The Barney Award for most totally unredeemable, raping, pillaging, blowing thing up and killing things main character:
Broken Empire Trilogy (Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns) by Mark Lawrence
You know a character has made the big time when he or she is instantly recognisable from a single name. Gandalf. Drizzt. Fitz. Dumbledore. And here’s another one: Jorg. One of the most unforgettable characters in the entire fantasy genre. Anti-heroes have found a niche in the recent trend for grittier, less sugar-coated fantasy, but Jorg is anti-hero turned up to eleven. And yet, despite all the terrible things he does, and the guilt-free and gleeful way he generally does them, he’s someone it’s very easy to root for.
You can enjoy this book at multiple ways. One is the straightforward political story – the fractured empire with the unremitting squabbling for supremacy amongst those who see themselves as entitled to claim the emperor’s throne. Then there is the slowly revealed world left behind by the Builders, with their high-tech gizmos, some of which have survived intact, even though their original functions may have been long forgotten. There’s a cool game observant readers can play – spotting which modern device is actually masquerading as an unfathomably mysterious Builder artefact. Finally, there is magic – inadvertantly released into the world by a Builder-created catastrophe and over time spinning increasingly out of control, so that even the dead walk again, led by the mysterious Dead King.
Many readers simply can’t get past Jorg’s gleeful no-morality approach to life. If you’ve never read it and you’re not sure if you want to, a couple of pages will let you know. The series isn’t perfect. Nothing is. It is lumpy in places, and slow in others, and sometimes Jorg is too over-the-top for words. But it’s also sharply funny and slyly clever, and written in an incisive, focused style. A masterpiece of in-depth character analysis, with an ingeniously interwoven setting and a mind-blowing and absolutely right ending. A fine piece of writing.