The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence



4 out of 5 stars for The Wheel of Osheim. A review with mild spoilers.


So here we have the conclusion of Mark Lawrence’s The Red Queen’s War trilogy, the second trilogy set in The Broken Empire, and what a triumph it is!

For me the star of the show is the setting, the world itself; one of my favourite things about these books being that they defy genre. They are generally categorised as Fantasy or pigeonholed as Grimdark ~ a label some readers embrace whilst others remain wary of ~ but really this is Science Fiction, or Science Fantasy, at least (Perhaps I should mention that there’s also a hearty dollop of zombie apocalypse thrown in the mix for good measure…).

Of course, labels shouldn’t really matter other than to indicate to a potential reader the ballpark of content. In the case of The Broken Empire novels it’s a pretty roomy ballpark. If it weren’t for the fact that they are best-sellers, I might lament the labelling as doing a disservice to the story… but still: if you are on the fence and have been put off by the Grimdark label, I would implore you to give these books a go.  Sure, there are elements of the story that are certainly “grim” and “dark” (more so in the first book Prince of Thorns than any of the others, so stick with it), but that’s not particularly unusual in fiction… perhaps even less so in non-fiction! I would argue that the overall tone of the story is not at all all doom and gloom. In fact, quite the opposite. I would describe the overall tone more as “desperate optimism in the face of great adversity”. Even young Jorg, the narrator of the first trilogy, though a man forged by darkness and trauma, struggles to reconcile the darkness inside him, remaining philosophical even when succumbing to the path that he must follow.

The Wheel of Osheim is certainly a satisfying conclusion to this duo of trilogies, even though we realise as we turn the last few pages that the overall story isn’t quite done yet. Whether or not the “true” ending (not that there really ever is such a thing) is to remain ambiguous or not remains to be seen, but I do know that next from Lawrence we are getting a new story set in a new world, so we may not find out for some time yet. Still, The Wheel of Osheim has enough action, drama and intrigue to sate the most voracious appetite. Events that have been building/unravelling since the very beginning come to a head in a spectacular fashion – a particular high note is an action-packed city siege – and now I am done, I want to go back to the beginning and examine closer how events from the first trilogy parallel/overlap those in the second trilogy, and what it all might mean if we do eventually get a final book (or trilogy?) to end the tale of The Broken Empire.

Lawrence’s prose is lush, engaging, and concise throughout, and although I sometimes found the first-person perspective limiting – because of my own desire to flit around and see the world and unfolding events from different perspectives – I greatly admire the literary achievement in telling the story this way. Bravo!

Traverse Lévis – Québec

May 20th 2016


There are renovations being done at the ferry crossing from Lévis to Québec.

The ferry is boarded from the building at the top left of the picture below. The ferry on the right is there for maintenance. The rest of the space is being transformed into a pleasant spot to enjoy the St Lawrence River, and a car park. Old Quebec City is in the background.

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Some new simple but neat graffiti on the stairway that goes up and up the cliff to Lévis town.

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The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence

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4 stars (out of 5) for The Liars Key by Mark Lawrence ~ a spoiler-free review.

This is second book of The Red Queen’s War trilogy, and the pieces that were shuffled into position on the chess board of this story in the first book are moved… toward what ultimate purpose is still unclear, but it’s one hell of a ride!

Lawrence’s prose is as elegant and concise as ever, the pacing here is pretty much perfection, and we get to experience more fascinating places in The Broken Empire – what’s not to love! My niggle from the first book – that I sometimes found the first person unreliable narration of the main character restrictive – in a way gets reinforced by the fact that the brief parts of the story which aren’t told from that perspective are my favourite. This is such a fascinating world that I’d love explore it through a multitude of eyes… but that does not mean that I don’t enjoy our Prince Jalan or appreciate the way Mr Lawrence is telling the story. This is a fantastic book and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence


3 and a half stars for Prince of Fools. A pretty much spoiler-free review, this, though I suppose you could argue that mild spoilers are inferred , so bear that in mind.

This second trilogy by Mark Lawrence lies parallel to his first, set in the same world at the same time. There are some really great crossover moments, and although you do not have to have read the original Broken Empire trilogy to follow this story, appreciation is greatly enhanced if you have.

Once more, as with The Broken Empire trilogy, there is much more going on in Prince of Fools than meets the eye… but in a way it is that fact that slightly marred my enjoyment. The main protagonist is one Prince Jalan, and the story is written in the first person from his perspective. However, he is an unreliable narrator, so we must remember that he tells the story from a perspective that he chooses to convey, which is largely that of a selfish, self-professed coward with a foolish temperament. And therein lies the niggle for me. The Broken Empire is a fascinating place with depths that we only get to glimpse at throughout all of Lawrence’s books, and of course that is deliberate and part of their allure, but it doesn’t stop this reader wishing he could discover the world from the point of view of protagonists who aren’t quite so blinkered by their own perspectives, therefore denying us this wider and deeper view.

Of course, the joke is on me because one could quite easily argue that the story just wouldn’t work if it were told in a different way, and that is probably so. Without Jalan’s humour and temperament the tone would be completely different, and the fact that he is unreliable as a narrator becomes an integral part of the story.

Mark’s prose is as great as ever, with those little moments of profundity and elegance raising the quality of the writing far beyond the mundane. The story generally moves forward at a good pace, with plenty of action, humour, humanity, and lashings of the “weird shit” (spoiler free, remember!) which makes The Broken Empire such a great world. As mentioned earlier, the crossover moments with the original trilogy are brilliantly done – no tacked on references these, but well integrated and entertaining parts of a whole – a delight for continuity fans.