Ring the bells, throw the confetti, and get your best hat, because we’ve got to celebrate.

It’s a five star review!

My logic here is that I read King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns essentially as one book. As soon as one was finished, I went onto the next, and read it like I’d stolen it. Hence, one review, and in the future I intend to review all series this way, if they follow a significant overarching narrative as well as the same characters.

I shall be honest, and confess that I am one of the pickiest readers I have ever met. Getting a five star review from me is like getting human service from a government department. I seldom rate books as top-notch because most books, in my experience, don’t have it all. I try (please note my emphasis) to read two books a week. The number of five star ratings I expect to give in a year can be counted on one hand.

Therefore, cutting to the chase, this trilogy had as much dazzle as an explosion in a glitter factory.

My reaction:

Blackadder the Third (1987)

Oh, yes.

This series is so fundamentally different to anything I’ve read in the fantasy genre that I could not help but be impressed. Jorg Ancrath is a hideously twisted soul, which he proves on multiple occasions. He murders, abuses, steals, cheats and ruins. He desecrates lives, leaves ashes in his wake, and does he apologise? Not really. Because Jorg is that rare thing in literature; an evil man entirely aware of his own monstrosity, but also a man I wanted to see redeemed.

I do not know how Lawrence made it work. I know only that I have never encountered an antihero written so compellingly. The hunger with which I read for Jorg’s grande finale was positively bestial, and I left this series with the feeling of intense satisfaction only a worthwhile ending can provide.

The actual writing in the first book was a bit ropey, in my opinion, but sharpened up in the second and third. We aren’t talking Tolkien here, but we are talking solid, quality prose, mint characterisation throughout, and an interesting plot. The holy trinity of a winning novel was delivered.

And there was more. Emotional depth? In truth a little patchy, but when it was there it was there. Do you think you can’t love a character whilst believing they are a wretched, pitiable dog? Think again.

Secondary characters interesting in their own right? Check that off the list. Makin: the bomb. Miana: a nuclear missile of a woman, and proof that just because the protagonist isn’t in love with his wife, it doesn’t mean she can serve as nothing besides a sexual barricade. This book explores the marriage in sadly superficial depth, however the romantic elements of this series form an interesting and unpredictable sub-plot.

The sexual politics as a general point are innovative for a Medieval setting, and surprisingly realistic.

The setting as well! It’s so visual, and again different and daring without coming off as ridiculous.

Gushing fount of praise run dry, I will concede that this trilogy wasn’t perfect. In places the plot is a little far-fetched, but is there such a thing as a perfect book? I think it is as hard to find as a twelve-horned unicorn.

What I will state is that this trilogy was consistently mesmerising, pacey, and something close to a faultless reading experience. I call that frightening, wonderful, and inspiring. This trilogy is a game-changer, and that rare combination: mind-opening and emotional, whilst full of action and adventure.

I don’t think I need to tell you whether I recommend this trilogy or not, but if you enjoyed this spiel, you might like my (spoiler-free) Prince of Thorns review. Find it here.