In an empire divided by constant wars, poverty and harsh rulers, a band of outlaws is burning a path through the countryside, destroying everything and everyone in its wake. Their leader is the ruthless and immoral Jorg Ancrath, a royal prince by birth. Far from home, he has amassed his own followers and gained a thirst for power, driven only by anger and a desire for revenge against those that have done him wrong.
Driven home to his father’s castle, his talents for destruction and violence soon become evident. His father offers nothing but rejection and steely contempt, his pregnant stepmother is threatened by his very presence at court, and the queen’s alluring sister, Katherine, cannot see past his brutal, underhand behaviour. The result is an inevitable family clash that leaves Jorg with two choices, to yield to his father’s iron will or to strike out on his own to conquer a new kingdom.
In Jorg, Lawrence has created a twisted anti-hero. He has no qualms about resorting to murder, rape and torture at the slightest provocation, although it must be said that a lot of his most brutal actions are reported to us second hand.
In spite of this, Jorg has a kind of arrogant charm and wit that gives him the likability factor that he so desperately needs to offset the darkness that often overpowers his character. Throughout the course of the novel, we find out more about his background, and come to understand how the murder of his mother and brother have shaped him into who we meet today. It doesn’t excuse his behaviour, but it does help to round out his character and give him a slightly more human element.
Game of Thrones fans will love this book. It has all the gore and action that you need to keep you gripped. There’s also a supernatural element, as the lines between the living and the dead become more and more blurred.
If there’s one thing I would say, I’d have liked to know a bit more about the world that the book is set in. We’re given no context, although the map at the beginning bears some resemblance to our modern Europe and there are references throughout the text to ancient philosophers. It’s frustrating that we don’t know more about this and it would have helped to really embrace the subtleties of the author’s creation.