Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Reader's Review: "Road Brothers" by Mark Lawrence


Summary from Amazon:

Ten short stories from the lives of Jorg and his Road Brothers. Contains spoilers for the Broken Empire trilogy. Five of the stories have previously been published in anthologies, Contains the short story 'Sleeping Beauty' that is also sold separately. A total of 43,000 words or just over half the length of Prince of Thorns.
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My Review:
The above summary doesn't even begin to encapsulate the command of the English language this author has, that never fails to affect me deeply. 
This collection of tales is as stunning as ever, and poignant in their brevity! ROAD BROTHERS absolutely speaks to a writer's proclivity to knowing his characters deeper than anything that would fit within a broad narrative; here we receive those all-important glimpses into characters who perhaps only had a single role to play in one of the trilogies, but, as Lawrence quotes John Dunne, "No man is an island..." These characters may have had one role in Jorg's story... But at the same time, Jorg was merely a part of their stories. The same visceral, compelling prose that so drew me to devouring any story with his name attached still shines beautifully here.
"A Rescue" gives a glimpse into the past of Brother Makin, one of my favorite characters from the Thorns trilogy, and arguably the most upright. 
"Sleeping Beauty" plays off like a scientific horror from the perspective of Jorg, in one of those rare instances when he is actually vulnerable for a bit. 
"Bad Seed" turns to the little-known Red Kent for a brief time, telling the part of his past that shaped him into the man Jorg found. 
"The Nature of the Beast" explores a mission of Rike, and gives wonderful insight into such a stoic, ruthless man—as well as giving more "humanity", such as it is, to another character famous in the trilogy. 
"Select Mode" is about the only one of this collection that I actually read on Wattpad, and it fascinated me. Just the idea of near-future technology colliding with what we expect to see in stereotypical "medievalesque" fantasy never fails to blow my mind. 
"Mercy" revisits Makin, in the midst of the event alluded to in "A Rescue." 
"A Good Name" travels far south, to the land and the mysterious past of the Nuban, and some inspiration for his devotion to Jorg—plus an unexpected appearance of a character with ties to the Red Queen's War! 
"Choices" focuses on Gorgoth the leucrota, "The Secret" deals with Brother Sim, and "Know Thyself" is about the only time (probably) that readers actually get to "see" the Ancrath brothers alive together, and understand the connection between them... Along with some delicious foreshadowing of revelations reserved for the last book in the Thorns trilogy! 
Typically, I would take the time to gush over my favorite story in an anthology; however, I am in quite a bind, because there are several that I really loved, or little bits and glimmers in them that just gave me the sort of thrill that is the reason I enjoy this series and this world so much. An absolute win for any fan of the Broken Empire.

I give "Road Brothers" an unreserved *****FIVE STAR***** rating, and add an Upstream Writer Certified Highly Recommended for fans of deep, intricate sci-fi mixed with grim dystopia, dark fantasy, and sprinkled liberally with violence and language—but the prose is absolutely phenomenal, and more than makes up for the cursing and gore.