This review is broader than just The Wheel of Osheim as it talks of my journey (love-hate relationship) with Mark Lawrence throughout the years.

I seem to have a weird relationship with Mark Lawrence’s books. It started with reading [Prince of Thorns] in the The Broken Empire Series in april 2013. Because it came so heavily recommended on Goodreads and received loads of praise, I decided to give a go. I immediately took a disliking to the main character (for not having any redeeming qualities) and didn’t seem to find the storyline anywhere, despite some very solid writing and narrative style. I read the thing and then put it aside, vowing to never pick it up again. It was the first ever “dark” fantasy book I ever read.

Fast forward a year and a half to september 2014 and behold, another series from Mark Lawrence, with a completely different main character and again receiving tons of praise, emerged. After Prince of Fools kept popping up in my newsfeed so much it became too hard to ignore, I decided to try again, since I did like Mark Lawrence’s style. But alas, it wasn’t to be. I immediately took a strong disliking to Jalan and had a hard time figuring out what the hell the story was actually about. It got rewarded with 2 stars and a vow to never pick up the sequels.

But a strange thing happened. I had read some other books from the dark fantasy genre in between (the likes of Joe Abercrombie) and had gathered a bit of a taste for it. When The Liar’s Key came out (and was featured all over the place) I found that, although I did NOT like Jalan one bit, I did still have vivid memories of him, and Snorri. I don’t usually recall characters after a few months unless they were actually worth remembering. So I decided to give The Liar’s Key a chance. I still disliked Jalan throughout most of the story but the solid writing, and the ever fun Snorri ver Snuggerson, kept me going and by the end I found he had started to grow on me. For that I rewarded it with 4 stars.

After The Liar’s Key, I found a new interest to re-read Prince of Thorns with all my newly gathered experience and taste for Mark Lawrence’s writing. With my experienced glasses on, Prince of Thorns was a completely different book that I enjoyed very much. Jorg was still very much an asshole, but I seemed to pick up on the story and the quirky writing very quickly. I actually enjoyed it so much the 2nd time through, that I gladly changed my earlier review to 5 stars and added it to my favorites shelf.

After my re-read of Prince of Thorns I rapidly tore through King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns and loved both of them. Jorg stays an asshole throughout the series, but he also evolves and matures exponentially. Something that, which I now realize, is a recurring theme with Mark Lawrence.

So when The Wheel of Osheim came out I did not hesitate to devour it immediately. It felt good to reunite with Jalan and pick up the story again. It felt amazing when I saw how intricately the story lines of The Broken Empire Series and The Red Queen’s War were woven together.

The moment Jorg and Jalan actually met was so mind-blowingly awesome.

It was then that I finally started to see the bigger picture. I’m glad my memory of the events in the The Broken Empire Series were still so fresh, it made all what follows so much more enjoyable.

Jalan started to change/mature towards the ending of The Liar’s Key and he continues this cycle strongly. He’s still the same juvenile coward he was when we first met him, but he’s also becoming something more. The Wheel of Osheim starts out with a large portion of the story focused only on Jalan, only occasionally reminiscing of his time spent in Hel, where we last saw him at the end of The Liar’s Key. I was a bit sad that we didn’t got to continue with the Jalan/Snorri relationship from the start, but luckily Jalan’s exploits in the Sahar are entertaining enough to keep the pace going. Some of my favorite quotes/passages happened here:

“After half an hour I gave up standing guard and started to sit guard instead, hollowing the sand to make it more comfortable for my bruised arse.”

“[…] my camel stopped. Where horses will frequently run past the limit of their endurance given enough encouragement, camels are beasts of a very different temperament. Mine just decided it had had enough and came to a dead halt, using the sand to arrest its progress.

An experienced rider can usually pick up on the warning signs and prepare himself. An inexperienced rider, scared witless, has to rely on the sand to slow them down too. This is achieved by allowing the rider’s momentum to launch him or her over the head of his or her camel. The rest takes care of itself.”

I read The Wheel of Osheim, like I do with most books, using a combination of the ebook on my phone/tablet and the (excellent) audiobook rendition by the amazing Tim Gerard Reynolds, seriously that guy knows how a book is supposed to be read. The above passages are funny in their own right, but when Tim Gerard Reynolds reads them, they are just plain awesome. I laughing out loud so many times while listening, I lost count. The combination of Tim Gerard Reynolds as narrator and Mark Lawrence as author is comedy gold.

As is expected of the final chapter in a trilogy, the story races on like a train, wrapping up story threads and hurling the plot forward. There were no dull moments and Jalan stumbles from one adventure into the next with breakneck speed. As the plot is revealed bit by bit things get more and more interesting, ending with fantastic final @ the Wheel of Osheim.

I absolutely loved every minute of The Wheel of Osheim and I feel that I would appreciate Prince of Fools a lot more this time around, so maybe, just like Prince of Thorns, it deserves a re-read.

Overal, The Red Queen’s War was a very good story with memorable, loveable characters, splendid writing and a solid plot. 5/5 stars easy.

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