My very spoiler filled thoughts on The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence

September 1, 2013
My very spoiler filled thoughts on The Broken Empire by Mark LawrenceEmperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
Also by this author: Prince of Thorns
Published by Penguin on 2013-08-06
Genres: Epic, Fantasy
Pages: 448
Source: Purchased

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Mark Lawrence brings to a thrilling close his epic trilogy of a boy who would be king, a king who would desire an empire—and an empire on the edge of destruction... King Jorg Ancrath is twenty now—and king of seven nations. His goal—revenge against his father—has not yet been realized, and the demons that haunt him have only grown stronger. Yet no matter how tortured his path, he intends to take the next step in his upward climb. For there is only one power worth wielding...absolute power. Jorg would be emperor. It is a position not to be gained by the sword but rather by vote. And never in living memory has anyone secured a majority of the vote, leaving the Broken Empire long without a leader. Jorg has plans to change that—one way or the other. He’s uncovered even more of the lost technology of the land, and he won’t hesitate to use it. But he soon finds an adversary standing in his way, a necromancer unlike any he has ever faced—a figure hated and feared even more than himself: the Dead King. The boy who would rule all may have finally met his match...

This is not a spoiler free review, it is more my commentary on the end of Emperor of Thorns and The Broken Empire trilogy, so it is full of complete and total spoilers. Only read on if you have read it!


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Jorg is such a fascinating character. Even from the first book, I can’t say I “liked” him, but I was so intrigued by him, and wanted to see him accomplish his goals. I wanted to see him catch a break. I found myself rooting for him in a way I would not have expected. King of Thorns began to explain him better, and Emperor of Thorns completed that as well as finally gave him resolution and peace. Let’s face it, if Jorg had lived, could you see a life of peace for him, a simple life filled with love of family? It’s a nice thought, but he was so broken. And I just don’t see an ending like that “working”.

I wanted to love everything about it, but I do have to admit, as much as I hate to, I was originally a little conflicted with the resolution over the necromancers.  I have to confess to feeling like the bit with turning the wheel was just …. a little too convenient to end a trilogy. Almost cheated, that just turning a wheel was enough to do away with the dead army. But, the more I thought about it, maybe this is fitting. Good things in life often can come as easily as they can be taken away. Which is quite easily and sometimes as quick as the blink of an eye. And this world that Lawrence created, anything is possible, it just takes a strong belief and the will and perseverance to make it happen. It can be both a story of both hope and pain.

I have spent more time thinking over the end of this book than any other book I have read in recent (maybe longterm) memory. And while with some books, questions can be an indication of the book not giving the reader the answers, I don’t feel that way about this book. The Broken Empire may be on the surface a story about a troubled young man destined to become powerful. But it is deeper than that. I  feel like this is a book that is better when  you think about the questions.  What made William take such an evil and bitter path, what made him and others so much more discontent with his death that put him on the course to become the Dead King?  Asking questions is not necessarily bad. In the end, I still gave this book 4 stars  because I felt like my questions fell into two categories. Questions I should be able to answer myself given information in the book. And questions that made me think about the story at a deeper level and look beyond the surface.

At this point, I will also mention that something about Emperor of Thorns reminded me a bit of Shadow and Claw by Gene Wolfe. I found that comparison interesting because I did not feel that way about the first two. Perhaps it is because we get more the science fiction view of the world in this book than in the first two, which felt definitively more fantasy. (This is really very much a science fiction piece of work, readers just don’t see it in the beginning.) But I never had a distaste for Jorg like I did Severian. Even though Jorg did just as reprehensible things, I somehow managed to look beyond that. I think the humor, dark as it may be, that was interspersed with the story is a huge reason why Lawrence was able to turn Jorg into a character I wanted to read about. Having the humor can not only lighten some of the dark, but it also gives a good way to connect with the character. I can’t help myself. As many bad things that Jorg did, many of which are explained later in the series, even in the beginning before we knew the reasons why, I still enjoyed reading about Jorg.

The ending in general, I like. I think my complaints are more in the details of how they got to the ending. And the identity of the Dead Kings.. Of course, the selfish reader in me would love more Jorg stories, but I actually think Mark Lawrence made a good call ending it how he did. And I am confident that he will come up with new characters/worlds for us to explore that I really look forward to!.


  • Mogsy April 20, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Spoilery comment here, but since it’s a spoilery post I’m just gonna throw caution to the wind. I don’t remember the specifics of how I felt about the ending to the trilogy, but then I also guessed well before the end that Jorg’s brother was the Dead King, lol. The fact that the conclusion played out pretty much the way I “expected” probably had a lot to do with my overall feelings for the last book; I guess you could say I wasn’t happy or upset over it, but maybe “satisfied” would be the best way to describe it! 😛

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) April 21, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      I maybe was a bit more ranty than I needed to be. But this is really the most conflicted I have felt about a book. I do remember thinking the Dead King likely would be Jorg’s brother before it was revealed. But even so, I just never felt satisfied with a motivation that would cause him to turn so evil. Which surprises me more in a book by Lawrence, where I felt he did a really good job of presenting Jorg, I wasn’t expecting that. Ah well.

    • Someguy May 16, 2016 at 4:17 am

      The ending was almost perfect, but to me it felt really sad… in a good way. i felt like crying and i still can’t get over how it ends. I wish there was at least an account from the other characters after Jorg left them… if you know what i mean

  • Nathan April 20, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    I still have not read the last book. Therefore, I didn’t read your post. But I will just guess it was awesome.

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) April 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Ha! Well, when you do read it I look forward to seeing if your actual reaction matches your speculative one 🙂

  • Anna Woodcock June 27, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    I loved the series nearly all of except for the ending. I hated the ending! [spoiler = “hidden for spoiler”] I wanted Jorge to reunite with his wife and son what would have been so wrong with that?[/spoiler]

  • EvidentDelirium March 24, 2017 at 2:46 am

    I think the ending is made more clear when you consider that throughout the series they compare Jorg and William as both being strong willed; William is often remembered as being the strongest willed of the two. They often say he could do anything. That said, we are told that men can influence the world by their will power alone, and make things real. Jorgs pain, loss and suffering created The Dead King. He made his brother conquer over death with the same ferocity that Jorg conquered with in life. Jorg made it real, made the heaven he saw in the end real and the conclusion with William is possible not because William decided not to be evil anymore, but because Jorg let go of his past and his pain. He says as much when he notes the scars gone from his arms. Chella’s revelation on who the dead king was in the carriage also points to this. She was someone who understood death, that it was not what it once was.

    It’s not a matter of what is but rather what Jorg willed it to be. We saw throughout the series his determination win over. I figure this to be a wonderful ending, when seen in this light. A fitting ending, in my opinion.