I don’t usually do spoilery reviews, but once you get to the third book in a trilogy, I think there is little point in shielding the reader from the story. Anyone who hasn’t read Prince of Thorns won’t want to read this anyway – and I think it would be nice to delve into the reasons why I liked this trilogy so much.
So, consider yourself warned – only those who have read Emperor of Thorns should continue!
Jorg is a dark character – the most grim of the grimdarks. The book does not shy away from this. Jorg is not a hero.
Or is he?
The Prince was poison – filled with the dreams of mages and thorns. The King was a little better, for he knew how to hide his thoughts from those who would manipulate them. The Emperor is the best version of them all. Having burnt away his necromancy taint and having killed Sageous, he is now his own man.
Or is he?
Katherine still haunts his dreams. All his memories are free now and she has seen them. Why then does she follow him to the Congression? And what about Chella and The Dead King? And let’s not forget Fexler. They all have an interest in Jorg. They have been watching; calculating.
We find out that the King was perhaps better than we gave him credit for. He already knew the importance of the King of Arrow and what the ‘builders’ machines were planning. His plans now seem more audacious, more risky, more thoughtful. And that’s perhaps why this trilogy will stay with me. I already want to reread it. I want to know what he knew and when he knew it. Given the present day/five years earlier structure, I’m not entirely sure. That’s not a criticism. I enjoyed how the two time narratives linked.
If I delve further into what I enjoyed, I’d say there are three aspects to the trilogy that are already mulling over in my mind:
Most post apocalyptic stories are set shortly after said apocalyptic event.
The Broken Empire trilogy is set hundreds of years after this one. It’s mysterious at first, not immediately obvious who ‘the builders’ are or what happened. However, by the time we reach Emperor of Thorns, the clues align and we get a deeper conversation with Felix, who explains what went wrong and how scientists changed the world.
Desire can now change reality. This is why Katherine can dream-walk, why necromancers can bring back the dead. This is essentially why magic exists.
However, the machines (the artificial intelligence created by the Builders) are still working and they are debating what to do. They’ve realised they need humans to maintain them, but have also discovered that the changes to reality are growing, the wheel is moving faster and faster. One AI faction wants to use the humans, another believes they must detonate another nuclear explosion to wipe them all out.
Jorg uncovers these plans. And so what will he do with this information? He set Gelleth alight without a second thought. Will he let the whole world burn, or will he try to save it?
2) THE STORY
The Broken Empire is like The Matrix in a futuristic dark age.
It’s a Greek tragedy. A love story in parts.
We have a teenage King Lear. A darker Macbeth.
I found the story very intriguing. Jorg starts off as an extremely difficult character. Not a likeable one. His band of brothers are worse. But within the trilogy, there is a story of redemption, a story of a boy who becomes a man and wants to be a better one that his father.
Jorg remains detached from his emotions, anger perhaps the only one that rises when not wanted, but for all that there are moments, especially with his son, that he tries – and of course he makes the ultimate sacrifice. Not just to save his son and those he loves, but for everyone. He and Fexler find a third way to fix the world – and after not putting any stock in prophets, it is two Ancraths who turn back the wheel after all.
3) THE PROSE
I can’t praise this enough.
Throughout the trilogy, the prose has blown me away. It is beautiful – sometimes the only thing to contrast with the darkness of the story they convey.
It’s not purple, but it’s not sparse either. It dances somewhere in the middle. The first person POV is used with absolute precision. Jorg is not a nice person, true, but some of his thoughts are so deep that they make me stop reading for a moment.
And this is my truth – there are not many books that have ever made me do that.