Emperor of Thorns is the conclusion of the Broken Empire trilogy, and it didn’t disappoint! I’ve grown very fond of Jorg and his murderous ways. The ending got to me, though, and I needed to let it sink for a bit before I knew how I felt about it. In the end, it makes sense, and I think it’s a fitting conclusion to the story.
Note: This review may contain spoilers about the ending of the previous two books. If you haven’t read these yet, you can first check out my review of Prince of Thorns and then King of Thorns.
So, Jorg Ancrath is now a grown man of twenty and the King of seven nations. He wants to become Emperor but to do that, he needs to gain the majority of the votes, which has never happened in living memory. Not only that, but he’s being challenged by a necromancer with extraordinary powers: the Dead King.
Like the other books, Emperor of Thorns consisted of two different timelines: one in the present and one 5 years earlier. There’s also a separate timeline with chapters from Chella’s point-of-view. While I didn’t feel the Chella chapters added much to the progression of the story (although these were interesting in their own right), the other two timelines worked together in perfect harmony. Again, the playing with time led to an ultimate conclusion and an amazing pay-off.
“I came to kill you, Qalasadi. To lay waste to your domain and leave behind ruination.”
While there was growth for Jorg between the first and the second book, I don’t think he’s much different in this third book. He doesn’t go about killing everyone, tends to have a plan, but the solution to his problems is usually to kill the person causing the problem. He’s intelligent and has an insatiable curiosity to the Builders and their ‘magic,’ which are the remnants left behind by a much more advanced society, wiped out precisely because of that.
We find Miana pregnant, but no less fierce. I love her character and still think she’s a good match for Jorg. We also get to see more of Chella, the necromancer Jorg defeated in both previous books. It was interesting to know a little bit more about the necromancer world and get glimpses of the Dead King. As for the Dead King himself, his motivations seemed a bit weak to me. But perhaps Dead Kings don’t need a lot of motivation to do what they do.
“In many ways I had lived most of my life in exactly such a condition, swinging in all directions with no worry about who might die.”
What I loved about this book is that we got to see more of the other nations. We see Jorg traveling to Afrique, which is very different from the more European style nations. Not only that, but Jorg goes to the ‘promised lands’ in the Iberico, a space of land still brimming with some sort of left-over radiation from when the Builders blew up the world. He goes to those places because Felix, one of the ‘builder-ghosts’ we met in the previous book, sets him on that path. Jorg uncovers more of the Builders’ secrets. It was great to get more insight into who the Builders were and what happened to them, but it was also quite complicated. Especially when Felix explains the source of the ‘magic’ that exists, I found myself rereading it and still not fully comprehending it.
“Time heals all wounds, but often it’s only by the application of the grave, and while we live some hurts live with us, burning, making us twist and turn to escape them. And as we twist, we turn into other men.“
The writing was as I’m used to by now: often beautiful pieces of prose and philosophical wonderings. The only thing I found tedious was how often the fact that he lied helpless in the thorns, watching his family die, was mentioned. I know he’s still consumed with guilt over it, but it’s the third book: we get it already.
If you’ve come this far, and read the other two books, you definitely want to read Emperor of Thorns. I promise it’s worth it.