This, for once, is a set of books which were recommended not by Sinéad or by Dave, but by a friend of mine named Glen, who’s quite the fantasy enthusiast. Having investigated further, it appears that the Broken Empire trilogy is known as ‘grimdark’, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s just fantasy, albeit dark, bloody, and more than a little bit gory.
Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath is 14, and roaming the lands of the Broken Empire, determined to take the throne of his country, and as many other countries of the Empire as he can, on his path to the throne of the Emperor. Since seeing the death of his mother and brother at the hands of the men of his uncle, Count Renar, Jorg has been bent on revenge, both for the scars inflicted by the hook briar he was tossed into, and for the death of his beloved younger brother William and his mother. Life and death are nothing more than a game to him, and murder, rape, and torture are the pieces he plays with. Over the course of three books, Jorg claims lives, hearts, and women like he’s owed them – and, oddly enough, ends up being a hugely compelling character.
The Broken Empire trilogy is not for the faint-hearted – from the very first scene it’s dark and gory, and blood is spilled like water from the first page to the last. But as long as you go in expecting that, it’s hugely compelling.
The Broken Empire reads like a medieval high fantasy novel, but as you work through the trilogy it becomes clear that this is actually a post-apocalyptic version of our world, with our civilization being wiped out a thousand years before, during the day of a thousand suns. Remnants of ‘builder’ culture still survive, though, more powerful than even the magic which it seems every second person can wield, from necromancy to dreamwalking.
The books follow dual strands, Jorg four (or six) years before, and ‘now’ Jorg, so his past becomes clear as we see him walk through his present, leaving you intrigued and wondering what happened in the intervening years for him to amass even more scars.
Jorg is a despicable person – callous, rude, selfish, violent, quick to anger, arrogant, pretty much any bad thing you can think of, Jorg is it. But even still, by the end of the third book, I was rooting for him to become emperor, to take the throne of the broken empire, and to do all sorts of fantastic things. That, I think, is the skill of this trilogy. It takes an utterly repugnant person who is about as horrible as you can get, and over the course of three books, turns you around to see that perhaps you should be supporting him anyways – in a broken world, aren’t the broken the best people to understand how it works?
I thoroughly recommend the trilogy – Prince of Thorns could stand on its own, but knowing that there are more, why wouldn’t you want to read them? There are also two short stories, which I’m currently reading, which serve as little additions to the story, but aren’t important.
Sad as I was to leave Jorg, I think the trilogy wraps up his story well. But I’m certainly not ready to leave the Broken Empire entirely, so I’m delighted to see that Lawrence is writing a new series, The Red Queen’s War, also set in the Broken Empire – book one of that, Prince of Fools, was published last week – it’s jumped right onto my to-read list.
All three books get the same rating: