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[Reading Group] February 2014: Prince of Thorns Discussion

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Philip Overby, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Spoilers! :)

    Actually, if that turns out to be true, I don't know if that would be cool or completely disappointing.
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I'd be quite put out.
     
  3. ACSmyth

    ACSmyth Minstrel

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    I've only started this today. Blame the length of time it took me to get through Perdido Street Station for my tardiness. I'm aiming to catch up over the next couple of days, though. I've skipped past the later comments to avoid spoilers, so here's my chapters 1-12 thoughts.

    1. What is your feeling about the novel so far? (If you've read the whole thing, you can give your SPOILER free overview. If you're only read the required Chapters 1-12 for the first week, then you can give initial thoughts.)

    It's ok. It's Jorg that makes it different from any number of other fantasy novels. I'd read the sample on Kindle ages ago and decided not to go any further, but it was on sale for 99p before Christmas, so I figured at that price I'd snag it. At the moment, I can't see me continuing with the series, but I notice a lot of you saying you changed your mind on that as you got further through, so I'll reserve judgment. It's reading Abercrombie-ish to me, and I haven't got past book 1 of First Law either.

    2. What is your opinion of Jorg based on the first block of chapters (1-12).

    Hard as nails. Utterly ruthless. That he kills on a whim is disturbing to me. You don't need to have done something particularly bad to warrant it. Look at him the wrong way and he's likely to off you.

    3. Does the writing style appeal to you?

    After a diet of Jordan and Martin for the last couple of years, it's a relief. I'm not sure he would have got away being so description-lite in a secondary world fantasy, but I'm reading it as far-future Earth, but with a pseudo-medieval feel to it. Maybe society recovering from some apocalyptic event?

    4. How do you feel about the more controversial aspects? Did they turn you off on the novel early on or did they have no effect on your reading?

    If they'd been described in glorious Technicolor, they'd have bothered me. As it was, they were off-stage and only warranted a mention. I was far more turned off by Jordan's fixation on spanking, and Martin's breast fetish, to be honest.

    5. Did the writing draw you into the story? If so, what was it about the writing that drew you in? If not, what about the writing kept you at a distance?

    Not drawn in, exactly. I never feel inside the protagonist's head, but that's probably a good thing! It goes along at a fair clip, though, and I'm enjoying seeing the % increase quickly. It feels like even if I end up not liking it, it's not been a huge time investment.

    6. Did you respond emotionally to any part of the first block? If so, which part and why?

    No.

    7. Was there any part of the first block that dragged? If so, which?

    Didn't drag, but my heart sank at flashbacks quite so early on.

    Right. Onto the next portion now!
     
  4. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    Some follow up thoughts on Jorg.

    I think most of the disconnect between readers and Jorg's ruthlessness is misunderstanding the ruthlessness of his chosen brothers. These are not good people. In fact, they are downright evil. For Jorg to survive, he has to be harder, more ruthless, and deadlier than anyone in this lot. This is leadership by bloody virtue, not by popular vote.

    I think Mark Lawrence could have highlighted this tension. If I were his beta reader, I would suggest for some of his secondary characters to perform acts of random violence that falls outside of Jorg's knowledge, or have Jorg witness the bloody evidence of some crime.

    Second, I never bought into the father hating his son plotline. I believe the hate is sourced from Sageous. There has been plenty of dialogue eluding to such manipulations. Has anyone else noticed this?

    Finally, the necromancer's heart eating was out of left field. Although Mark's writing is naturally clean and requires little grammar editing, I do believe he needs to invest into a content editor. There is another issue I had with the second book that a content editor could have straightened out.

    But all these flaws bring up a recurring question: What makes a story great? I think this story ranks in the top tier of exceptional stories. Had the author fixed a few plot issues, they would be great. And you'll note the following stories are better than the proceeding ones.

    I'm glad for this reading group. It opened up my repertoire of authors to follow.
     
  5. SM-Dreamer

    SM-Dreamer Troubadour

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    1. Why do you feel that the king really sent Jorg away? Is it in hopes that he will die given an impossible task? Or is it to really prove himself?

    I think he sent him away to get rid of him. And if by some miracle he succeeds, all the better for the King; it’s a win-win situation for him.

    2. Do you feel like the introduction of Jane and the leucrota seemed out of left field? This definitely appears to be a low magic kind of world, but things are seeping in that don't seem normal. What are your thoughts about them?

    Not really. I started recognizing that it was a future setting in the last block, when he described Tall Castle. When he started reading the notes on Castle Red, I got hints of nuclear mutations, so while I think the leucrota are extreme, they make sense.

    3. How did you feel when some characters died on the way to the Great Stair?

    I thought the character that fell, and Jorg’s description, was funny. I didn’t bond with most of the characters, so their deaths didn’t affect me. I did feel sad when the Nuban died, as I liked him and thought that maybe he touched on Jorg’s last shred of humanity, but I understand his death. I will mention that I have vague recollection of who a character is in a general way when they're mentioned, but that I can't recall specific names later. Then again, I rarely do with secondary characters, so that's likely just me.


    4. What was the significance (to you) of Jorg eating the necromancer's heart?

    I think it was him trying to absorb the character’s power, as he indicated. Such a practice is not unusual, and while the magic of the necromancer’s threw me off a bit, once I adjusted, it seemed ok. (gross, but ok. I mean, it’s rotted, so ew…)

    I was definitely getting that sense as well, the fact that sometimes he does things without thinking and it works for him, like he’s not in control. Or maybe he just has DID :p

    I did like the scene with him and the whore; some of his comments there were funny. And I don’t so much feel a disconnect with his ruthlessness, as I just don’t like him. I get/know why he acts the way he does from a psychological standpoint, but I don’t empathize with him. I want him to succeed because he’s interesting and I side with his reasoning.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  6. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I think this makes sense, but at the same time Jorg seems to relish in this fact. He never really thinks, "I have to be more ruthless than everyone else to survive." I mean, when he "recruits" the convicts, he does it without any sort of calculating thought or anything. He just does it. That makes me think he's not just being ruthless to keep murderers by his side. It could be something from the thorn bush. I remember one character saying that he wasn't stuck in the thorn bush, that he just stayed there because he was too weak to do anything. For some reason I think the thorn bush is connected to Jorg's drastic change and not just the murder of his family.

    I prefer to imagine that the king wants Jorg to go away because he's the last semblance of his old family that he just wants to forget. It's kind of a Flowers in the Attic kind of deal (if you don't know that story, it's screwed up). If Sageous is in control of the king and something is in control of Jorg, it kind of makes me feel like the story is just one big chess game between darker powers. Not that it's a bad thing, but I prefer to think of these elements in a more humanistic way.
    Could that have been one of the "shocking moments" to show that Jorg is more ruthless and demented than Rike and the others? I mean he had to beat the hell out of Rike to teach a lesson that he shouldn't cross him. Maybe eating the necromancer heart was one of those things? There's the later part when he plans to use the nuclear stash to blow up the whole continent basically and Makin talks him out of it. It just shows that Jorg has absolutely no concern for the outcome of things. He comes off as a Joker kind of a character, just happy to see the world burn.

    I do feel this has been one of the stronger fantasy stories I've read in a while. It's not because of the supposed "grimness" or anything, it just reads so smoothly and it's never really super confusing to keep up with (the setting was the only off-putting thing at the beginning). He does something that a lot of great authors do: he doesn't teach you everything about the world at the beginning. He says "here's the situation, follow along to find out what happens." Instead of doing tons of tons of world-building, he just takes you along on this journey of vengeance. Maybe that's one thing that's engaging about the story for me. Jorg is unpredictable in his path to vengeance. He doesn't have morality or anything getting in his way, which makes him both an interesting character and one I'm interested to see what he'll do next. While I don't connect with him on any level, I didn't connect with the Joker either. That doesn't make him any less compelling.

    I think this is an excellent beginning to a series, and I can see where all the praise is coming from now. Perhaps because it's not the typical fantasy story, it can be harder to get into for some, but that's sort of why I like it. I've read tons of fantasy over the years and I can't think of many I can compare this book to.
     
  7. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    So we're at the final block now. I'm on chapter 39 I believe, so I'm a bit behind, but I'll try to get caught up.

    In the meantime, how has the final block shaped up for you? Are you encouraged to buy the sequel?

    (I'll stay away from here until I finish the book!)
     
  8. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    No. I won't be continuing the series.
     
  9. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I think I'll buy the sequel eventually. There's other stuff I want to read first, so it may be a while. I did find the method of storytelling engaging for me. I'm kind of a fan of minimalist fiction in a way though. I believe a lot of fantasy is heavily descriptive and wants to be immersive right from the get-go (what I mean is there's not loads of world-building from the beginning) I think Lawrence took a big risk with this novel and I believe it pays off since it offers kind of a different fantasy reading experience for me.
     
  10. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Yeah, I enjoyed the style. I like minimalist as well. I just didn't care much for the story.
     
  11. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I bought and read King of Thorns. I'll buy Emperor of Thorns soon. I have to say, the second book is leaps and bounds better than the first. Where Mark received a lot of complaints for his unfounded brutal story in the first one, the second book read more like a balanced story.
     
  12. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I've heard the same that the sequels get better and better. Some people even listed Emperor of Thorns as the best one in the series. I guess I tend to want to finish a series once I start it one way or another. Since I know it's a trilogy, I don't mind so much reading the others, especially since I've heard they're better than the first one.
     
  13. ACSmyth

    ACSmyth Minstrel

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    Still chugging through this. I've got The Scar as my audio book of the moment and Temeraire as my paperback "bath book", and TBH I'm more likely to pick up either of those than this. Jorg has just come back to his father's castle, so I'm waaaaaay behind. But I'll finish it, for sure.
     
  14. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    That's cool. I'm on Chapter 44 myself, so I'm closing in on the end. If anyone else wants to make closing statements about the book at this point, feel free to do so. I may have some discussion points before long.

    (P.S. I'm reading Perdido Street Station again thanks to you, AC! I also have The Scar laying around here in paperback. Is it good?)
     
  15. ACSmyth

    ACSmyth Minstrel

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    It's very different to PSS. Not set in New Crobuzon. It's set mainly on a ship, so between that and Temeraire, I keep imagining shipfuls of remade and cactus people with dragons flying overhead. I'm enjoying it, though.
     
  16. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Final Thoughts

    If you haven't finished the book, SPOILERS ahead:




    OK, did you go away yet? Here we go:


    1. What is your opinion of Corion being injected late into the story?

    2. Were Jorg's "evil" deeds being influenced by Corion throughout?

    3. So is Jorg magical in some way? He mentions being like Gog and Jane. I'm not completely sure what that means though.

    4. What did you think of the ending of the book? I think it leads in nicely to King of Thorns but I wasn't expecting it to happen that way.

    5. Did you feel the ending was paced well or did it come too quickly for your liking?

    6. If you didn't enjoy the book, can you say why? If you did enjoy the book, do you have plans to buy other books from Mark Lawrence?

    7. What did you learn as a writer from this book? (both good and bad things)

    8. Overall, were you happy with this choice for the Reading Group in February?
     
  17. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I don't remember the character well, which says a lot of my opinion. I think, however, it was the other dream witch. Again, the whole ending seemed rushed. If these mages are so powerful, they're too easily dispatched. The ending felt contrived to me. It didn't feel natural or very interesting/suspenseful.

    My guess is that it's six of one and a half dozen of the other. Jorg's a sociopath, like his father. Both are manipulated as powerful pawns by those with greater power. Hopefully the sociopath/dream witch link isn't coincidental.

    Yeah, there's something there... I think there's some link as mentioned in question 4.

    Hmmm.... I was underwhelmed. As I said before, I felt forced and rushed through the last 1/3 of the story. The ending, as a result, was a bit ho-hum for me.

    See above.

    Here's what I liked:
    1. Easy writing style.
    2. The mixture of our world elements into the story

    What I didn't like:
    1. Underdeveloped characters
    2. Elements that came out of left field in the latter third of the story
    3. Forced and over locked ending pace

    I don't know if I learned anything much as some beliefs are reaffirmed.
    1. Transparent writing works
    2. Do not force anything into a story, especially the ending
    3. Character development is important

    I'm glad I took part in the group, but I didn't care for the book overall. Looking forward to the next though.
     
  18. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    1. What is your opinion of Corion being injected late into the story?

    I don't think Corion was thrown in at the end. I think Mark Lawrence had the idea that every ruler is, in fact, manipulated by a powerful mage.

    Now that I'm considering the story after it has cooled down in my memory, I think Mark's pacing is off. Why didn't the Nubian not mention something earlier in the novel? Why didn't Rike mention his brother's death?

    Mark's stories are a great topic of discussion. I think it's a fault of the new way publishers are procuring content. They aren't putting the necessary resources into these books, especially debuts, as they should.

    I see this change in the second book. The pacing is much better (except for one scene that didn't sit well with me), and Jorg develops at a constant pace.

    2. Were Jorg's "evil" deeds being influenced by Corion throughout?

    Yes. Sageous and Corion both admit to manipulating Jorg, and even take responsibility for actions in the book.

    3. So is Jorg magical in some way? He mentions being like Gog and Jane. I'm not completely sure what that means though.

    He is. After eating the necromancer's heart, he has a the touch of undeath on his body.

    4. What did you think of the ending of the book? I think it leads in nicely to King of Thorns but I wasn't expecting it to happen that way.

    I didn't like how Jorg overcomes Corion. I felt it to be completely unrealistic. Why didn't anyone respond to the bucking horse?

    5. Did you feel the ending was paced well or did it come too quickly for your liking?

    Pacing was fine. I didn't like how it ended.

    6. If you didn't enjoy the book, can you say why? If you did enjoy the book, do you have plans to buy other books from Mark Lawrence?

    I have, and I'm glad I did. The second book is more polished than the first. I hope the third is even better.

    7. What did you learn as a writer from this book? (both good and bad things)

    I learned that I need to really reconsider my description.

    I'm realizing that writing FPoV in a fantasy world is best done from an educated, or higher class character. It would be hard to write from a simple bumpkin because you'd have to draw out description about anything foreign, or uncommon. (If anyone wants to read high caliber FPoV, read Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series)

    I learned that a book doesn't have to exceed 400 pages.

    8. Overall, were you happy with this choice for the Reading Group in February?

    I was. Despite the first book's many flaws, the quality picks up in the second. I have high hopes for the third.
     
  19. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    The easy writing style was the biggest plus for me. After reading so much dense fantasy, this was kind of breath of fresh air for me. As I'm reading our March selection, I'm already seeing what reading this kind of book does to me. I prefer the quicker paced fantasy writing.

    The real world elements were clever and interesting, but they weren't the main selling point for me. Actually, they only really played a part with the bomb blowing up the mountain and the A.I. Other than that, they didn't come into play that much. I'm interested to see how they come into play in the sequel.

    I have to disagree with them being underdeveloped characters. I found myself, what's the word, not liking Jorg, but actually getting into a groove with what kind of person he was. While Lawrence may not have used the normal method of developing characters, I still think there was enough done for me to hang my hat on. I especially thought Jorg, Makin, Katherine, Rike, and the Nuban stood out to me.

    Some of the "left field" elements seemed to have been planted with the dream witch business earlier in the story. I could be wrong, but that was my impression with the heart eating and Corion being behind a lot Jorg's situations.

    I had hoped the main point of the story would be Jorg getting revenge on Renar, but when Corion came in late in the story, it didn't bother me too much because he had been hinted at earlier with all mention of dream witches.

    I did feel the last part came really fast for me as well, but I can't decide how that effects my overall view of the book.

    From what I've heard of the sequels, I have higher expectations for them. I do think this book is a definite strong debut for what was then a new fantasy author. I can now see why it had the buzz it did behind it. I'll most assuredly want to pick up the next books at some point.

    Ninja'd: I'll add to to what Ankari posted:

    I'm just curious, how so?

    I agree the first person is harder if you're trying it from the perspective of someone that knows absolutely nothing. I think Lawrence plays well into Jorg's strengths so there isn't a need to explain every single thing. His interaction with the A.I. was pretty funny though, his only really "uneducated" moment (other than the bombs, that is.)

    I do think this is important not just as a writer, but for this reading group also. I'm not a quick reader, so I would find it pretty hard to finish an 800 page book in one month. I think if we're going to ever tackle something like that it would need to be for maybe a two month span.

    From a writer's standpoint, both of my finished first drafts exceed 120,000 words. I'm pretty sure that's over 400 pages. So my next novel, I really hope to try something in the 300-350 page range and just so how it works for me. I didn't feel like everything was crammed in for Prince of Thorns myself, although the end did leave me asking lots of questions.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2014
  20. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I'm told I write purple. Very purple. It seems to happen mostly in the earlier drafts. I make it a point to trim as much purple prose as I can while retaining the level of description I like.
     
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