great number of people out there would think the same.  I didn’t love it quite that much, but I did enjoy it.  Any book that holds your interest solidly is worth something, and as Lawrence has proposed that he write a trilogy based around the world, I think I would take the time to read the follow ups should they be published.

As a final note, I spotted the price tag on this book as being £14.99.  It is a hardcover admittedly, but this still seems a very high price for a book, especially a book by a first time author.  Maybe shopping in charity shops and swapping on RISI has clouded my judgement, but with this following on from the £25 price tag on A Dance With Dragons when it arrived last year, it seems an indication that full price books will not be the way forward from now on.