Starting off a new trilogy set in the same world as his award winning Broken Empire Trilogy, Mark Lawrence manages to outdo himself with a darkly humorous and intense journey to the frozen wastelands of the north.
Before the story can go north, however, we start off in the south; particularly in the region known as Red March. Home to the terrifying Red Queen and her unseen ally the Silent Sister, we are introduced to the main players of this story here.
Primarily we follow Prince Jalan Kendeth of Red March. A coward, liar, gambler, drunk and womanizer, Jalan is a renowned hero due to an accidental act of heroism, which he puts to great effect to spread the legs of any willing woman.
An incessant whiner and a narcissist, he doesn’t seem like someone who would make for a worthwhile protagonist, but his dark sense of humour and his unashamed feelings about his lifestyle make him more than just a scummy rogue in the guise of a prince.
Mix in his continuous acts of accidental heroism throughout the story, painting him as someone with plenty of potential for further development as the series progresses.
However, this story isn’t Jalan’s alone. Due to his narrow escape from a spell weaved by the Silent Sister, Jalan finds himself bound to the Viking Snorri Snagason; a northern warrior who had been sold into slavery after the loss of his family.
Now caught up in the Norseman’s quest to save his family, the story sets them on their quest, one fraught with danger from the Dead King and his minions.
Unlike his work on The Broken Empire Trilogy, Lawrence provides a less grim storyline here than he did through Jorg Ancrath’s story. Mixing in plenty humour and multiple exciting set piece moments, Lawrence makes this journey north into something truly special.
With a great cast of characters and some neat throwbacks to his first trilogy, particularly pay attention two thirds of the way through the book when they reveal what time period this book is set in compared to Jorg’s adventures, this story does everything nearly perfectly.
It stumbles a few times with too many stops along the way to their destination – many of which seem superfluous – but always manages to right itself in time for the next big story beat. In particular, it manages to be completely on point for the intense finale.
It also manages to do a lot more to build the world of the Broken Empire up beyond the purely traditional western/central European influences that permeated The Broken Empire Trilogy. Given we spend plenty of time on the road, with more information on the towns and regions passed through, than we ever had in the past.
Overall, Prince of Fools is an astounding start to what seems like another compelling series from Mark Lawrence. I’m looking forward to delving into the rest of the series soon. This is a book I highly recommend reading.
Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence Rating: 9.5/10