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Literature / The Broken Empire Trilogy

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"A dark time comes. My time. If it offends you. Stop me."

"The thorns taught me the game. They let me understand what all those grim and serious men who’ve fought the Hundred War have yet to learn. You can only win the game when you understand that it is a game. Let a man play chess, and tell him that every pawn is his friend. Let him think both bishops holy. Let him remember happy days in the shadows of his castles. Let him love his queen. Watch him lose them all."

We first meet our hero, Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath, when he's a lad of thirteen years, burning a peasant village, slaughtering the farmers and raping their daughters. It only gets worse from there. Jorg may be nothing but the leader of a murderous band of outlaws now, but his ultimate goal is to win the war that has torn the land asunder for centuries and crown himself Emperor over a hundred squabbling kingdoms. There's nothing he won't do and nobody he won't sacrifice to get there.

The Broken Empire Trilogy - considered one of the defining works of the Grimdark genre - consists of

  • Prince of Thorns
  • King of Thorns
  • Emperor of Thorns

As well as the short story collection, Road Brothers, Tales From the Broken Empire, which features side stories and backstories for some of the characters.

The author has another trilogy, The Red Queen's War - set in the same world - which can be read independently. That said, it does provide some crucial information on what is going on in the background of this one, and Jorg even shows up at one point to meet the other protagonist, Jalan.


These books provide examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Jorg's father is a cold, cruel, callous, calculating bastard, who uses his son for his own ends.
    • After you've read about Justice in King Of Thorns, you will lose what little sympathy you may or may not have had for Jorg's father. Justice was Jorg and William's pet dog. As a punishment to Jorg for breaking a snowglobe, his father made Jorg take a hammer and break three of his dog's legs. When Jorg refused to break the fourth, his father had the dog burned alive. Jorg was six years old.
  • Accidental Murder: For all his flaws, Jorg didn't intend to kill his baby half-brother. Too bad he wasn't able to control his necromantic powers ...
  • Advanced Ancient Humans: See After the End below for more details.
  • Affably Evil | Faux Affably Evil: Jorg zigzags between the two.
  • After the End: At first the world appears to be a classic medieval fantasy setting, although with fantasy elements like undeath thrown in. Soon enough we learn that it's our world when Jorg starts talking about Plutarch and Plato. As the story goes on it becomes apparent that it's set in the far future. Our civilization reached new heights in the past before it destroyed itself, leaving behind a changed world of little technology, powerful magic and remnants of the 'builders'. Jorg's house took the ruins of a skyscraper for their castle, among other things.
    • The nuclear war caused sea levels to rise dramatically worldwide, which led to drastically changed coastlines as can be seen on the maps. The Drowned Isles are what's left of Britain, Crath City, Jorg's hometown, is actually Paris and the old Empire's capital is what used to be Vienna.
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  • And I Must Scream: Jorg being stuck in the thorns of a hook briar patch and forced to witness the slaughter of his family counts as one of the most mundane examples of this trope.
  • And Man Grew Proud: What has led to the modern culture's downfall and the creation of the neo-medieval world in which the novel is set.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Frequently averted throughout the book, as Jorg and other characters are fully aware of lives they take throughout the book. At one point, Jorg describes an unnamed soldier's corpse as "something that lived and laughed only hours ago."
  • Anti-Hero: Jorg and his band are Nominal Heroes at best and Villain Protagonists at their worst.
  • Anyone Can Die: Including quite a few brothers and Jorg himself.
  • Arranged Marriage: The marriage of Jorg and Miana. Before the wedding day, they only saw each other once at the Castle Morrow (He was fourteen and she was eight). Jorg put this memory into Luntar's box and thus, forgetting entirely this encounter as well as the fact that she was six years younger than he was.
  • Artifact of Doom: The still functional nuclear bomb, which Jorg uses to great effect.
    • The copper box in King Of Thorns.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Averted in the traditional sense, as the Roma Church has gathered all the Bibles for its priests and refuses to give them to anyone else, much like the real Catholic Church did at one point.
