The Broken Empire is the tale of Jorg Ancrath, a prince of Ancrath, who’s mother and brother were brutally murdered by his father’s brother, Count Renar, the King of a neighboring nation, as a political play. He is left for dead entangled in the thorns of a briar patch. However, he is eventually found, and survives, though the thorns leave their mark. Not just physically in the form of scars, but in completely warping his mind. His descent continues when he discovers that the heinous act was forgiven by his father simply in exchange for a more favorable trading agreement. At this point, he realizes, everything: life, death, and everything in between, are just a game. One that he vows to win by any means necessary.
Hiding his identity, he goes to his father’s dungeon and frees a band of murdering pillaging thieving criminals, or as they like to call themselves, road brother. He joins them, he learns from them, becomes one of them, and in time takes control of them, leading them on many tasteless escapades. Eventually, he decides the time is right to return to the path of his destiny so he returns to his home in Ancrath. There he discovers that his father has remarried, and his new wife is already pregnant with what is supposed to be a son, a new heir, and that he no longer had any place in the kingdom. Jorg obviously does not accept this, so he does what he does best in breaking all societal norms and shocking the royal court, forcing an acknowledgement.
His father eventually gives him an impossible mission trying to get rid of him, in defeating a stronghold city with a small number of forces, the Forest Watch. He succeeds by literally wiping the entire city and its people off the face of the Earth using Builder technology, and ends up gaining a helping of necromancer powers along the way. He returns to his father demanding his birth right, but instead receives a knife to the heart. No normal human would have survived, but the necromancer powers he had gained keep him alive and he survives and escapes. He rejoins his road brothers who he had left with the Forest Watch, and convinces the forces that were assigned to him by his father to betray their previous lord and join him completely, as he goes after a new target. He realizes that while the game was being played openly by the royals of the world, behind the scenes it was being influenced by a set of magical being manipulating the royals for their own gain. He realizes that he too had been manipulated, to wipe thoughts of his revenge from his mind. He pursues vengeance with vengeance, and defeats Count Renar and takes over the Renar highlands.
From there, he rules as a King for a while, but eventually once again goes on a journey with his road brothers for a part, where he faces conflicts related to his own memories and various types of magic. However, he eventually goes off alone to meet for the first time the family from his mother’s side, and gets involved with their conflicts as well. He grows tremendously, developing new skills, gaining knowledge, forging alliances, and coming back a stronger person physically, mentally, emotionally, etc. Which is vital, considering his new kingdom was caught in a power play that would definitely not go in his favor under any normal circumstances. Orrin, a man who wished to unite the empire under him arrives to take Renar with 20,000 forces against his petty thousand. Against all odds, utilizing a number of tactics and tricks, Jorg wins yet again, and somehow comes out of the entire affair married.
He was once a prince, then a king. Next comes his ascension to emperor. He goes to congression where he is determined to gain the throne of the empire, not for his political ambitions, which at this point have seemingly taken a back seat, but because he realizes that the world of the living itself is in a dire situation with the rise of The Dead King with things going wrong much faster than anyone is imagining, and also because he alone understands that the Dead King is only a symptom of a much larger issue that could potentially be even more dangerous in the long term as it is by forces beyond the understanding of any of worlds living inhabitants. He takes the throne by killing essentially everyone who would vote against him, and uses its power to stop the Dead King and end any other external force that defied the laws of logic, completely altering the fabric of the world in the process, and making the ultimate sacrifice.
As you can tell from my summary, I viewed the book as primarily the tale of Jorg. There were lots of other amazing characters such as Makin, Rikey, Kent, Katherine, Miana, etc. who all had their own development and were quite interesting, but Jorg was absolutely the key player. This was ultimately the story of his development from being thrown into a briar patch to his redemption. He starts out as a naive prince, who is permanently scarred by the horrors he sees and his inability to act on them. These leave him with an immense desire for revenge, which he wishes to achieve at all costs, as well as a hatred for his father’s inability to act. To that end he joins the road brothers and ends up manipulated by the wiles of magic entities. This leads him to becoming what could be simply states as a terrible person. He starts off in the Prince of Thorns as someone who is entirely willing to commit atrocities. Not just in a Machiavellian anti-hero kind of way where he’s willing to justify any means to reach relatively noble goals. No. He’s just a terrible person. He’s willing to commit atrocities purely for his own benefit or even just enjoyment. Lots of killing of innocents and ruling by fear. He literally nukes a city and views it immediately as an immense success. But in time that changes. He achieves his revenge. He begins to care less about his father. He faces the responsibilities of king-hood. And then abandons them to go on a journey. Through this journey he faces a number of trials. Creating more dark memories and then sealing them away. Truly caring for young boy and watching him die. Forging alliances with far off nations. Facing the ghosts of all he had killed. Encountering his mothers family who he discovers that he not only doesn’t want to kill, but that he actually likes and discovers that they actually like him. Being on the other side of the coin when encountering a band of road brothers, and looking straight into the eyes of someone that could grow to be like him, and killing them, wishing in a way that someone had done the same to him. Declaring a new revenge on those that try to hurt his family, but for the first time, truly