It’s no mystery that I enjoy the intricate worlds of high fantasy, and more specifically, dark fantasy where complex magic systems thrive and evil is prevalent within every character- yes, even the hero.
When considering complex characters in dark fantasy, one particular author comes to mind: Mark Lawrence. His masterful fantasy novels bring both entertainment and inspiration to his audience with every page of his work through complex politics and characters who struggle with their desires and fate.
To many, his journey to becoming a best-selling author is inspiring. Without putting much thought into publishing books, Lawrence tried his hand at publishing his first book “The Prince of Thorns” through an agent. Soon Lawrence became an international sensation.
Though all of us can’t hope to strike the same fortune as he did, Lawrence reminds us how pushing the envelope in making unique fantasy worlds creates loyal readers who attach to the characters. His stories stand out amongst the rest in the genre.
With the success of each novel, it is enough proof of how well his readers resonate with the world and characters. In this blog, I plan to name five of his best-selling books and explain why you should read them.
1. Prince of Fools
Prince Jalan Kendeth is a drinker, gambler, and ladies’ man. He settles on living a quiet life as his grandmother, the Red Queen, strikes fear into the hearts of men with her secret weapon. The Silent Sister, unseen by most… all except her grandson.
Meanwhile, an army of the dead is slowly approaching as the Red Queen calls on her family to assemble and face the danger. Jal barely escapes The Silent Sister’s deathtrap and finds his fate has become intertwined with a Norse warrior.
Now setting off to undo the spell, it slowly becomes apparent that Jal and the Norseman are only puppets on a giant chessboard, controlled by none other than the Red Queen herself in Prince of Fools.
2. Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1)
This book has a refreshing powerful female protagonist battling to reclaim her fate at the Convent of Sweet Mercy. Here the girls are raised to be killers, and it takes ten years to fully train them into Red Sisters in all the ways of blade and fist.
But the Convent has no idea what is in store for them when they take in blood-covered Nona Grey at the age of eight, accused of murder but guilty for greater sin.
Saved from execution, Nona finds herself sought out by powerful enemies. Despite the protection of the Convent, Nona’s past follows her and she must face her past and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive to become a Red Sister.
3. Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2)
In this series’ second entry, Nona Grey begins to understand the secrets of the universe. Before she can leave the Convent of Sweet Mercy, she must choose which path she will follow. Will it be the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister, or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor with a life of prayer and service.
Outside of her choice, she has to avoid being taken out by a thwarted assassin, a would-be empress, and a vengeful lord of the empire.
Pieces of her world seem to fall around Nona as she must find her way despite friendship, revenge, ambition, and loyalty. Each path holds its merit, and each choice holds a promise. But the unavoidable truth is that there will be blood, even as a Grey Sister.
4. Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1)
Speaking of bloodshed, having your mother and brother brutally murdered under the orders of your father would certainly put a damper on life as a young person.
Once privileged and wanting for nothing, Prince Honorous now finds himself forced to grow up in a world full of violence and crime. When he’s fifteen, the prince returns to his father’s castle with his band of outlaws to right the terrible wrongs the king committed.
But this isn’t just a story about vengeance. Honorous will have to face the demons of his past and the treachery of his world while in his father’s castle before he can find true peace as the Prince of Thorns.
5. King of Thorns (The Broken Empire #2)
After avenging his mother and brother’s deaths, Jorg is now king and contends with a torn empire left burning as kings fight over the land.
While battling his inner demons, he fears the approaching six-nation army, led by a celebrated hero, calling for his death. The people are hoping for his demise, along with the empire’s rebirth.
Knowing he’s not the best fighter, Jorg discovers long-hidden magical artifacts. With little choice, the king will use whatever means necessary to win this fight, even if those very resources are forbidden even to the King of Thorns.
All the aforementioned titles are worked by a master of the fantasy genre. No, I don’t think all of us will find the same success, but studying and learning how an inspiring author creates his stories can give you a serious step up.
While I would love to discuss more what makes his novels phenomenal, if you are getting into the genre subgenre of high fantasy, I recommend his books as a significant starting point for entertaining fantasy reads.
That said, always remember to be authentic to your ideas and try to bring innovation into the saturated genre of fantasy with your unique spin.
Raven Queen, Arise by Dave Reed
If you love these books or plan to add them to your Amazon wish list, then you may enjoy my brand new grimdark, high fantasy novel with brutal vengeance, necromancy, and a touch (a lot) of sex and dark magic. Check out Raven Queen Arise (Book one of the Temple of Vengeance series). Pre-order your copy here today!