What can I say about this book? Only that it is the most awesome of Mark Lawrence’s six books to date. The ending of his second trilogy – The Red Queen’s War – is a masterpiece.
As in the first two in this trilogy, The Wheel of Osheim is powered by Prince Jalan’s unique, not necessarily reliable, point of view told in the first person. I don’t know how Mark Lawrence manages to make such a selfish, avaricious, over-grown boy likeable, but he has. This initially self-absorbed coward has developed over the three books into a man who can, on occasion, now see his way to being a better person, though he finds those occasions hard. Particularly when his grandmother, the Red Queen, charges him with protecting his city. Nothing like putting a coward in charge of a city for getting the best defenses in place fast – clever Red Queen. His character continues to develop in this book, becoming even more layered and interesting, almost despite himself. We also learn more about the world’s history, in particular the Builders and their artifacts.
The book begins with an hilarious scene, a classic Jal escape-by-the-skin-of-his-teeth moment – then camels, lots of camels, which he hates. Marvelous stuff. There is also a wonderful scene where he and Jorg get drunk together and Jal gets some good advice from the boy – a great link to the Broken Empire trilogy. Much of the rest of the book is devoted to Jal trying to reach home so he can rid himself of the Key. He is unsuccessful and must bear its burden to the end of the book. Helped by Hennan and Kara along with Snorri, he must stop the Wheel of Osheim from ending the world. Who would have thought the man who thought only of wine, women and song (strike the song bit) would become the hero sent to save the world? Does he – read the book and find out.
Jal’s actions are no longer always geared to personal gain or safety and that is down to our favourite Viking: Snorri.
Though Jal remains the main protagonist in this book, Snorri fills many chapters with his experiences in Hel. Told in the third person, his narrative is honest and reliable, unlike Jal’s. There is a real ancient Norse feel about the way that Mark Lawrence has written Snorri’s chapters, which comes through with particular strength near the end of the book. I found the moment when he fights with a man against wave after wave of troll-like creatures then discovers it is his own first son, most moving. Mark Lawrence is particularly good at these heart-grabbing scenes.
Where will Mark Lawrence go from here? Who can say? I only hope he keeps on writing – a lot.
All the best
R B Watkinson