forgiving them, and instead forging an alliance. And along the way of all these events, discovering that there was far more to the world than he could have ever imagined. He came back from that trek a stronger person. After that he faced his greatest challenge, where in the process he ends up getting married, retrieving his lost memories, and overcoming them. He then had a child and discovered what that entailed, or at least what it should entail. Thoughts of his father left completely due to his death seemingly randomly, and completely hollowly, as it didn’t involve him in the slightest. All along this he faced his fears and sins in his dreams constantly, until eventually he eventually made his way to congression. At this point, fearless, he took the throne and all it represented, and faced his truest regret head on. From the beginning, Jorg wasn’t plainly after revenge or power. What he was after was redemption for surviving while his brother and mother died. He was after redemption for allowing himself to stay entangled in thorns and do nothing. And in the end in the form of the dead king he was confronted with this regret head on, and finally managed to grab onto his redemption, saving the world in the process. At the end of all this he didn’t come out a paragon of righteousness. No where close. But he was still a better person. He didn’t hate the world. He was fully willing to kill innocents or commit heinous acts without hesitation, but he did them fully knowing what he was doing rather than ignoring the consequences of his actions, and he did them for what is generally seen as more morally acceptable than his own desires. He wasn’t naive, and he didn’t regret much, but he accepted the burden of his sins. Most of the time characters like this end up doing a complete flip in personality, but the amount of progression here while seemingly having moved not that much at first glance was amazing to me. Jorg was a masterfully written character, who’s tale I will not be forgetting any time soon.
And that’s not even getting into all of what made him so much fun. He was incredibly intelligent and unpredictable with a sarcastic bite. He’d go off to do really dumb things for the simple reason that he doesn’t like doing what’s predictable or being pushed in a certain direction, but he would do them in an incredibly intelligent manner and somehow pull them off. He pulled off amazing feats after amazing feat, generally in ways that aren’t easy to see coming. And he wraps all of this up with a sarcastic tone that hits the mark perfectly and just makes it all the more epic.
I really liked the authors writing style that allowed him to create such an interesting character, and furthermore allowed him to pull of some very interesting decisions that make his work quite unique. A great example of that is the world itself. The author does a really good job of convincing you its in some sort of medieval society set in a world based on our past up to a point, and then does a magnificent job of revealing that its really a post apocalyptic society set in our future. He then does a tremendous job of fleshing this world out and giving a deeper meaning to magic and supernatural forces in the form of the bending of reality through sheer will. The ghosts in the machines and the underlying plot with the entirety of humanity being on the brink of destruction with only Jorg in the know added even more layers to a tale that already had a tremendous amount of depth. However, the tales never felt too burdened by this, not in that all aspects always clearly and consistently showed in how Jorg acted, but rather, because these top layers didn’t seem to at all. Everything that Jorg did he seemed to have motivation to do without considering this ultimate threat to humanity. So it ultimately felt like an incredible parallel rather than a part of the story except at key points, like looking into the story about how a story came about. It added another dimension to it, and thus made everything, especially the ending, more satisfying.
The tone was not what I was expecting. One would expect it to be dark in ways that would horrify and throw into bouts of despair, but in the end it didn’t do any of that. Characters die. Sometimes important characters. A lot of brutal things happen. But ultimately, these are either shown through flash backs, in the heat of other exciting moments, or Jorg just manages to handle these events in stride. The end result is that while I wouldn’t call the book happy or light, due to the way it is written it doesn’t seem all that dark.
The way it was written was also quite interesting with several threads revealing the story intermingled, which seems like it would be messy but somehow manages to flow very well. For example, in the King of Thorn there are four threads. One is the present during the battle at Renar. The second is four years prior, with Jorg on his journey. The third is him retrieving memories of his that were sealed while he was on the journey, so the second thread essentially skips a good amount of time that flashbacks later in the book incited in the first thread explain. And the fourth thread is Jorg reading Katherine’s diary from after the battle.
I suppose that’s a good segway into discussing the romance. It moved too randomly and unpredictably. Miana was cool though her age made things a bit strange but ultimately you could say I was rooting for her, which didn’t amount to much to be honest. Katherine as a love interest was a train wreck. She didn’t seem to love him at all. He seemed to love her far too much for no particular reason as there wasn’t really any development. And their relationship was a mess the entire time. I sort of get what was happening there with the love hate thing, but it wasn’t something I liked very much. And that affair with Chella came out of nowhere, though it did feel in line with Jorg’s character.
The ending is the last thing you leave a reader with and thus it’s very important. I personally found the main ending almost perfect. It wrapped up the main plot clearly and everything came full circle. It resolved everything in a satisfying manner. What I did not appreciate was the epilogue. I found it unnecessary. Why have a digital copy of Jorg exist? Its supposed to be the end so let it end in a dignified manner. Unless the author is planning on using him later for his other story in the world, I see no point, and even then I probably don’t think its justified.
Still, that’s hardly much of a complaint all things considering. This was an amazing series from beginning to end and one of the best I’ve read in a while.