Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

Prince of foolsA review by Nalini Haynes

Prince of Fools introduces Jalan, a prince of Red March, tenth in line for the throne. An arrogant, self-serving young man, he resents his cousin who may be named heir based on merit in spite of being female.

Dodging his creditor, ignoring crucial lectures from all including the Red Queen herself, Jal is trapped within an opera house, condemned to be burned alive, a worse indignity than suffering the opera itself (Lawrence is a man after mine own heart).

Escaping from the opera house by the skin of his teeth – and the skin of a curse – Jal finds himself launched from the frying pan into the fire. In spite of his selfish intentions, Jal embarks on another’s quest.

Prince of Fools is the first installment of Mark Lawrence’s new trilogy, Red Queen’s War. Overlapping with Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire trilogy), Lawrence’s award-winning debut novel brings greater depth to Prince of Fools, further enriching his fascinating fantasy world like Anne McCaffrey’s interwoven Pern novels.

Epitomizing the unreliable narrator, Jalan reminds me strongly of Assassin’s Apprentice (Robin Hobb) and Sir Apropos of Nothing (Peter David) although Jal’s standards are somewhat higher than Apropos’s. The self-deprecating humor throughout this story lends a lighter counterpoint to what would otherwise be a grimdark tale.

Lawrence’s world is post-apocalyptic far-future, somewhat like Andre Norton’s Witch World, as is Joe Abercrombie’s latest gem, Half a King. When I mentioned this, my minion replied, ‘Which world?’ (Minion thinks he’s punny.)

Of all the novels I’ve mentioned, Mark Lawrence says he’s only read Assassin’s Apprentice. Lawrence cites George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novel/s as his big influence.


I love recognizing elements of the future world where names have been distorted over time, the Seine becoming Sane, for example. Couple this with Jorg shattering the glass tree (originally in Prince of Thorns), propelling Jalan to a hasty exit, and intelligent fan-service abounds. However, Prince of Fools can be read without reading the previous trilogy if one must.

I thoroughly enjoyed Prince of Fools and highly recommend it. I read it in a day in spite of other temptations, skipping telly to finish it tonight.


 

  • Rating: ★★★★★ 5 out of 5 stars
  • Format: Trade paperback
  • Pages: 512
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN: 9780007531547
  • ISBN10: 0007531540
  • BISAC1: FIC009000
  • BISAC2: 002-205