Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
Prince Jalan Kendeth, is the third son, tenth in line to the throne. He is self-described as a liar, cheat and coward who is nine parts bluster and one part greed, has a gift for lying and sounds the least convincing when he tells the truth. He’ll be the first to run and leave everyone in the dust when trouble heads his way. He’s refused to grow up and spends most of his time drinking, gambling and chasing women. He’s royal so he has been schooled in royal affairs, but since he’s so far from becoming the heir to the throne, he just doesn’t care. Why give up all of the comforts of life and be serious?
Jalan’s grandmother is the powerful Red Queen. It’s common knowledge that she practices forbidden sorceries in her tower. There are plenty of rumors that Grandmother’s secret counselor is a blind-eye woman, who is rumored to be old and half mad, but no one has ever really seen her. No one but Jalan, that is. He sees here hovering over Grandmother’s shoulder every time the family members are summoned, but no one else ever seems to see her.
Things are looking a bit grim in Jalan’s life right now. He’s currently on the run from Maeres Allus and his men due to racking up some gambling debts. There’s very little hope he’ll be able to worm his way out of the situation this time.
His Grandmother has summoned the family members. She has had captured slaves brought in to give news of what they have seen. Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse warrior of Undoreth, the Children of the Hammer, is among those purchased off the slave ship. Snorri warns that there are grave rumors that The Dead King is sending his undead army their way. Snorri’s homeland was raided by the dead and he has lost his family to The Dead King’s minions.
As if these things aren’t enough bad news for now, Jalan is witness to The Silent Sister casting one of her spells. In trying to flee, he and Snorri are somehow caught up in her spell and they have borne away part of the magic in the form of a curse. Jalan has a pesky angel in his head that seems to be causing him to take actions that make him appear to be a better man than he is. Snorri has a pesky devil in his head, making him do uncharacteristically bad things. Jalan and Snorri form an unlikely pair and wind up tied together and on the road to Snorri’s homeland, on a quest of rescue and vengeance. They will have to make their way through areas where the frozen dead wander and Jalan will be lucky if he makes it back home alive.
This is my first Mark Lawrence read but it won’t be my last. I really enjoyed this book! Jalan and Snorri are a great unlikely pair. I liked that Snorri always comically misunderstands Jal’s actions and holds him in high regard. Gotta love a great Viking warrior anyway! Jalan’s devil-may-care attitude is hilarious. He is always trying to worm his way through life, but here he has caught this curse, and suddenly he’s becoming a more likeable guy, but he just doesn’t see it. The two are stalked by death at every turn and the tale builds to an explosive ending. I look forward to continuing this series!