Tag Archives: mark lawrence

Review: The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence

I think I made it pretty clear in my review of The Liar’s Key that I’m a fan of Mark Lawrence. That being the case, it’s difficult to remain objective. I’ve been excited to read The Wheel of Osheim ever since I turned the last page in The Liar’s Key, and I was fortunate enough to be given an Advanced Reader Copy – cutting short that wait by several weeks. There’s a danger with such anticipation that expectations might be raised to unattainable levels.

And yet Mark Lawrence’s writing manages to attain them anyway.

wheel of oshiem

Now thoroughly swept up in the great events of the empire, womaniser and coward Prince Jalan continues to find himself pulled this way and that by his friends, the manipulations of his royal grandmother, and his own desires. But as the boundaries between worlds decay, the Dead King has more power to send against Jalan to try to seize the Liar’s Key. Jalan’s keen sense of self-preservation and his desires drive him onwards, until there’s nowhere left to go but the titular Wheel – a mysterious force around which the barrier between worlds is thinnest and a man’s fears can take physical form.

The Wheel of Osheim is packed with danger and darkness, yet manages to alleviate it with Jalan’s witty self-aware narrative. There is a depth to the darkness in the world of the Broken Empire, where necromancers can make powerful weapons from murdered babies and raise fallen soldiers to fight against their own comrades. The humour is therefore much-needed, and well-judged.

In this final volume of the Red Queen’s War trilogy, Jalan’s personality is given more depth. For all his self-awareness about his cowardice and vices, he is slowly revealed to have a touching blind spot. His continued refusal to see this even through his own narration of the story shows Lawrence’s skill in portraying the human condition. And as the threat against the Empire becomes inescapable, Jalan comes to accept the duties he has spent most of his life avoiding. In The Liar’s Key, Jalan found selfish reasons to do the right thing; now, when self-preservation is reason enough, he finds himself acting out of duty. He’s grown, little by little.

One again Lawrence has triumphed in creating a compelling tale full of magic, danger and unpredictable twists and turns. He ends the trilogy with a fittingly spectacular conclusion – one which, in what is becoming a tradition with Mark Lawrence’s books, saw me reading far into the small hours of the morning on a work night. Again.

It is with no reservations whatsoever therefore that I rate The Wheel of Osheim 10/10.

2016 reading update, May

I’m nearly half way through the year now – and it feels like it’s gone very quickly. But so has my reading, so I’m well ahead of target. I have read 17 books so far, which beats my total for the whole of 2015.

The list so far

In my previous updates I have discussed the following:

  1. Cadfael: Monk’s Hood, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  2. Cadfael: St Peter’s Fair, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  3. Key Under Blue Pot and Please Milk the Goat, by Marie Sever
  4. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  5. Cadfael: The Leper of St Giles, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  6. The Fire Mages’ Daughter by Pauline M Ross
  7. Cadfael: The Virgin in the Ice by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  8. The Mages of Bennamore by Pauline M Ross
  9. The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah
  10. The Plains of Kallanash by Pauline M Ross
  11. The Magic Mines of Asharim by Pauline M Ross

Recent reads

12. The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift

This is a non-fiction book about the development of a garden from a field to the beautiful selection of settings it now is, all mixed in with local history and history of the house it is connected to, some history of British Christianity, and a little bit of autobiography too. It’s a well-written and fascinating book, and it was easy to follow even for someone like me, who can’t keep a basil plant alive in the kitchen window. Swift has really done her research. And when her garden was open as part of May Day celebrations two weeks ago, I went to visit it (it’s only a short drive away from me), got the book signed and bought the second one, The Morville Year.

13. The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence

How could I read in April that which isn’t to be released until June? I got an Advanced Review Copy. And Review it I shall, soon. But not here.

14. Echoes of the Great Song by David Gemmell

I read Gemmell a lot from when I was about 17 to about when I was 21, by which point there were very few of his books I hadn’t read. This was one of them. I found it in the library while looking for something else and of course had to read it. I found it a little difficult to get into at first – there are a lot of terms and concepts to get to grips with – but once it had got going I enjoyed the way the story developed, which Gemmell’s characterstic cast of moral greys fighting against the moral black standing against them.

