While his mother and brother were murdered, Jorg Ancrath hung on the thorns. To Jorg, the thorns taught a lesson: and now he intends to play the game. Jorg, with the aid of his band of ruffians, intends to win the War, fought among the remants of a broken empire. But first, he needs to win back his title as Prince of Ancrath... Jorg is cheerfully amoral, and his companions are often worse. It soon becomes clear that even the kings aren't the players of this game: magic is involved, as well as the remnants of the old world.
The setting of Prince of Thorns is an odd - but winning - conbination of post apocalyptic and fantastic. Yes, there is magic - but some things taken as magic by the characters appear to have more of a root in science... This becomes a key part of the lot later in the novel, and in fact really surprised me. (Believe me - you won't be anticipating Jorg's methods.)
But where Prince of Thorns really wins out is in character - one in particular. Jorg's band are well-drawn, yes: Nuban in particular is key. But at the heart of its success is the titular prince. Jorg is by far the nastiest hero - or antihero - I've ever read. While Glokta, for example, feels distaste, Jorg purposefully cultivates his nastier side. He's still somewhat sympathetic: his family were murdered, after all - but if you like your protagonists to be less morally ambiguous, Jorg definitely isn't for you. Me? I love him, but I wouldn't want to read this kind of character every day. (There may be side effects...)
Prince of Thorns, all things considered, is a tight, refreshingly dark fantasy: a mix of epic and (anti)heroic. It's not for everyone, as I've said, but if you're a long-term fantasy reader... this might be just what you need to cleanse your metaphorical palate. Well, let's leave that metaphor before it gets overburdened! At any rate, it's already shown the ability to surprise, so its sequel could go just about anywhere. This is a well-written, tightly plotted book, but don't expect it to get comfortable - and look out for King of Thorns later this year.
Want a copy? It's on Amazon.com here and on Amazon.co.uk here.