    • However, Jorg at one point goes and says something he just made up and says he’s read it in the book. When asked on the book he replies "It's in the great Jorg’s book of Go Fuck Yourself."
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Any sympathy you might have felt for Brother Row should disappear once you find out that he was into girls younger than twelve whilst alive.
    • We learn in the third book that Bishop Murillo was a child-molester and actually raped Jorg.
  • Assimilation Backfire: Jorg and his band come to Fire-sworn Ferrakind in the hope he can cure Gog of his condition or help him master his powers. Ferrakind attempts to assimilate him instead. Jorg, prepared for this, got Gog to channel Ferrakind's flames to the frozen lake above them until it melts and extinguishes Terrakind. However, Gog dies as well.
    • Happens at the end of the book as well. as Jorg gets tainted with both necromancy and pyromancy, Ferrakind and Dead King attempt to claim him for themselves, fighting against each other within his body. In the end, they end up neutralising each other's presence and cleansing Jorg from all magic.
  • At Least I Admit It: Jorg *is* an evil bastard and doesn't try to delude himself into thinking otherwise. He knows that he's an evil bastard, knows that people like Orrin are better than him, and he admits that the world would have been a better place if someone killed him when he was still a child.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Jorg considers the medieval siege engines in this way in the King of Thorns, because of how difficult it is to transport and supply them.
  • Ax-Crazy: Jorg, who says this gem:
    You got responsibilities when you're a leader. You got a responsibility not to kill too many of your men. Or who're you going to lead?
    • During combat, he also reminiscences about the seven shades of fluid you can draw from a man, and finds the sound of sword cutting through flesh sweeter than the best flute.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Prince Orrin is a very likeable Anti-Villain bordering on Hero Antagonist, a good and compassionate leader and a far better man than Jorg. (And even Jorg ends up agreeing with that idea.) However, Jorg won't have to kill this Ideal Hero, as he is betrayed by his brother Egan before they can meet again.
  • Bash Brothers: Jorg's band of 'Road Brothers', of which Price and Rike are actual biological brothers.
  • Befriending the Enemy: Though whether it's Jorg or Qalasadi and Yusef who is the enemy being befriended here is open for interpretation. Jorg shows up to Afrique with the intention of seeking revenge for an attempt on the lives of his mother's family, but after kicking around the place, having some adventures, and asking "what would Makin do?" he decides to genuinely accept the mathemagician's offer of friendship and spares their lives, gaining needed information in the process.
  • Blood Knight: Jorg himself at times and several of the Brothers from his band. However, Egan of Arrow outdoes them both.
  • Brain Uploading: Some builders have survived this way. Also happens to Jorg at the end of 'Emperor of Thorns'.
  • The Brute: Brother Rike.
  • Cain and Abel: Egan is Cain and Orrin is Abel, although it's heavily implied that Sageous manipulated Egan and played a big role in his betrayal.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Happens with many modern things throughout the book, as their true names have been forgotten after the technological collapse.
    • The nuclear bomb Jorg uses in the first book's climax is known as a Builder's Sun in the book's world. Things like concrete, asphalt and transparent plastic are also known as builder-stone and builder-glass.
    • This also happens with natural things that got renamed after the collapse. For instance, the so-called clove-spice is strongly implied to be raw heroin.
    • Significantly downplayed with DNA. Genetically engineered creatures like Gorgoth refer to it as dena.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": Many castles in the book are not true medieval structures but abandoned modern-day ones restructured to fit the purpose. The Tall Castle in particular is actually a derelict skyscraper.
  • Character Development: Jorg's character starts out as an almost 100% pure The Unfettered dedicated only to the goals of becoming Emperor and taking vengeance on Count Renar and his father for not avenging his mother's death. After time passes, and he throws off the control of Count Renar's wizard, he begins to develop a conscience, and he does begin feeling bad as his Brothers die.
  • Child Mage: Gog, who is capable of channelling torrents of flame in spite of being only eight.
