Book Review: Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

Ah, Prince of Fools, what can I say about this? Whatever I do, say will be SPOLIER FREE so enjoy!
I guess we’ll kick things off with a synopsis. So, Prince of Fools is a first person, past tense, epic fantasy novel following Prince Jalan, who’s maybe tenth in line to the throne. Jal, is busy enjoying his charmed life, full of wine and women, until he gets caught up in a magical quest with a Viking warrior, Snorri.

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Don’t be fooled by the interesting cover. I’ve read the book and I don’t recognise this scene.

I am in no way an expert in the epic fantasy genre, but I have to say this is one of my least favourite of the ones that I have read, and there are a lot of reasons. The first, and definitely the biggest reason why I had to drag myself though this book is a gentleman called Snorri. As on most quests, at least the ones I have read, there is two people travelling together, and in this case it was Prince Jal and Snorri, which means that there was a whole lot of Snorri in this story. I’m not completely sure why, but I never really clicked with him, and as a main character this turned into a huge problem. He was sort of the straight man, to Jal’s funny man act, but he was just super boring. I think Mark Lawrence even tried to remedy this with the revel, bit by bit, of his back story and how he ended up in Vermillion, but not only did this come off as info-dumping, but still didn’t get me to care.
The second problem I had was with the setting in general because for me, it just was not vivid enough. This definitely could just be a me problem, I’m a city girl and I prefer cities to the countryside. There were points, like the beginning in Vermillion, and then the other castle they visited, that were really good and those were, without a doubt, my favourite parts. However, most of the narrative takes place on the road, so to speak, which just did not do anything for me at all.
Then, and this sort of ties in with the problem I had with the setting, and that was the confusion of mythologies. Usually, if something is pure fantasy they have their own belief system, but not here. I should say that Jal, from Vermillion, did have an original belief system, though not him personally, from what I remember. However, Snorri, from the North, is a frequently described as a Viking, and even follows the old Norse, religion. Everything I know about Norse mythology comes from Marvel’s Thor film, which I’m sure is not the most reliable source, but my point here is that I did recognise a huge amount of information because of this. I’m sure some people would like this interweaving of fantasy and, what felt almost historical to me, but I did not like it. I found it to be confusing and messily done.
I’d imagine so far, you’re wondering why I actually finished this book, considering how negative I’ve been so far, but that reason can be summed up in one word; Jal. I have a weakness for characters that are, for the lack of a better phrase, playboy princes, that don’t care about consequences. He never tried to claim that he was a hero, unless he was trying to get a woman into his bed, and his actions never suggested anything to the contrary. I would of happily just read about his antics around the castle, and the disasters he leave sin his wake, it was just a shame that Snorri and the quest appeared. I did have one tiny little qualm with his narration but it didn’t crop up until the final chapter, where there is a sudden change, half-way through the chapter, from past tense to present tense. Why? Who knows! I can only assume that the author thought it will be a good way to set up for the next book, which I won’t be reading.
All in all, there was a stark lack of any character development, despite the physical journey that out two characters go on. I still have a little soft spot for Jal, just because he was so charismatic an unapologetic but not a big enough soft spot that I have to see him again in the next book. Ultimately this book only gained 🌟🌟[two stars] from me.

Have you read Prince of Fools? Am I being too harsh? What’s your least favourite fantasy novel?

Thanks for reading!

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