Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book Review: Emperor of Thorns

Emperor of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #3)Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've never done this before. I've never gotten a book ahead of its publication date. You can't leak the ending. You can't spoil it. So, what do you say? What do I say? In my previous reviews of Prince of Thorns and King of Thorns I brought up scenes I liked and wrote about Lawrence's use of modern science to make these books more than a fantasy. I even wrote about the chronological structure, but I'm not going to do that now.

I'm going to tell a story instead.

When I was sent a DM over twitter asking if I wanted a copy, I naturally said yes. Then I ordered book two because I needed to catch up. King showed up before I left on vacation and I finished it before I got back. There, squished between the screen and front door, was a white shipping bag of bubble wrap and plastic. I couldn't get it open fast enough, and the damn package was impossible when I tried to use my fingers. So I resorted to scissors.

My face lit up when I held the pretty green proof copy of Emperor in my hands. Sure, the release cover is nice looking, but it's always the story that matters. I couldn't wait to crack it open, but I did. I wanted time to devour it. The next day I sat down with it after work and ate it up.

But then a curious thing happened. Over the course of the next few days, I read less and less. Then, about half way through, I set it down. It sat unread for a few days on my dining table. I walked by it every day, but didn't pick it up. Why did I stop reading? I was loving it to death.

The truth was that I didn't want to get to the end. This is a strange feeling for me. I'm the kind of person who finished awful books because I have to know what happens next. I understand that a good thing must end because all things should end before they wear out their welcome. I'm the kind of person that would like more Firefly, but I'm happy it died while good so that fans didn't have to see it decay, a former shadow of its glory. I knew this was it for Jorg's story. I follow Lawrence on Twitter. He's already working on a new series.

You see, we - the audience - has seen Jorg grow up. We haven't just seen a single moment in his life punctuated with memories. We know his thoughts and fears. We've seen him go from brash teenager who is way too smart, to a mature young man who recognizes all the wrong he has committed. A young man who recognizes the importance of having those you love in your life and why you should save them. Lawrence has managed to squeeze the life of a person into three books while at the same time analyze the role technological advances play in our world. It comes down to Jorg, the boy who defies fate and thumbs his nose at "No," to fix the mistakes that people made a thousand years ago. A boy-turned-man that is just like them, all desire, to fix modern man's drive to play god.

Now, for those of you who don't like these books because Jorg is a deplorable personality, you miss the point. You put it down at Prince of Thorns and missed one of the best things about this character. He is self aware. He grew up and knows he is a terrible human being. He doesn't try to justify it or spout excuses. He knows. That is one of the best things about this character. As much as he tries to be a better person, he knows that he is impulsive, quick to anger, and contrary. He knows that people deserve better than him, yet he is the perfect hero for a story like this. And he knows that too. He is greedy, lustful, stubborn, and profane. He is human. You aren't supposed to like him, just understand him.

So, in my own self awareness, I finished the book. The ending snuck up much faster than I imagined. At one moment I had one hundred pages, and then forty. And then there were no more. That left me staring at the back of a flimsy paper cover. I didn't want that to be it. Even with a favorite TV show, I don't think I've never been this attached. I cherish what I got and leave it at that. After all, all good things must end.

But there was something stunningly beautiful about the ending. I wouldn't change a thing. And for that, I respect you Mark Lawrence.

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