The Broken Empire Trilogy | Thoughts
"Men are busy dying from the moment they're born but it's a crawl from the cradle to the grave."
This is a pretty good line, I think, to sum up the overall tone of these novels. They aren't romantic; they aren't light and fluffy. They are gritty, dark and sometimes outright evil. I for one, think those are fantastic attributes. Others may not. So I give fair warning to anyone wishing to start, if your delicate nature and sensitivity will not allow you to see past things worse than blood and murder into the complex depths of Jorg of Ancrath, then best not attempt.
But, if you do, I think you will be surprised at how Jorg pulls you along, his mischief making you smirk and then wonder why you're sympathizing with this devil. Because that's what he is, and he never tries to tell you otherwise. Jorg discloses from the start, he is not a good man.
I took my time with reading this one, as I did with the first two. There is simply too much packed in the story to be rushed – indeed sometimes I needed to close the pages to ponder over what I’d just read. I cannot even begin to get into what Lawrence crafted with his Builders, echoes, and clever hints of a time long lost (but one you may find you recognize quite well).
Even with so much to take in, the story moves incredibly fast. To say my mind worked frantically as each cog in the machine came together is an understatement. Lawrence molds a world where Heaven and Hell are mere ideas given power by the thoughts and prayers of millions of men, and the terrifying idea that with enough will power behind them, those millions could turn the world in any direction they choose.
With complex characters never good or bad, but a thousand shades of in between, Jorg is an honest relief in a world of men running around trying to pretend they are something they’re not, wrestling with decisions over what is right vs. wrong and what is easy vs. hard. He cares not at all for any of it, and his drive is simple:
What will get him what he wants?
If the answer to that question leads to some kindness, that is a good turn of events. But if the same answer leads to more suffering, so be it.
And yet it is the fleeting thoughts of not wanting to disappoint a select few in his life that Jorg shows he is a character not wholly evil, perhaps not even half…but merely a boy caught in the agonizing grip of the thorns of his past. He does what he must to move forward. Given the type of character Jorg is, whatever end he faced could not have been a good one, and the ending he received was both well-justified and bittersweet. We do go along with him as he grows into this man, after all, and see what has shaped him, but I would dare to say that in my eyes, this story has a happy ending.
Speaking of the ending, I simply loved the "reveal". I've gotten into a habit of not letting myself think too far ahead with some stories...almost like not searching out the hidden places for gifts. I know they're coming, maybe if I let myself think too long on it I can shape the idea to spoil the surprise, but I just love being surprised too much to ruin it for myself, with gifts and plot twists alike. I don't want to make it sound as if anything was obvious in Emperor, oh no...quite the contrary. I mean, even one not looking for a gift will inevitably see it if it's left out carelessly – and Mark Lawrence is anything but careless. He does too fine a job of weaving just the right amount of information in at the right moments, never letting on too much, but just enough to get your wheels spinning in speculation, trying to work out this great puzzle of a world he's laid out. He jumps from past and present as in the first two novels, revealing bits and pieces never a moment too early, and driving me mad with anticipation as I first got wrapped up in Jorg five years ago, then remembered why I was itching to know more about Jorg now, and vise-versa.
So, I do remember at a point in Emperor starting to put a thought together on who the Dead King could be, how delicious it would be if it were...
But no! Wait for the reveal! I won’t even put it in here and spoiler tag it!
It never pays to be too clever for your own good, you know – a lesson Jorg knew and taught others often. I was very happy to have let myself feel the surprise as the last twist was revealed, the last piece clicked into place.
I've said in my other reviews of The Broken Empire Trilogy that the story is like a great puzzle; you're never able to see the whole picture until the end, where you look back and say, "Ahh, so that'swhat that piece meant.
Having finished Emperor, I’m now able to look back to Prince and see the even greater puzzle, sprawling out before me. Prince was a mere section, and King and Emperor completed the picture perfectly.
I give Emperor 4 stars, and The Broken Empire Trilogy as a whole 5 full stars.
Not for the faint of heart, but for those looking for an imperfect anti-hero as complex as any protagonist I've ever encountered, and a brilliantly assembled story, I very much recommend. It really is magnificent, the way Lawrence is able to connect so many moving parts into one seamless whole.
Tricky devil, you’re not one of the Builders, are you?