  • Child Marriage Veto: Averted: Miana consents to marry Jorg in spite of only being twelve. He, on the other hand, is none too happy about it and makes it clear to her it's only a formality.
  • Children Are Innocent: Averted with Jorg, who is already rather selfish and cold at six years old. Similarly, Miana, his twelve-year-old bride, if fully aware of how dire their situation is and even recites their armies' body count as a kill-to-death ratio, something which even creeps Jorg out.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: The only Christianity mentioned in the series is the Roma church, which is a direct descendant of the Catholic Church, and maintains many of its traditions, like having a Pope in Vatican and burning people for witchcraft. The latter is justified sometimes, but usually it's the heretics and those attempting to rebuild technology who get burnt.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Discussed by a hologram, who says that the current era's magic stems from botched quantum experiments.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Jorg, Makin and their entire band of brothers. They keep catching others by surprise by how dirty they're willing to fight. Even Necromancers.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Seeing as how this is a Grimdark, crap sack world with a medieval bent to it, torture is a common fate for anyone who gets taken prisoner by anyone. Jorg joins the brothers by interrupting the torture of the Nuban. Makin is tortured by Jorg's father after Jorg's apparent death. Jorg casually mentions that he and his road-brothers have tortured people for entertainment, and he nearly gets to experience this from the other side when he's taken prisoner by the Perros Viciosos (his companion wasn't so lucky).
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Jorg starts off as an Ax-Crazy Villain Protagonist in a Crapsack World surrounded by rapists and murderers. He is also a Firstperson Smartass and Deadpan Snarker, so much of the humor is Black Comedy.
  • Connected All Along: A flashback in Emperor of Thorns, has Lundist mentioning in a passing line that his brother is Luntar, and that the two if them were princes in Ling. Luntar is the sorcerer who trapped Jorg's memories in the copper box.
  • Convection Shmonvection: Averted in the King of Thorns: Jorg gets half of his face burnt off by radiated heat. Before that, he nearly passes out because all oxygen has been consumed by the fire.
  • Corrupt Church: Save for a few true believers, the Church of Roma is incredibly corrupt.
  • Crapsack World: In line with the grimdark genre, Jorg's world is a place you wouldn't want to live in. Large stretches of countryside are uninhabitable due to nuclear pollution, mutants and zombies roam the lands, there are spots where time flows in ways that just don't comply with the laws of physics ... and you will need to be badass to survive at all, if you don't like to be raped, enslaved or killed.
  • Create Your Own Hero | Create Your Own Villain: Depending on whether you see Jorg as the hero or villain, but either way Sageous shouldn't have killed William or Jorg's mother.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Bishop Murillo, a corrupt clergyman in the Prince of Thorns, gets killed by Jorg by having nails hammered into his head. Jorg later complains that it wasn’t slow enough for him. (Don't worry, Murillo deserved it.)
    • Sunny, Jorg's traveling companion in the Emperor of Thorns flashback sections is brutally tortured to death at the hands of raiders, which involves having his ribs stripped of meat and his organs exposed while he's still alive.
  • Cutting the Knot: In order to become Emperor, any member of The One Hundred needs to have a majority vote, either because they've conquered enough kingdoms, or because they've made enough alliances to guarantee that people vote for them. Or, if you're Jorg, you can secure up 41 votes, then murder enough of the other delegates until that 41 becomes the majority.
  • Dead All Along: Prince Orrin turns out to be this in all Wedding Day chapters (i.e. present moment, as opposed to "four years earlier" flashbacks), as he was betrayed earlier by Egan.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jorg, frequently.
  • Death of a Child: Jorg's Start of Darkness comes from witnessing the brutal murders of his mother and little brother William. From then on, it's frequently mentioned that kids (as well as adults) die a lot in the books. Notable examples include Janey, Marten and Sara's daughter that Jorg gave painkillers to, Gretcha, a small girl in a bandit group that Jorg kills himself, and Degran, Jorg's infant half-brother.