15. The Dragon’s Egg by Pauline M Ross

I recieved an ARC of this book and reviewed it here. It’s one that has lingered in my mind, where I still think of the ending and the points earlier in the book that foreshadow it. Absolutely masterful.

16. The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O’Brian

and

17. The Letter of Marque by Patrick O’Brian

Finally I have got back to this fantastic series. I love reading about Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin and their various adventures and escapades on land and sea. They are written in quite a different style and with a different approach to most novels, which is refreshing. The voices of the characters come through wonderfully strongly, and it really feels like I’m reading about the lives of real people, with their marital concerns, financial troubles and all. The concept of a plot as charted and diagrammed on various writing forums seems rigid and ritualised compared to the more fluid, more life-like sequence of events of O’Brian’s books.

As happens surprisingly often, I finished one and bought the next immediately. They seem to come in pairs, one ending abruptly on a low or neutral point, with questions of how the protagonists might recover, the second ending on a high point that feels more natural an ending. I was, as I finished reading The Letter of Marque, laughing out loud at every second paragraph, as much because of the humour (the subtle humour that comes about as a result of knowing these characters well and recognising when they are fooling themselves) as because of the general sense of happiness on which the book ended.

Up next

I’ve got a library book that needs to go back soon: The Errant Hours by Kate Innes, an historical fiction novel set in nearby Much Wenlock, another one I sought as part of my “read local” aims, but which seems to be within my normal reading patterns too, with a setting not too dissimilar to the Cadfael books. So that’s next.

I shall shortly be posting my review of The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence, and I’d quite like to look back over the previous books of the trilogy to remind myself of them and perhaps have a few more things to say about the first two books without restricting myself to a spoiler-free review.

 

Review: The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

The Liar's Key by Mark Lawrence, with covers by Jason Chan. UK on the left, US on the right.
The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence, with covers by Jason Chan. UK on the left, US on the right.

Okay so here’s the thing. It’s no secret I’m a fan of Mark Lawrence. I read his first book, Prince of Thorns, and I was hooked. I’ve reviewed every book as he’s released them – beforehand, in one case, since I managed to get hold of an ARC. I pre-ordered The Liar’s Key in September last year. Mr Lawrence has got a great voice to his prose, one that keeps me reading – this time round til 1:30am two nights running – and fantastically fun protagonists. There was never any doubt in my mind that once again he’d pull it off and I’d of course review his book and say it’s great. Which it is.

And therein lies the problem. There’s only so many ways you can say “this author’s great”. But I’ll see what I can manage.

Continue reading Review: The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

Book Review: Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Fools is the fourth novel by Mark Lawrence, and the first of the new Red Queen’s War series. It takes place concurrently with the Broken Empire series, which I’ve reviewed previously (here, here and here). Prince of Fools follows Jalan Kendeth, one of several princes of Red March, a self-confessed coward and womaniser, who finds himself at the mercy of mysterious spell which magically binds him to a Viking named Snorri ver Snagason, who is on a rescue mission northwards. They battle mercenaries and undead beings, as Jalan seeks ways to break the spell and run away home. They even – briefly – encounter the Broken Empire protagonist Jorg on the way, along with a few other characters from that series.

This is the UK cover - the one I got - and in my view better than the US cover.
This is the UK cover – the one I got – and in my view better than the US cover.

It is difficult to review this book without comparison to the Broken Empire series. Where Jorg was violent and ambitious, the narration of Prince of Fools via Jalan’s point of view has more fun to it. Wittier and with a lively frankness at times. For those who frowned at Jorg’s darkness, Jalan’s morality may be more appealing; he is no golden paragon, but he does not have Jorg’s murderous ambition. That’s not to say he’s any less driven – just in different directions. I find Jalan an enjoyable character to follow, fun in many respects, with a depth to his personality that lends him interest and promises that the remainder of The Red Queen’s War will be just as good.

While Jalan himself doesn’t match Jorg for darkness, the book overall does. Lawrence has developed some very sinister undead beings that inspire horror on more than one level. Their inclusion lends the plot great menace and reiterates what was revealed in the Broken Empire trilogy, that the world in which these stories are set is a very dark, broken one indeed.

