Guest Blog – King of Thorns – The Allure of Jorg

Today our guest blog is from Marc Aplin from Fantasy Faction.

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The Allure of Jorg Ancrath

When Prince of Thorns was released in 2011, and the character of Jorg Ancrath was exposed to the world, a wave tore through book review sites and genre blogs. This book, by a previously unknown author, Mark Lawrence, rejected many of the established tropes and pushed at boundaries that readers within the fantasy genre were not used to being tested.

That’s because there is no hero in Prince of Thorns, the protagonist does not seek redemption and in fact, if our protagonist achieves his objective, the whole world will fall under the command of an evil, evil young man. In fact, what made the first book so damned special was that you never knew what Jorg was going to do next, because he had absolutely no conscience, no moral compass. As a reader, you couldn’t rely on restraint, disgust or fear to hold him back.

So, I ask the question, readers, what on earth has propelled King of Thorns, the sequel to a book so dark and downright disturbing, to the top of fantasy readers’ most anticipated book lists? What is it about the character of Jorg and the setting of the Broken Empire that has propelled this debut author’s work, according to Amazon’s sales ranks, into the top 10 best selling fantasy books in the world? Before we begin I will offer you a bit of comfort and tell you that it’s probably not because you’re attracted to reading about death and despair (note: I did say probably!).

To begin with, being in the first person Prince of Thorns offers us a close relationship to our protagonist, Jorg. We therefore see the world through Jorg’s eyes and everything that we see includes, in some way, a thought, feeling or opinion from him. It is for this reason that we connect with Jorg because, essentially, when we pick up the book we become him. Writers such as Patrick Rothfuss and Douglas Hulick have said that writing in the first person for a great deal of time tends to leave an author stuck thinking in their characters’ voice. I find a very similar effect happening to me, as a reader. If I read a book in the first person, such as Prince of Thorns or Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind, I’ll find my own thoughts and even word choice resembling the voices of Jorg or Kvothe. Therefore, already, we can see a kind of bond between the reader and the protagonist being formed.

There is also the fact that Jorg has the unfair advantage of being able to tell us his story through biased opinion. Now, I should say that Jorg doesn’t take this opportunity very often. Unlike many protagonists he doesn’t ‘whine’ at the reader and tell them life is unfair. Rather, he sees life as a game and will often lighten up a terrible scene with a clever quip, such as: “Few things worth having can be got easily” or “Water! Water! It’s always water with the dying. Strange, it’s killing that gives me a thirst.” You quickly find yourself smiling or nodding along to Jorg’s way of thinking. The darkness is still there, but you accept it because he delivers it so elegantly, so amusingly and with such matter of factness.

The following revelation is often the most shocking to readers when they begin to reflect upon the book and, initially, may even deny it was the case until they think about it (so – think about it before denying it, reader!). As the book progresses and we begin to understand Jorg, we begin, dare I say it, to feel empathy towards him. Here is a prince that was set to one day be a king until his mother was torn away from him, raped and killed alongside his baby brother. Worst of all, he was forced to watch their deaths and expected to just forget about them. Can we blame him for not letting that experience go? Can we blame him for wanting some kind of revenge? Can we blame him for not wanting the people he sees as responsible for this atrocity sitting on the throne? (Note: perhaps skip the remainder of this paragraph if you’ve not read the first book). I don’t think Jorg will trust a family member ever again. After having found out that his uncle and father had an understanding about and involvement in his mother’s death – how could he?

The result is that you find yourself asking: does this young man who was forced, as a child, to watch his mother killed and raped deserve a shot at redemption? Is anyone ever so bad that we have to write them off forever? Would Jorg even accept redemption if it was offered to him? Perhaps we don’t think he does deserve it, but should his father and uncle be allowed to get away with their part in his mother’s and brother’s murders? If you don’t think they should, then you need to realise that, in the Broken Empire, if Jorg doesn’t do something no one else will. What I find myself asking when reading Prince of Thorns is: if I was in Jorg’s position and in Jorg’s world, how would I have grown up?

For me, the most chilling thing about Prince of Thorns was that I found it very, very difficult to hate Jorg. I didn’t like the things he did – but I could understand him and he won me over with his charm and charisma. Something about that shook me and I think that’s what makes the character of Jorg Ancrath so powerful.

Prince of Thorns is available now from all good book shops.

King of Thorns is published on Thursday 16th August 2012 (UK)

5 thoughts on “Guest Blog – King of Thorns – The Allure of Jorg

  1. Mark: I expect the fragrance would be hint of blood and rotting corpses *yum!*

    Debbie: I do agree that there is an element of liking the fact he is bad, but I honestly don’t think that is why Jorg is such a popular character. Bad characters that are bad to the bone have little attraction to us, because essentially they cannot change. They are ‘bad’ and that is that. Same as characters that are too good and bound to their morals, they are boring.

    Mhairi: Certainly there is a hint of ‘vicarious enjoyment’, but if that was all we were offered by Mark – we’d give up after a couple hundred pages. I honesty believe that if we didn’t think Jord ‘could’ change and ‘could’ be good – the book wouldn’t be where it is. There is only so much evil you can read about. Essentially, Mhari, you’ve revealed that you support Jorg and feel he is, in some way, just and if that is the case – surely he deserves redemption? But then, if you do, do you accept the means he went about it? Killing so many innocents along the way?

    Paul: Not sure that is true, sir. Mark is certainly an amazing writer – but I don’t think Jorg or the story come second to his writing. They are equals. What Mark does well is use his poetic prose to enhance the depth of the book and give beauty to the destruction and devastation within.

  2. Dear Voyager – please can you now launch ‘The Allure of Jorg’ a new fragrance for men. I think it would sell well & am prepared to direct the TV advertising campaign if I must.

  3. Mark’s not only an amazing storyteller but Jorg is an amalgam of traits. And us being human we want him to be good, but we’re secretly glad he’s not. In book two Mark gave us a bit better insight into Jorg I think, or maybe we’re just understanding him more because he’s having adult thoughts now. I can’t wait to see how it get’s wrapped up. Book one won the best of 2011 on my review site and unless there’s a multitude of outstanding novels coming out the rest of 2012 book two will earn a place on my best of list too.

  4. Do you think there’s also a hint of vicarious enjoyment about it? Like it or not, we’ve all been wronged at some point or other. I find myself loving that Jorg is so upfront about his desire to get his own back on his own family and the way he doesn’t shy away from what has to be done to achieve this goal. Few people in our reality have the freedom to act that way, unless they wish to end up in jail or dead.

  5. Mark writes well. That’s why the book gets talked about.

    Granted, his subject matter and Jorg himself are a big part of that, but if the book was mediocre in its writing, no one would care.

    But far from that, I really liked Prince of Thorns, and was lucky to read an ARC of King of Thorns too. No sophomore slump! No indeed…

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