The very interesting cover and synopsis drew me in. But before I begin, let me warn you that this is a Dark Fantasy novel. It should be approached with an open mind. To do otherwise would spoil the enjoyment gained from reading this wonderful story. The beginning of the novel has been penned in such a way that the readers are forced to think about the possibility that the protagonist of the novel might very well be a psychopath. This conclusion isn’t correct but it’s not very far off the mark. The story is about Jorg, his journey to the throne and his revenge. At the age of 9, Jorg witnessed the torture and killing of his mother and younger brother. He was slated to die too, but somehow he fought the pain and survived. Something broke in Jorg a long time ago. Now, he has no tenderness in him. But he has ambitions. The ambition to be a King by the age of 15. At the beginning of the novel, Jorg is a 13-year-old who leads a group of thugs (young and old). The first few chapters are meant to shock the readers. Persistent ones like me will proceed further, but the faint hearted would be better left behind. The mark of a dark fantasy novel is primarily in the content. Brutality, murder, heinous acts, gory descriptions all are abound in this genre. What a reader doesn’t usually expect is for the hero to be callous about committing the worst of crimes against humanity, all without battling an eyelid. At the beginning only, Jorg proclaims:
“War, my friends, is a thing of beauty.”
There is no conflicted hero. But the readers are bound to have conflicting feelings regarding him. Lawrence creates a hero who is such a genius that he can almost achieve the impossible. He is also very unpredictable. Reading the synopsis, one can usually make a few assumptions. And making a few predictions while reading a novel is given. But Lawrence hardly allows the readers the satisfaction of a correct guess regarding the next twist in the tale. I had assumed Jorg would be thirsty for vengeance. I was wrong. He just wanted his way clear to the throne. If he executed his enemy’s son on his way to the destination, well that’s just an added bonus. I then expected him to take over his father’s throne with the same ease and ruthlessness he portrayed previously. Again, I was wrong. Jorg does have royal blood in his veins but that does not mean that his route to the King’s throne is marked. On the contrary, he goes in a very roundabout way to achieve his aim, and that is what makes this story.
The protagonist pens his own story and offers no excuses for his wicked nature. He has a brilliant mind and remembers what was taught to him very clearly. Which brings into play his relationship with his old tutor. The scene where they part is a common enough scene that I have come across many a times. But this is the first time that the emotions and reasons for the actions have been explained so well. Jorg is a mastermind and tends to get rid of connections and emotions that threaten to weaken him. But his intelligence does not make him immune to downfalls. In fact, I was surprised (very few times) that Jorg did not see the blows coming towards him. It seems, even though he rids himself of his weaknesses, he is blind to a few possible developments. However, it seems the old phrase “fortune favours the bold”, stays true in his case.
The story is set in a world which has too few remnants of science and technology and religion is a strong force. But the common life is usually independent of both. Religion is a social necessity, and science is a foregone conclusion for those who have had the liberty for good education. There is magic, but it’s usually evil and potent. The friends and foe both have an assembly of creatures which are surprising to the readers. Overall, good imagination on the author’s part when it comes to constructing the world. The hero has many enemies, and the target keeps shifting. The characterisation is good. The first person narrative is not entirely trustworthy, but it is to be discovered only later. The treachery Jorg faces is simple, yet nearly unfathomable. One can be thoroughly engaged and there is no boredom to be entertained.
The ending is surprising, and brings humour where one does not expect it to be. But it fits well with the sombre losses. I was personally impressed with the way the author depicted the deaths. There was slight attachment, but not too much. Hence the loss had perfect impact. No less, no more. It displayed a good grasp of this genre. The plot summary makes the story sound predictable. It is anything but. It also makes for an impactful read. For dark fantasy readers, be it beginners or the old ones, I would happily recommend this one.