With a smaller core cast and a strong secondary character, I felt that Lawrence did better than he did in the Broken Empire series in showing the personalities of characters beside the protagonist. Snorri’s personality came through very well, both the highs and lows of his character – such that it’s clear that he has as much depth to him as Jalan.

The plot was strong, with a sense of direction from the outset that gave the story the feeling of there being a definite goal, even if it wasn’t initially clear what or where the goal was. The events that paved the plot’s path were neither predictable nor dull, but made sense in the context of the story and kept things moving, while revealing character for both the key figures. The story ended well, with action and menace, darkness and lightness, and the promise of fresh adventure and different kinds of challenges in the next book.

For someone who has read the Broken Empire, there were some references back to that series, without taking the story off course to allow for them. A few little references to things outside that series, too, gave reward to wider readers of fantasy, or even anyone aware even of general culture, again in a manner which did not detract from the story or characters but which would produce a laugh. I won’t spoil them, but I did enjoy the circus sign and the name of the longboat they travel on.

Overall I rate Prince of Fools 10/10. I cannot find fault with it. Well paced, populated with interesting and varied characters and in particular a protagonist with depth, a plot with adventure sometimes exciting and sometimes dark – and occasionally both. A world which grows in depth and darkness with every chapter. And promise that The Red Queen’s War will continue to possess the same strength and enjoyment as it continues.

On Writing Every Day

One piece of advice that gets thrown around a lot is this:

Write every day.

I’ve tried that. A lot of people have, I suspect. And yet I don’t write daily. Sure, I have done this last week as I’ve been taking part in the One Hour Story challenge, but that’s been a short run, just seven days of which two remain. Most of the time, my writing comes in fits and bursts, a thousand words here, a couple of hundred there, the odd day with several thousand words, several days with none and a few where a sentence is all I can manage.

Continue reading On Writing Every Day

Review: Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

As the third and final instalment of Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series, Emperor of Thorns brings the series to a fitting close. The story continues to follow Jorg, the young anti-hero in his efforts to achieve his life’s dream of becoming emperor, while contending with the rise of the Dead King and rivals to the Empire throne.

Emperor of Thorns cover

Continue reading Review: Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

King of Thorns Giveaway winners

Last week I posted the Giveaway for a signed paperback of King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. Now it’s time to announce the winner. There have been some brilliant responses, and I recommend you go and check them out in the comments.

The suggestions included towers that reach high into the sky, strange architecture and scientific marvels – exactly the sort of stuff that would inspire wonder and confusion in people who don’t understand our own world.

I have picked the winners – a very difficult task. So, without further ado…

Continue reading King of Thorns Giveaway winners

Giveaway: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

A few weeks ago I reviewed King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence and gave it a 9/10 (and I also reviewed the first book in the Broken Empire series, Prince of Thorns, and gave it 9/10). Well guess what? Mark has offered up some signed paperbacks of King of Thorns for bloggers to give away. Isn’t that awesome?

NOTE 15 June 2013: This contest is now closed.

Continue reading Giveaway: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Review: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

King of Thorns is the second in Mark Lawrence‘s Broken Empire Series, following on from Prince of Thorns (which I reviewed here). It tells the continuing story of Jorg, now a king as the title implies, showing two stories running parallel – one set only months after the end of the preceding book, where Jorg sets out once more on a quest for answers and hope, and finds more than he bargained for; the other about four years later, and centres around a battle in which one of Jorg’s rivals for the Empire’s throne seeks to defeat Jorg at his castle, and Jorg and his followers do their darndest to stop them.

King of Thorns

Like its predecessor, this is not a book for the faint of heart, or those who believe that protagonists should be towards the white end of the shades of grey spectrum.

Continue reading Review: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence tells the story of Jorg, a teenaged prince who has left home to run with rogues to take revenge for his mother’s death. Narrator Jorg is hardly the traditional fantasy prince, nor a traditional protagonist; he’s an evil little sadist, but somehow oddly compelling as a protagonist.

I found Prince of Thorns incredibly compelling, difficult to put down – I even took my Kindle to work more than once so I could read it at lunch time. Lawrence has created a strong narrative voice, dripping with Jorg’s personality. There’s some great characterisation too – of Jorg in particular, but his perception of each of the other characters is well established.

Continue reading Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence