Prince of Fools (The Red Queen's War)
by Mark Lawrence
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425268780
Date: 03 June 2014 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Jalan is not your typical protagonist in an epic fantasy. Jalan is a coward. As tenth in line for the throne, he is a royal coward. His fears rule his actions. He is also selfish, conceited, and delusional. Definitely not what one expects from ones hero. Yes, Jalan is also a hero. He ran right into a situation where he had no choice but to fight and his fears propelled him to legendary status.
Jalan's fears relate to his ability to see that which shouldn't be seen. He can see the Silent Sister that advises his grandmother, the Red Queen. The schemes of this hidden woman start him on a quest for freedom that may help him find that which he has lost.
His boon companion is a northern barbarian named Snorri. Snorri is everything that Jalan isn't. He is fearless in battle and has a purpose in life. His purpose will pull Jalan across the world and into a battle that he wants nothing to do with, but needs to fight to break the spell in which he is entangled.
During their travels across the Broken Empire, they meet some of the characters introduced in the Broken Empire Trilogy. The action takes place at times concurrently with those of Prince of Thorns. In truth, Jorg does make a brief appearance.
So far, I like Jalan more than Jorg. I think that this will be the case for many readers, as everyone understands fear and being ruled by them. Not everyone is a sociopath like Jorg. This alone makes Jalan more relatable. Additionally, Lawrence opens up a second character Snorri. Throughout the novel we learn more about Snorri and his motivation. In much greater detail than the Katherine material in King of Thorns.
As part of a series, not all the loose ends are wrapped up. There is a conclusion to the current action, but a lot more left hanging. More so than in between the Broken Empire novels. The loose ends draw readers to the next book and shows the development of Lawrence as a writer, keeping his readers wanting more. Mark Lawrence's novels are worth reading. I'd heard that from people I trust, and I am glad I listened.
This novel is written from the first person perspective, as was Lawrence's earlier series. Even though it is set in the same world as the Broken Empire Trilogy, readers do not need to have read the earlier works to enjoy this one. In fact, I read Prince of Fools first. It was good enough that I immediately read Prince of Fools. I am still working my way through the rest of the series. I was able to follow the action. In truth, I am not sure I would have been able to handle Jorg first.