You may be wondering how I am reviewing a book that is not due to be published for several months. The truth is, I couldn’t wait.
I’ve written about Mark Lawrence before. I reviewed the first book in this series, Prince of Thorns, on my blog a couple years ago. I enjoyed it so much I happily offered quotes to Mark’s publishers to be used on the second volume, King of Thorns, even before I’d had a chance to read it. I secured an advance copy of KoT, but again was too busy to get to it until after the publication date.
You can see my King of Thorns review here, but the tl:dr version is I loved it. Loved it so much that despite the fact I often counsel eager readers that anticipation for a book can be a special pleasure in and of itself, I set about pulling strings to get a copy of Emperor. I knew the book was written, though advance reads and Netgalleys still some time away.
This is one of the places where being a published author living in NY can pay off. I know pretty much the whole staff at Ace/Roc, the imprint of Penguin that publishes Mark. They often ask me to blurb new authors. But this time, to no avail. The book was still in raw manuscript, without even a copyedit, and they were reluctant to release it in that form. I then tried Voyager, the UK publisher we both share. Again a fail.
So I went right to the source. I have met Mark twice, been to his home, and shared many a correspondence with him. Through a combination of cajoling, false promises of friendship, and a little emotional blackmail, I wore him down enough to secure a word document, swearing to keep it secret and safe, deleting as I read so there would be no chance it might get out before its time. Indeed, the manuscript has been returned to the digital ether, so don’t ask.
I’m not one for spoilery reviews, especially so far before publication, but that need not stop me from telling you to drop whatever else you’re reading and start the Broken Empire trilogy. If you’ve already read the first two, the third is worth pre-ordering, or marking your calendar to buy in-store on release day. First week sales can make or break an author’s career, and Mark deserves to see his star rise.
In Emperor, we return to the character of Jorg, an amoral, violent, selfish protagonist, who nevertheless is posessed of an impressive charm and the soul of a poet. Told in the first person, Jorg’s recounting of horrid events, conflicting emotions, and even the everyday pains and pleasures of life is told in a vivid prose filled with profound reflection and brilliant metaphor. Every sentence is carefully crafted, a work of art and a pleasure to read.
As with King of Thorns, the story weaves through different times in Jorg’s life. One might say “past” and “present”, though those are in some ways meaningless terms when speaking of the life of a fictional character set in a fictional world. In the “present”, Jorg continues his path toward the Empire Throne, the last hope of uniting the broken remnants of humanity to single purpose once more. Though of course, Jorg does not want the throne for such lofty reasons. In truth, he does not know what he would do with it should he win. He just hates being told he cannot have something. On his way, he struggles with the kernels of real family for the first time since his childhood, fearing that caring too deeply will make him weak, and vulnerable to his enemies.
The “past” of the story is no less compelling, providing background and context for the struggles in the “present” as Lawrence strips away the garments covering his world and letting us at last have a good long look at the underlying philosophy, magic and technology that makes it tick.
Lawrence fills the last book of his series with unexpected twists and turns, and an ending I don’t think readers are at all likely to predict. I certainly didn’t.
Broken Empire was an amazing series, and I eagerly anticipate Lawrence’s next literary effort, whatever it may be.