Prince of Thorns
I read somewhere that The Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence is better than Game of Thrones. Claims like this should not be thrown around lightly. But after reading just the first two chapters of the first novel in the series, Prince of Thorns, it became evident that Lawrence had at least beat Game of Thrones in the brutality award categories, firmly sticking George RR Martin’s head on a pike. A promising novel—I plan to finish it by the time this is published.
As Lawrence claims in his recent blog post about reaching 30,000 reviews on Goodreads, he received a couple mentions on lists for best fantasy novels in 2011, when Prince of Thorns was first released. The follow-up novels, of which there are two more, have received similar acclaim. But not all great fantasy novels are enjoyed unanimously by fantasy readers.
As Lawrence’s blog post details, his book came under some light (but noteworthy) fire for its treatment (or lack of treatment) of women. You can read the post yourself, but the complaints boil down to a general grievance that Lawrence does not introduce female characters into the story, and when he does, they are not the “strong” type. “Is there a band of sisters?” asks one reviewer, referencing the band of “brothers” the novel follows as they rape and pillage their way across what looks like a fantasized Europe-like continent.
Undaunted, Lawrence offered a response to his detractors. A lesser man might have pulled out his rug for immediate and unequivocal prostration, but Lawrence did nothing of the sort. In his blog post, Lawrence makes a very reasonable and measured argument. In essence, he says that if his book doesn’t contain things that you would like to see in a fantasy novel, too bad.
Perhaps write your own book, he suggests, or find a book that does contain those things you would like to see and read that one (those books do exist, and there’s nothing wrong with them). He ends the argument there. A bit like General McClellan in the American Civil War, Lawrence raises and whips into shape a fine fighting force for the North, but then does nothing to advance on his enemies’ positions.
The Quest For Diversity Had Become A Fascist Dictate
Lawrence can remain conciliatory and stake out a neutral tone and position (finding myself in his chain-mail gauntlets, I would do the same for the sake of my own book’s success), but he should be aware that there is no amount of kowtowing or self-castigation that will please far-left fascist agitators. Even if he converts and changes his name to Abdul, they will still take his head, and video-record it for posterity.
Even if his next novel stars a gender-fluid hero-heroine, or if we learn that the butcher Prince Jorg was in fact born a woman but had gender re-assignment sometime before the opening scene of the first novel, Lawrence’s far-left critics will only wonder why he didn’t introduce these aspects into his stories sooner (latent misogyny, no doubt).
I do not speak for Lawrence in any way—his blog post makes all his own positions and opinions clear. He has been steadfast and calm in his view. See his excellent Twitter rebuttals below:
I like kites. I want to read books with more kites in them.
I speak only for myself in what follows. Mr. Lawrence likely sees a couple negative reviews that have a common theme. I see brush fires of a culture war, instigated by what amounts to petulant brats who have been coddled enough that they feel little compunction making arbitrary demands on other people, like children begging mom for a toy in the store aisle.
Every aspect of our culture has become engulfed in a battle between two irreconcilable world views. Unfortunately, fantasy novels are no longer neutral territory–if they ever were. With fascist fervor, the hard left has arrived demanding that even fantasy novels represent, or better yet imitate, the bizarre faculties of the modern Western world.
And a bizarre world it is. We live in both a place and time in history where a casual book reviewer can make the following remark about Prince of Thorns with a straight face: “Women and girls have a tough enough time in real life without being subjugated and marginalized in fantasy, too.”
The Many Ways In Which Women Are Marginalized
To honestly believe that a woman, currently living in the modern West, faces anything resembling a “tough time” is simply bizarre, perhaps a great punchline for a stand-up routine if she weren’t so deadly serious. Never mind that the reviewer (who I will assume is a woman) was lucky enough to be born in one of the richest nations on Earth (unless she writes to us from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which I doubt).
Instead, consider that she not only can afford the time to worry, but further has the ability and inclination to write her concerns on the world wide web —while her female counterparts in North Korea are spending short lives unaware of the existence of electricity before receiving a bullet to the head in a public square for being in possession of a Holy Bible.
Back On Point
The world can be a terrible place. But it is not made worse by a fantasy novelist’s imagination, or the resulting novel, which happens to accurately explore the dark nature of a band of brutal men at a time and place much worse than our own. Lawrence is a human being, likely a decent one who has only written about burning villages to the ground and taking advantage of the farmers’ daughters (likely not based on personal experience).
He is an author of creative fiction, not a sock puppet for what has become an arrogant and intolerant social “movement” perpetuated (mostly) by bored white girls armed with pumpkin spice lattes and social media accounts. The term “movement” gets quotations around it because it confers far too much credit—it often comes off more like a temper tantrum.
I guess some people keep canaries. Other people do “social justice,” whatever the hell that has come to mean in 2014. Buy Prince of Thorns here so you can say you read it before it became a SWPL HBO series infused with strong women who did not appear in the book. Or at least get it before the forthcoming eruption of #FantasyGate.
Read More: How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World