  • Determinator: Besides his savage cunning and amorality, this is the other key feature of Jorg. The guy will not quit, starting from childhood when he survived impalement on the hook briar patch and the surgeries that removed them from his body and later surviving a long trek through a radioactive desert that no else has ever survived.
    • His younger brother makes even Jorg looks soft: His will is so strong that after death he breaks the control that the necromancers had on him and makes them his puppet, when he was seven. Only a little later, he becomes king of the dead.
  • Elite Zombie: If a person is buried in the ground up to their neck and left to starve, their corpse becomes a fast zombie with glowing eyes. The book also briefly mentions corpses that spent so long in the swamp without rotting due to lack of oxygen, that they became as tough as tanned leather.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Jorg is introduced letting his band of bandits massacre a village, and having just raped the daughters of a farmer, who he has killed in cold blood. He's thirteen. Later, he kills one of his fellow companions out of annoyance.
    • The last part was later subverted in King Of Thorns, when it's revealed that said "companion" was a dog torturing sadist whom Jorg had punished earlier that day. Said torture reminded Jorg of the Justice incident mentioned above. Jorg knew that said "companion" was planning to try to kill him, so Jorg killed him before he had the chance.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jorg ends up caring to some degree for his friends, his family and his wife. He also loves his son.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Jorg despises the fanatical, intolerant and hypocritical Church of Roma. He also would not hurt a child. Nor, for that matter, a dog, and neither should you in front of him.
  • Evil Gloating: Sageous seemingly can’t get enough of them in the King of Thorns. Jorg takes them as good sign, though, because it means more subtle manipulation has failed.
  • Evil Uncle: Count Renar.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Jorg is by no mean a good person, but his opponents (with the notable exception of Orrin) are just as bad, often even worse than him.
  • Eye Scream: A fortman in the King of Thorns gets an arrow stuck through his eye.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Subverted in the book. Many kingdoms have obvious medieval counterparts, like Arrow in medieval England or Maladon in Viking Scandinavia. However, these cultures aren't fantasy: they're the same medieval cultures reborn (quite possibly intentionally) after the collapse of the modern world a thousand years earlier.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: True to form, the cool, twin-firing crossbow Nuban has and which is eventually taken by Jorg for himself is about as advanced as functional ranged weapons (as opposed to rusting, millennia-old rifles nobody has any idea how to use) get in this world. The only exception is the Colt revolver that the hologram of Fexler Brews killed himself with and which is taken by Jorg.
    • At one point, Jorg specifically asks the Fexler Brews hologram to teach him how to create guns. He firmly refuses, believing that the people of Jorg's world are not advanced enough to handle the power. Although he does let him take the single Colt revolver for himself.
  • Fat Bastard: Burlow.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Averted with Hanna. Katherine grieves for her and frequently mentions her in her diaries after she's strangled by Jorg when attempting to protect her. While many of the brother's are not mentioned again after their deaths, some, such as Young Sim are referred to with frequency.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Luntar, the mage who trapped Jorg's memories in the copper box. They meet again in Emperor of Thorns, and when Jorg questions his ability to really see the future, Luntar allows Jorg to remember their first meeting where he predicted what would happen in the interim, then sealed those memories away. Jorg has to admit he's correct, and can really see the future.
  • Freudian Excuse: Jorg watched his brother being murdered and his mother being raped then murdered when he was still a child, while he was stranded in a hook briar patch and lacerated by the thorns. His father was also an Abusive Parent. And, finally, we learn in the third book that he completely snapped after he was raped by Bishop Murillo while he was still a child.
  • Genius Bruiser: Jorg is this compared to his road brothers, thanks to his royal upbringing.
  • Glowing Eyelights of Undeath: The zombies of people who were left to starve to death possess these, to signify their increased power and ability to move at a normal speed instead of shambling.
    • Godiva Hair: Chella manages to make her rotting body look attractive though the combination of magic, strategically placed slime and this.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted with Katherine Ap Scorron, who is one of the most positive characters in the book.
