The Broken Empire Trilogy: A Brief Review
|Cover of the final book in the series.|
This summer I read The Broken Empire trilogy (2011-2013) by Mark Lawrence. I enjoyed the futuristic-medieval setting and the irreverent Jorg, but I appreciated most Lawrence’s faithfulness to his art.
Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath watched as his mother and younger brother were killed in front of him at age nine. He leaves his father's castle, intent on revenge, with a band of thugs - brothers by the blood of their victims. By age thirteen, he is their leader, and he plans to b king by 15, and to take the title Emperor shortly afterward. To Jorg, life and death are a game, and he cannot lose. Even against dark magic and betrayal his will and his wits never waver.
Lawrence spun an interesting setting without allowing his story to get bogged down by world-building. The result is a thought-provoking locale that supports the story. The reader is slowly led to understand that Jorg’s world is our world after a future catastrophe. The technological advancements of that world and their impact on Jorg’s time period remain relevant to the story and lend credibility to the tale. While the idea of a future people succeeding in making human desires matter more in the world resulting in the manifestation of magic and religious power based on human will is not wholly original, it is well crafted here.
Jorg is an anti-hero. He is utterly lacking in morals or ethics. He generally kills anyone he dislikes, even if they are members of his own band of thugs, and his crimes when the story begins include not only murder, but pillaging, theft, and rape as well. I think you would be hard pressed to argue that he changes a great deal over the course of the trilogy.
However, Lawrence has used the traditional fantasy device of fate to encourage his readers to invest in his corrupt protagonist. Jorg will win, no matter the odds, no matter the ethical implications, and readers want to see how. This kind of assurance about the end result allows the reader to suspend the worrying of their own conscience, and yet Jorg’s willingness to risk all and do all to win continues to surprise as the reader is unlikely to be themselves a debase little monster enough to expect it.
Of course, we ourselves cannot go riding through a kingdom killing anyone who rubs our fur the wrong way and force our way into political power past a disapproving father, mind control, necromancy, and amnesia. Oh, and a number of perfectly nice people. But it is a kind of entertainment to root for someone who can and who you are certain will succeed one way or another.
I also greatly appreciated Lawrence’s comments at the end of the trilogy, explaining why he would not continue to write stories about Jorg. He strikes me as a writer who understands that choosing what not to write is just as important. As a result, his main character is clearly developed throughout the trilogy because Lawrence does not need to maintain a recognizable character throughout a drawn-out series. Furthermore, the story ends with a satisfying element of finality that other fantasy series lack, as authors try to leave themselves open to continuing the story.