Prince of Fools is the first book in The Red Queen’s War trilogy by Mark Lawrence. The events of this book happen concurrently with the events in Prince of Thorns (book one of The Broken Empire trilogy). Now, I was sure I wrote a review of The Broken Empire trilogy as well for this blog, but I seem to have been mistaken.
Jalan Kendeth is one of the many grandchildren of the Red Queen, an elderly woman still feared by many of the kings of the Broken Empire. Jalan is a prince, but one who likes to spend time whoring, gambling, drinking, and seducing noble ladies. When he is summoned, along with all of his siblings and cousins, to listen to tales of dead men and women who rise again, he thinks it ludicrous rumours. That his grandmother seems to take it seriously means nothing to him; just like the Silent Sister by her side that no one but him can see, he ignores it. He listens to the tales of a Northman slave, thinking it a well-spun and well-told web of lies, not knowing that before he will be bound to the Northman in more ways than one.
Much like Jorg Ancrath in Prince of Thorns, Jalan in Prince of Fools is not really a character you find yourself rooting for. Unlike Jorg, he’s not a psycho, but he is a coward, a liar and a cheat. He prioritizes the wrong things in life, and seems to take very little seriously. He’s as frustrating to read about, as he’s enjoyable to read about. Even though his flaws are obvious and many, you can’t help but be drawn to his story.
A big part of that is Snorri. Can I get a big shout out for Snorri? Snorri reminds me a lot of the larger than life heroes David Gemmell so lovingly crafted, and I liked him from the moment he appeared on the page. His interactions with Jalan – and the way he keeps mistaking Jalan’s cowardice for bravery – are great, and you can feel both his frustration with dealing with the prince, and his urge to save his family, or what’s left of it.
The dead are as fearsome as they were in the previous trilogy, and the game that’s being played is an interesting one. They make for good foes, but it’s the humans who work alongside them that are somehow even scarier. To ally yourself with such evil is unthinkable, and the men and women who do so must be equally dreadful.
I can’t wait to start the second book.
If you’ve read The Broken Empire trilogy you will be familiar with the world already, and there are a few nice Easter eggs in there. But you can read this book without having read the first trilogy, and not even know you missed a thing.