    • Eventually subverted as it turns out she never really was pregnant in the first place, and the "abortion" was application of poisons that made her sterile.
  • Groin Attack: Friar Glen is stabbed in the groin before he's left to choke on a gag made from his own bedsheet.
  • Hero Antagonist: Prince Orrin in the second book is this. He wants to unite the Hundred broken kingdoms into the original empire in order to bring peace to the people, not for sake of power or challenge like Jorg.
  • Hope Spot: There are plenty of these in the books, often when Jorg decides to do something evil, considers against it, then does it anyway.
    • In the King of Thorns, he returns to the circus that helped his band earlier. Before leaving, he notices a starved lion in the cage, and is eventually left alone with it. He considers the livelihoods of the circusfolk and the carnage a starved lion will wreak, then opens the cage anyway.
  • Homage: Jorg was partially inspired by Alex from A Clockwork Orange; however, he is far from being a Captain Ersatz or an Expy.
  • Idiot Ball: For all of his usual cleverness, it takes quite a while for Jorg to realise that a deathly pale family living inside a village in the middle of a swamp with no roads leading to them isn't alive.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: Many of the fantastic creatures encountered were originally created by the fallout from the Builders' Suns (e. g. a nuclear war).
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The trolls in King of Thorns don't know what human flesh is like, but are rather willing to try.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The Nuban is the best marksman the brothers have, able to make shots that seem impossible. While much of this is no doubt due to his own skill, some of it might have to do with the spell Corion put on his crossbow.
  • Incest Is Relative: Mianna is Jorg's wife and mother of his son. She's also blood related to him, she's his first cousin on his mother's side (their mothers are sisters). Justified as this wasn't too uncommon of a practice among medieval nobility and it is an opportunity for Jorg to shore up support from his relatives for the Imperial election.
  • Indy Ploy: Many of Jorg's themes are this, conjured in the last moment. Sometimes, they're created beforehand, but hidden away in a memory box until needed, to protect from telepathic witches in the enemy's employ.
  • In the Back: How Prince Egan kills his brother Orrin.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Jorg plans to deal with some of the Arrow’s army assaulting them by having an avalanche triggered over them, but he gives the signal to start it several minutes too late and the army catches up with them. However, it (barely) works anyway because one of the fires was flawed and burnt out too soon.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Jorg is typically in that territory. Whenever he does something remotely good, he quickly reveals his selfish reasons for it in his thoughts.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: Averted, as all wounds will get infected and kill the person without prompt treatment. When Coddin is shot in the stomach, Jorg knows he won't make it and will die sooner or later.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Between other bandits, cruel aristocrats and perverted and/or corrupted religious figures, some of Jorg's victims tend to be just as noxious as he is.
  • The Lancer: Sir Makin.
  • Like a Son to Me: On what seems to be his deathbed, Coddin tells Jorg that he loves him like a son, even though Jorg is a sadistic bastard.
  • Long-Lost Relative: In Emperor of Thorns, the Dead King turns out to be Jorg's little brother, William.
  • Loophole Abuse: Jorg constantly combines this with Refuge in Audacity to do things everyone thought were impossible, usually with a high body count involved.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The King of Thorns briefly mentions Cennat shield dancers, who wield their man's height shields so well they can practically twirl them.
  • Lust Object: Katherine becomes this for Jorg after their first meeting. Although he acknowledges that she probably hates him, he spends the coming years frequently fantasizing about her.
  • Master Swordsman: Many in this book, even amongst the Brotherhood who are better known for being combat pragmatists - Jorg and Makin are true masters of the sword and will show that a blade in their hands become little more than a blur when fighting dirty would be inappropriate.
  • The Man Behind the Man: All seers aspire to become this, but Sageous is the master of this trope.
  • Mercy Kill: Jorg does this to a dying infant girl, using sedative drugs to ease her pain.
    • Later, he kills Lesha before a group of torturing bandits can take her. He also kills a little girl living with them and calls it helping her, because now she won't be able to grow up like he did.
