This is a review of “Prince of Fools” by Mark Lawrence.
Jalan Kendeth is happy being a cad and a coward and tenth in line for the throne. He doesn’t want to get involved in his grandmother’s plans and especially not the plans of the Silent Sister. But unfortunately that is exactly what happens, bringing a big, dangerous viking warrior along with it. Along their journey and their adventures Jal slowly glimpses the truth behind everything: it’s all a chessboard and the Red Queen and the Dead King move the pieces.
A rich world full of history and people. It is full of lands and countries only slightly marred by Jal’s first person view of things. There is high stakes adventure and traveling and fighting the undead in epic underdog fights. There is a spell that binds the two main characters together that is beyond powerful. All the hallmarks of a great adventure book.
Snorri is the total opposite of Jal, perfectly viking in every imagined way. Excellent warrior and father with a wealth of knowledge. He is almost a bit too perfect, but his personal story makes him believable. He is the most sympathetic character in the entire book so far, and he is the one who drives the story onwards. Snorri also takes Jal’s accidental heroics to be real bravery, almost naively in a way, but as of now it is unknown if this is what Snorri really thinks or if he is simply playing along in order to have Jal continue to stay by his side.
Jal is such a bastard and a coward who is predisposed to think badly of everyone and every place that isn’t welcoming him with open arms. Which is everywhere. Altogether it is a fresh view of a character considering that he does stick to this attitude all throughout the book. It comes through really clearly in the story, so much so that it is almost pushed down the reader’s throat. Just a bit too much pushing and claiming of cowardice. It is humorous but also gets a bit annoying because he does not seem to have a really big evolution arc as a character in this book, his changes are barely noticeable by the end. They are there, but barely. One can only hope for more changes in the sequel.
I haven’t read the other three books that Lawrence has written, the Broken Kingdoms series that started with “Prince of Thorns“. Therefore I was a bit disappointed that this world was so close to the real world with names and places and religion. I also think that the stint when Jal and Snorri ended up at the same castle as Jorg Ancrath from the aforementioned series of books, was far too long. It dragged out and, as far as I can see, it didn’t bear much or any importance on the rest of the plot. That seems to be normal in this book: things drag out a little bit too much, and there is a bit of confusion about the family tree with the Silent Sister, the Red Queen and a cripple of an uncle.
Generally speaking though, it is a good book with enough adventure and humour from Jal’s side to make it worth reading.
I’m pretty certain that I will read the sequel when it shows up.