Book Review — Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence (Red Queen’s War #1)

Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War, #1)Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It looks like we’re going to have to talk about expectations again, because how can you not with this book?

Mark Lawrence blew me away with his Broken Empire trilogy, and has certainly made a name for himself in the genre. I am not the only one who was anxious to see how he would follow it up in this new series.

Spoiler alert: make that a big, fat YES.

One thing that has not changed is the quality of Mark’s writing. It’s as witty, pithy, and quotable as ever. Sometimes I’m half-convinced he’s secretly a poet because that’s how parts of Prince of Fools read. He’s honed his prose to a razor-sharp point, and this is a quality to be admired in a genre rife with flowery and over-wrought language.

This story is much tighter, much more intentional, and I thought packed a bigger punch that we’ve seen in Mark’s previous works. A touch of dark horror is used to harden the mood and give an edge to what is otherwise actually a light-hearted tale. I know right? Bed-time reading from Mark Lawrence is something I never would have expected, but there you have it.

I do wish the book was a little bit longer, though. I wanted more time with Jalan and Snorri and to explore this world in greater detail. (Which, if you think about it, is the highest praise you can give a secondary world fantasy.)

Let’s talk about those characters!

Jalan has just as much bite as Jorg, but with enough humour to make you sympathize right away. He’s truly the loveable rogue—or at least, the loveable coward. Not in the least because I’m pretty sure NOPE NOPE NOPE is how 99% of us would react to swords, death, and a Fantasy world.

Snorri starts off as what appears to be Conan 2.0, but we quickly realize that there is a gentle and intelligent man underneath all that rippling muscle. The two are perfect foils for each other, and I’m glad to have spent time with them.

I feel confident in saying that Prince of Fools has memorable characters which will stick with me for a while. (If you don’t know, I am terrible—the absolute worst—at remembering the plots of books. All I can recall is the characters and why I fell in love with them. If you see me recommending Prince of Fools in the future, it’ll be because of Jalan and Snorri.)

Now, as a Canadian, I have a certain appreciation and respect (if not quite love) for the cold. Let’s just say that the way the Frozen North was described in this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read. In a few pages, Mark Lawrence managed to summarize every memory and feeling I have that took place under 5 degrees Celsius. I cannot accurately describe it here (which is why he’s the big-shot author and I am not), so you’ll just have to read the book and get wrapped up in the beauty of the Norse world and mythos.

We do need to chat a bit about a part that really frustrated me about this novel. I can understand and expect some sexism from a privileged child in a medieval-like setting, but I think a line was crossed here. Honestly, it got tiring by the fourteenth misogynistic joke and seeing it again and again chapter after chapter.

It’s more than an institutionalized degradation of women like in A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s the thoughts and quips that pass through Jalan’s mind—they have a slant that frankly doesn’t need to be there and doesn’t have much purpose in terms of character development. It’s clearly intentional on the author’s part, and it was disappointing.

That aside, go pick up this book. It’s a bigger and deeper novel than it looks at first glance, and I am curious and excited about where this series is going.

View all my reviews

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