    • Averted with Coddin, whom he refuses to kill in spite of him getting an arrow through the stomach, something that usually results in slow and painful death. He does it because he still needs his advice, and it works: in Emperor of Thorns, Coddin is still alive, though unable to move and has to have his wound regularly washed and bandaged.
  • Mind Rape: A favorite tactic of several sorcerers, including Sageous, Corion and Katherine.
  • Morality Pet: The Nuban, Gog, and (to some extent) Makin are this to Jorg.
  • Mundane Utility: Gog's flame-based powers are often used by Jorg to light campfires or provide lighting when it's dark.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Jorg the Red sounds bad enough before you learn that he earned it by single-handedly slaughtering a fourteen-men-strong fort garrison.
  • Neck Snap: What Chella does to Young Sim after she catches him.
  • Never Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight: Averted: Jorg bypasses what would have been a virtually hopeless duel by using a Colt. 45 revolver he is given by the Fexler Brews hologram.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: Subverted/averted, depending on the villain. When Jorg infiltrates the Tall Castle in The King of Thorns, he considers killing his baby brother Degran, holds him in his arms and decides against it, but he's already killed by the necromancy touch. This leaves him with so much guilt that he has to have the memory removed from him and it takes him four years to look at it again and come to terms with it. However, this was partially engineered by Sageous in an attempt to break Jorg mentally and he almost succeeds at that.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: If Friar Glen's ghost didn't stab a zombie in his path, or if a ghostly dog's skull didn't bite Jorg, he wouldn't have realised that ghosts are unable to hurt the living but can kill the undead.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Jorg barely manages to move his gaze away from Chella's naked form, which somehow manages to be seductive in spite her being dead.
  • No Man of Woman Born: All of the seers believe that the Prince of Arrow will win the battle for the throne and become Emperor, and so advise Jorg to surrender. Ultimately, he himself becomes the Prince of Arrow.
  • Noodle Implements: There are quite a few uses for a dead rat, which is a matter I will go into some other time.
  • Not Me This Time: Jorg might not be exceptionally evil when compared to his fellow kings and princes, but he's still a very evil character by today's standards. However, he didn't rape Katherine Ap Scorron: that was Friar Glen, who found her unconscious.
    • Similarly, when in disguise at the castle of his grandfather, he is accused of poisoning the guards' food. this was actually Qalasadi, their Moor advisor.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Prince Egan literally says this to Jorg before their final fight:
    Egan: "We’re both fratricides, you and I. Not so different after all."
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sageous presents himself as a Well-Intentioned Extremist, justifying all his manipulation with the goal of peace and eventual recovery of lost technology. To him, this justifies things like tricking Jorg into killing his baby brother and making Katherine think she was pregnant and arranging a fake abortion for her that leaves her infertile. However, his decision to arrange Orrin's murder when he would have brought the peace needed to put the more suggestible Egan on the throne proves that, ultimately, he only cares about his own power.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Played with. In universe the zombies are simply referred to as the undead, but Fexler Brews, a hologram from the modern world, calls them zombies, surprising Jorg.
  • Off with His Head!: Sageous gets his head literally torn off his neck.
  • Oh, Crap!: The look on Sageous’s face when he finally realizes that Katherine has countered his dream-walking powers and he’s now standing in person in front of Jorg.
  • Pedophile Priest: It turns out that Jorg had a very good reason for murdering Bishop Murillo.
  • Pet the Dog: During one of his journeys, Jorg comes across a family of peasants whose daughter is dying of sickness. He gives her a priceless mechanical toy to make her happy and gives her parents "clove-spice" so they can kill her peacefully in her sleep instead of her slowly dying of her incurable disease. This is probably the second most selfless thing he ever does in his life.
  • Playing with Fire: The powers used by Gog, an eight-year-old mutant child, as well as Ferrakind, an ancient fire-sworn. Subverted in that neither actually create any new fire but instead combine and transport the existing ones to whenever they're needed. They're also capable of seeing from one fire into another anywhere in the world. As Gog puts it at one point, "there's really only one fire in the world."
