Review: Prince of Fools (The Red Queen’s War #1) by Mark Lawrence

Rating: 8.0/10


The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.


Prince of Fools dives deeper into the Broken Empire, narrated from the perspective of the cowardly womanizer Jalan Kendeth. Jalan is the antithesis to Jorg Ancrath. Where Jorg has a love for dominance and revenge at any cost, Jalan is in love with romancing the ladies in his grandmother’s royal court. Where Jorg would run his tongue along a bloody blade, Jalan would… well, you get the idea.

This Prince of Red March is thrown into an inescapable situation – freeing himself from a curse that binds him to the rugged norseman Snorri ver Snagason. These polar opposites journey to the north to rid themselves of the curse and to find Snorri’s family. Lawrence gives this book a great buddy-cop feel in the interaction between two very different characters and I really enjoyed the way their relationship progressed. Lawrence has a knack for writing compelling characters and Jalan is a fun one to read.

Even better, the book is narrated by the incomparable Tim Gerard Reynolds! I felt a bit like I was listening to Darrow for the first ~10 minutes or so, but I quickly fell into thinking of his voice as Jalan the more I learned more about the character.

I don’t think that Prince of Fools is my favorite Mark Lawrence trilogy starter because the first third of the book is a little slow and the journey north ambles a bit, but when you’re riding with Jalan, Snorri & Co. you don’t care because the journey is so fun. I’m surprised that it took me this long to get around to Prince of Fools since Mark Lawrence has been my favorite fantasy author for a few years, but now I’m excited to see where this trilogy goes!

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