Hi All and welcome back to the blog!
Today we will dive into Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence, the first installment of the Red Queen’s War (I gave an overview of the series here!), by Mark Lawrence
Edition Kindle Edition, Reprint, 367 pages
Published on June 3rd 2014 by Ace (first published June 2013)
Genre: Epic Fantasy
An amazing journey of two men venturing through the world to see the will of magic being used, bonding with their fight against the enemy. And of course, the Red Queen!
Aka 4.5 out of 5 (5 being the “awesome” score!)
** spoiler alert **
What to say about this book in a nutshell? It is just great!
This is a great start to the Red Queen’s War trilogy and I believe Mark Lawrence just nailed it yet again!
So what is great about it, since I keep using this adjective to define the book (I agree, I should expand the vocabulary a bit!)? The list and the content of my analysis can be extremely (maybe excruciatingly) long. But to save everyone’s interest and sanity (especially mine!) I am picking some of the most interesting aspects in my opinion. Yet, if you want to read more about it, I took so many notes while reading the book you cannot believe the number of pages I filled with it and I cannot wait to share my enthusiasm about this!
1. The plot. This book is actually a journey and I clearly was not expecting that (I have to admit I did not research much about the specifics and I avoided comments like it was the plague!). The journey itself is the physical aspect of the journey of the main characters, I believe. Well, let’s say it is the journey of their relationship. I do not believe there is a great personal journey – although brush with death should lead to that in the next books! – but the information and knowledge gathering the main characters do during the book is the starting point for their development!
Another extremely fascinating factor is the map of the world. I have to confess I normally do not pay too much attention to maps in books (I might have to improve there because there is so much I lose) but in this case the journey was so well described – and especially the environment described and, to some extent, the name used for the cities throughout the journey – that I envisioned a European like continent. I ended up checking the map and I was so hyped to realize that the map resembled the European continent and the cultures and traditions of the areas. To me this was extremely clever and added an element of beauty and familiarity which was priceless to me.
2. The main characters – Prince Jalan Kendeth and Snorri ver Snagason. They almost are yin and yang, different and complementary and helpful to each other. The book even gives white magic to Prince Jalan and black magic to Snorri. Possibly yin and yang in a war environment but the dynamic is well structured, so much I could not stop reading. To make a superficial example of their interaction: Prince Jalan (or only Jal according to Snorri) spends the whole book explaining his traits as a coward. Snorri, instead, is a fierce and violent warrior, ready to jump into any battle. This leads to friction and incredible battle scenes. It is just a great duo and I cannot wait to read more about them because the end of the book switches the magic between the main characters. Jal and the light were mostly in a quarrel and Jal would not waste time to ignore his enlightened counselor (Baraquel). Snorri, instead has a dark counsellor and Snorri does not trust her, Aslaug, Loki’s daughter. In essence, I cannot wait for the next installment to see what will the new structure look like and whether the characters will conflict at this point or if they will still be joined!
3. Norse mythology! Norse mythology is a great source of inspiration for many story tellers (similar to the Greek and Roman mythology) but I have to confess that besides the Thor stories of the Marvel Comics I have not had much exposure to it, yet it and the Vikings always had a spell on me, so much that I have been looking for a view to it. And I think that Mark Lawrence found a great balance between using Norse myths in a clever way and not overwhelm the reader with Norse myths and knowledge. The book also introduces an historical clash between Catholic religion (well, some different version of what happens in real life, for instance the pope is a woman!) and traditional religions in local areas, such as the Norse mythology. In a nutshell, I could not wait to see the impact of the Norse myths in the book but I was not confused by any of it and it did not require prior knowledge of Norse mythology!
4. Side (but extremely relevant) characters. I am about to say something potentially controversial yet I almost was more in love with some side characters rather than the main characters. Well, I am very worried about the wellbeing of Snorri but I am more interested in the Silent Sister and the Red Queen over Jal. In addition to that, the journey of the main characters is really a particular aspect in a much much bigger war. In particular, page 230 contains a great description of the war the Red Queen is actually fighting against the Dead King and the Blue Lady. The book does not expand too much about those characters (better said, I really hope I did not miss potential expansions!). “A grey hand pushed its pawns forward – it felt the Silence Sister’s touch and stepped forward black to white. Behind her loomed another, more huge, deepest crimson, the Red Queen playing the longest game. A dead black hand reached across the board, high above it a larger hand, midnight blue, guiding. I could almost see the strings. Together the Lady Blue and the Dead King advanced a knight (…)”.
Another element that I enjoyed and scared me at the same time, it is the use by the Dead King and Lady Blue of the unborn. It is a horror element that is effective and really scary here and again, not to mention emotional for certain characters in the book. It really broke my heart at the end of the book the last fight of Snorri and Jal. It was a very sad moment yet it added value and intensity to the relationship between the two heroes (well, I would qualify Snorri as a hero, Jal is instead far from the standard).
5. Point of view and pace of the book I really like that this book differs from the current trend and it has only one point of view. We journey with Jalan and view the world from his perspective, his sarcastic view on the world and the events that happen around him. I had a laugh now and again when he was trying to come with bailing out plans (spoiler, none of those actually work!). In essence, I find it is a very clever approach and, again, a different approach. One last point that is extremely relevant in my opinion is the side of the book and how well written it is; it will glue you to it until you read the last word of the book, so be sure to plan ahead and have some time available to fully dedicate to the book!
I am really looking forward to reading more about this story and I really recommend the book to anyone and especially those who like fantasy, journeys and Norse mythology!
Have you read “Prince of fools”? Did you like it? Would you recommend it? If not, what are your thoughts about giving it a go?