Review: Prince of Fools, Mark Lawrence

August 10, 2015 Reviews 4 ★★★★

Review: Prince of Fools, Mark LawrencePrince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
Series: The Red Queen's War #1
Published by Harper Voyager on June 5th 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 502
Source: Library
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository • Bookworld

The Red Queen is ancient but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her as they dread no other.

Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures. Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north.

In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the time seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.


four-stars – A quest across an almost-familiar Europe to break a curse and rescue a Viking’s family. Some grisly battle scenes but the characters are just awesome!

“I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play, or bravery.”

Prince of Fools is the first in a new series from Mark Lawrence. I haven’t read his trilogy that starts with Prince of Thorns, and while it is set in the same world, there were only a couple of sections where I felt like I might have been missing something from the previous story, and they didn’t really affect Jalan’s story.

The setting is Earth, but sometime in the future after some kind of holocaust, possibly nuclear. Humans have regressed to a kind of medieval society (why this might happen I have no clue but hey, it kind of works), where Europe has been fractured into small kingdoms or protectorates. The Vikings still live in the Nordic lands, and the place-names across Europe all sound familiar. There are references to the “Builders”, who created strange giant works that survived the “thousand suns”. It’s really well put together post-apocalyptic world building, reminiscent of Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series’ “Elves”.

The story itself is pretty grim – the necromancers of the frozen wastes and their armies of the dead are one thing, but the unborn are just… the other side of creepy. There are a lot of disturbing magics going around in this world.

The lightness in the story is all down to Prince Jalan. This is a proper coming-of-age story, with Jalan starting out as a womanising drunk lordling with massive debts and gradually learning about his own strengths and to have empathy for others. He’s a hilarious character, telling the story with dry wit. It does get kind of annoying hearing about how he’d rather be in bed with a woman all the time, but I suppose that’s how 22 year old men think, right? And when he’s teamed up with the larger-than-life Viking, Snorri ver Snagason, well… they had me giggling to myself on the train.

I have no idea where the series will be heading next, but there is a second book already released, The Liar’s Key. I’ll be getting stuck into that one sometime soon, I hope!


Anni lives in Brisbane, Australia with her young family. She loves everything fantasy and science fiction and believes sleep is really very underrated.

4 Responses to “Review: Prince of Fools, Mark Lawrence”

  1. bryn

    >reminiscent of Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series’

    Reminiscent of, but published prior to.

    So, in fairness, the Shattered Sea series is reminiscent of The Red Queen’s War and the Broken Empire before it.

    • Angelya

      Okay yes, in fairness you’re correct 😛 What I should have said was, “similar to the Elves in the Shattered Sea series, which I recently read.”, or something to the effect. It was published previously, but I read the other one first!

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