This was one of my most anticipated books of 2013 after reading Prince of Thorns and King of Thorns last year and wow did it live up to expectations! It takes a certain kind of book to keep me reading until 1:00am and this is one of them.
Bravery is a quality that I regard highly when it comes to novels, and The Broken Empire trilogy is oozing with it, both in terms of Lawrence's writing and the infamous protagonist, Jorg Ancrath. I was so pleased to see that even though some goodness and maturity had crept into Jorg as he grew older, he retained his ruthless and somewhat sociopathic tendencies that so endeared me to him. There is something so satisfying about being constantly caught off guard by a protagonist, particularly one written in first person. There are some truly delicious scenes (almost always involving a smattering of gruesome murder) that got my adrenaline going every time.
The structure of Emperor of Thorns is similar to it's predecessors, alternating between present and past events in a way that expertly reveals facts just in time to be of use, while eliminating premature spoilers. Some events in EoT take place before those in KoT and are used to flesh out and explain the shock ending to book two. Genius!
The world building in this installment introduces much more information about this post-apocalyptic Earth, creating stronger links to the now ancient past before 'The Day of A Thousand Suns'. This ticked so many boxes for me and my obsession with anything eschatological. Lawrence becomes more generous with detail and the story begins to rely more heavily on technology as well as real-world references, particularly geographical ones. There is even a comical inclusion involving a janitor.
I did feel like to elements of the story that were introduced in this book and then became crucial to the conclusion arrived a little late to be fully credible, such as Kai Summerson and the 'sworn'. The conclusion was undeniably fantastic with some great choices and balance by Lawrence, although I couldn't help but feel it was a little too fantastical a climax for a story that was so grounded and gritty. I also questioned the level of skill and intelligence some characters, Jorg included, acquired at such a ridiculously young age.
The Broken Empire trilogy has undoubtedly become of my favourite series to date, up there with the works of Brandon Sanderson and George R. R. Martin. I was constantly impressed with the wickedly fast pace, the humour and wit, the fascinating story in an epic post-apocalyptic world and most of all, arguably the most engaging protagonist I have ever encountered. Here's to you Mark Lawrence!