  • Power at a Price: The fire powers of Gog and Ferrakind slowly convert their bodies and mind into flame until they get completely consumed. Both die before that happens, however.
  • Prophecy Twist: A prophecy a lot of the major power-players believe states that the Prince of Arrow will win the throne, and that two Ancraths will destroy the power of the mages. Jorg forces the Prince of Arrow to adopt him as a brother before his death, which Jorg jokes satisfies the conditions of the first. For the second, Coddin and others had assumes Jorg would have to work with his father to overcome the mages. It's actually William/The Dead King, and they don't fight the mages, they end all magic in the world.
  • Psychic Link: Gorgoth, being a genetically engineered creature, can communicate with other such creatures, like trolls, though mind link alone.
  • Psycho for Hire: Jorg's band, especially Jorg himself.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Jorg, especially at thirteen and fourteen, frequently does horrific things that result in people's deaths just because he wants to do them. He lets Jane die under a rock-fall because he couldn't be bothered saving her, he lets a starved lion loose in a circus fully aware of the consequences and finds an old woman getting a fatal heart attack at the sight of his pet monster hilarious.
  • Rape as Backstory: Before getting picked up by the brothers, Young Sim spent his youth in a brothel, and not as a customer.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Averted. Jorg himself is a rapist and doesn't consider it much more evil than his other actions. Similarly, Katherine hates him more for killing her elderly servant than for molesting her though he's Mis-blamed for the last one.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Jorg's band's favorite pastime in the Prince of Thorns. Much of his King of Thorns arc involves him letting go of these habits.
  • The Reveal: In Emperor of Thorns - though the reader knows it before Jorg does - the Dead King is his dead little brother, William.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Jorg, constantly. Examples include murdering some of the Gilden Guards sent to protect him and the other members of The Hundred in order to get them to do what he wants, murdering the Pope in broad daylight, and killing off enough delegates during the election that the 40 or so votes he has gives him a majority.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Fexler Brews, the hologram. Justified, since he was deliberately copied by the real Fexler Brews, monitoring every moment of his life.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: Jorg manages to kill several thousand soldiers in the Arrow’s army by initiating a rock fall over them. Twice.
  • Sadistic Choice: Jorg is confronted with one when he's just six. Either he breaks his dog's Justice leg, or it gets burnt to death. Ultimately, the choice doesn't matter.
  • Scary Black Man: Played with regarding the Nuban. While he can be intimidating, he is feared and despised out of racism. Otherwise, he also acts as a limited conscience for Jorg.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Part of the prophecy that has the mages so worried says that two Ancraths will destroy their power, so Sageous arranges for Jorg and William's murders. Jorg survives, and the incident is what sets him off on his path to the Emperor's throne, learning about the Builder's reality meddling on the way, while William becomes the Dead King and takes over from the other side, thus allowing the two to be able to repair the universe and end all magic once they reunite.
  • Shaped Like Itself: At one point, Jorg mentions a fish with red fins called … redfin.
  • She Is The Pope: Yup. What, you were expecting a man?
  • Smug Snake: Sageous is very much this.
  • The Big Guy: Rike is the biggest of the brothers, larger even than Makin, and he prides himself on that and his strength. The only person he's shown to wholeheartedly— almost childishly— respect is the strong man from Taproot's circus, who is bigger and can lift Rike up.
  • The Easy Way or the Hard Way: Jorg's father presented him with a very sadistic version of the dilemma when he was just six: either he breaks his dog's leg for stealing from the treasury, or the dog is burned to death. When he complies, he is asked to break all the others before the dog is killed anyway. Since then, Jorg always purposely seeks the hard way in any situation he faces. His advisor, Coddin, has to say "the clever way" instead in order to even get him to consider the alternative.
  • The Hero Dies: Well, if you want to call Jorg a hero ...
  • The Unfettered: There is no lengths to which Jorg will not go to attain his goals, especially in the beginning. As the story goes on, he begins to become a little less this, as his past actions begin to catch up with him and he throws off the control that a wizard secretly had over him.
