I don’t know why it took me so long to get to Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Fools, first in a new series (The Red Queen’s War). Especially when I quite liked his quite unlikable Jorg Ancrath – hero of the Broken Empire series – and wanted to see what Lawrence gives us next.Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
Series: Red Queen's War #1
Published by Penguin Books on June 3rd 2014
Purchase at IndieBound | Amazon | The Book Depository | Barnes & Noble
The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.
The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.
After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.
In Prince of Fools we have ourselves another disreputable Prince. Jalan Kendeth is a wastrel and a scoundrel, so far down the line for the throne that he’s decided it’s better to do as he likes than to be more than he wants to be responsible for.
It’s almost too bad that he’s so bloody entertaining. Actually, it’s a good thing he’s so bloody entertaining because if he weren’t he’d be another Jorg, and that’s already been done. Rather, Jalan’s rather single-minded pursuit of life in all its pleasures, is almost admirable. And it provides a pretty entertaining backdrop to the adventure he goes on.
Not that it’s all fun and games. I mean, people die, after all. There’s an icky curse stuck to Jalan and his Viking companion Snorri (how they meet is all “what’s in it for me” on Jalan’s part), an army of frozen dead being gathered way up north, and our anti-hero and the giant warrior are on their way to do something about vengeance and such.
I know, I’m being silly. But in a nutshell Prince of Fools is a story about a young man who learns there’s more to life than he wants, that he cares about more than his own skin, and that it’s bloody freezing cold up north. (He obviously never knew the Starks. The “Winter is Coming” Starks, not the superhero one…) It’s also a story of a man on a quest for redemption, for being powerless while his family and his people die.
Prince of Fools is a fun fantasy read, with plenty of dark and gore for those who can’t imagine their fantasy as “fun”. I loved the snarkiness and the characters, and I even liked how it ended (or not). I’m looking forward to checking out The Liar’s Key, coming in June!
drey’s rating: Excellent!
Have you read Prince of Fools? What did you think?