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Mark Lawrence dropped onto the fantasy scene with a splash in the summer of 2011 with his brutal debut, Prince of Thorns. The eponymous cruel brat, Jorg, returns - in form - with the second novel of Lawrence’s Broken Empire series, King of Thorns. Staying true to the path down which he ventured a year ago, Lawrence serves us a second helping of his ferocious prose, and blood-thirsty characters. Delving deeper into Jorg’s psyche as the young king progresses on his path to world-dominance, King of Thorns expands the world of the Broken Empire without sacrificing any of the lurid storytelling or sublime characterization.

Up to now, reading Mark Charan Newton’s Legends of the Red Sun series has very much been a look into his evolution as a writer. From his debut, Nights of Villjamur, and continuing through the next two volumes his growth was easily observable, with the third book in the series, The Book of Transformations, being in this reviewer’s mind, the jewel in the crown. With The Broken Isles, Newton brings his thrilling quartet to a close no unsatisfying way, but certainly in a less daring form than we’ve seen him before. This apart, The Broken Isles is still a fine showing of what epic can be when done well. Stirring and socially relevant, it remains a level above the average fantasy lot.