  • Tainted Veins: Jorg gets these after his father stabs him, and they signify the awakening of his necromancy powers. They disappear once he gets rid of necromancy at the end of King of Thorns.
  • Token Good Team Mate: The Nuban seems to be this and then he gets shot with his own crossbow.
  • Token Minority: The Nuban, again, being practically the only non-white person after Sageous (who is Arabic) and the only black person in the first book. The second adds a 'Mathmagician' Qalasadi. However the third book subverts the trope by Jorg travelling through Africa.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The fourteen fortmen in the King of Thorns. Letting a guy in the fort to return an arrow they shot at him and after having killed his companion?
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Jorg starts as a Villain Protagonist, whose Establishing Character Moment has him slaughtering a village and raping two girls. He eventually becomes an Anti-Villain who, while often using murder to get what he wants, cares to some degree for the people working for him and for his wife, and loves his son. He also tends to fight people just as evil as he is.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Nearly at the start of the novel, a ghost tries to haunt Jorg; instead of fleeing, Jorg allows the spectre to see into his mind ... and the ghost runs away, since our protagonist can offer worse thoughts than the ghost itself.
    • Later subverted when it is discovered that the ghost wasn't running from Jorg, but the wizard that had its hands in him.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Referenced several times with regards to Prince Orrin. The man is an ideal hero, who is every bit as good as they say he is. Even Jorg likes and admires him in a fashion. But while he stood a very real chance of winning the Imperial throne, it was doubtful that Orrin had the iron fist to hold it and he would later be murdered by his own brother, a man who's far more similar to Jorg.
  • Villainous Parental Instinct: Jorg is shocked to find that he would do anything for his son, and that him having this love for his son is what ultimately sets him apart from Olidan. Because this is a Grimdark series, this is presented as a weakness.
  • We Can Rule Together: What the Dead King offers Jorg when they finally meet, and Jorg turns out to be a Worthy Opponent.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: While Jorg has shades of this in the first book, before vowing to become a Self-Made Orphan, a clearer example is The Dead King, who is actually William, Jorg's deceased little brother. In their confrontation, The Dead King says he wanted to show Jorg how powerful he had become after being "abandoned" by Jorg the day he died, right before offering to join him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The fates of Chella and Count Renar are left unresolved, although in the case of the first it's a pretty safe bet to assume death ( since she killed Jorg while surrounded by his allies, and magic stopped working just after), and one would hope the same for the second. The story also never truly confirms if Jorg's uncle and grandfather survived the final battle against the undead forces of the Dead King.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Jorg thinks along these lines when he considers the existence of the Fexler Brews hologram. Subverted in that the hologram itself is fine with its existence and doesn't want to die.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Sir Makin considers Orrin of Arrow to be this and doesn't believe he will survive the conflict, which is why he still serves Jorg in spite of him being the worse person. Ultimately, he's right.
  • The Wise Prince: Prince Orrin. It does not end well for him.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity:
    • Ferrakind, who is the most powerful fire mage in the world and uses that power to devastate his land with volcano eruptions.
    • This apparently becomes the fate of most powerful magic users. Fire-sworn like Ferrakind and Gog lose their minds in the fire, wind-sworn like Kai lose their sense of identity if they fly for too long, and an earth-sworn named Arron collapsed into a puddle and sank into the earth.
    • Jorg also does many bad things just because he can get away with them as a king and a skilled fighter.
  • Worthy Opponent: Jorg thinks of Prince Orrin as this, knowing that he genuinely cares about his subjects and would make a better Emperor if he won.
  • Wretched Hive: The Banlieu of Crath City is as wretched as you would expect from its name.
  • Yandere: Chella in the King of Thorns. Reborn as a lich, she is determined to make Jorg embrace his necromancy and marry her as another lich.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Every mystic is sure that Jorg's rival will end up as the Emperor. However, it is also defied, because Jorg fights fate mainly because others say he can't.

Alternative Title(s): The Broken Empire, The Prince Of Thorns


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