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.