April 11, 2016

Road Brothers: Tales from the Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence

“Darkness is patient, always waiting for its chance, and swift to take it.”  -Mark Lawrence, Road Brothers: Tales from the Broken Empire

Blurb: 10 short stories from the lives of Jorg and his Road Brothers. Contains spoilers for the Broken Empire trilogy. 5 of the stories have previously been published in anthologies, Contains the short story 'Sleeping Beauty' that is also sold separately. A total of 43.000 words or just over half the length of Prince of Thorns.

Format: Road Brothers is a short story collection containing 10 shorts from the Broken Empire setting. I read this anthology on the Kindle and it was 124 pages in length. The anthology was published in December of 2015. The POV's vary between first and third person depending on the tale.

Setting: The short stories take place in the Broken Empire, the setting for Mark Lawrence's novels Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns, as well as Prince of Fools, The Liar's Key, and the forthcoming The Wheel of Osheim. The setting is a harsh tormented Europe in the distant future that has been taken back to the middle ages in the mindsets of its people due to war. There are over a hundred small kingdoms in the Broken Empire all vying for the position of Emperor that had been unfilled for many years.  

Characters: Makin, Jorg, Red Kent, Rike, the Nuban, Gorgoth, Sim, William Ancrath all characters from The Broken Empire trilogy. Each is given a chance to shine and the tales provide key background and character development information that supplements the Broken Empire trilogy.

Plot: The Rescue: The tale is of Makin and his joining of King Olidan's guard. Makin is haunted by the deaths of his wife and child at the hands of marauders, and the service of Olidan he hopes will give him purpose. When Makin saves the young Prince Jorg from a fire, he finds a new purpose will be for being there for the young prince, to show him the path of vengeance is empty. 
Sleeping Beauty: Jorg and a companion seek shelter from an impending storm in a cave. A specter warns Jorg away but he is never bothered when he chooses to follow a course of action. Once in the cave, he discovers a sleeping beauty. 
Bad Seed is the story of the childhood of Red Kent and his transformation from innocence to a road brother with Jorg. It deals with loss and his killer instinct he was born with. 
The Nature of the Beast tells of Rike and his communications with a witch at one of the towns the brothers sack. She lays a curse on him that has interesting ties to the Broken Empire trilogy. 
Select Mode is an interesting tale of Jorg and the Nuban. They've been captured and their captors take them to a device that will decide their worthiness to live or parish. 
Mercy shows a different side of Makin than what we're used to seeing. It shows that revenge isn't solely Jorg's in the road brothers. Makin exacts his revenge on the ones that killed his family along with a mercenary he hired named Ellen.
A Good Name is the backstory of the Nuban. The story has significance also because it ties itself to Snorri from the Red Queen's War trilogy. The short reveals some of the mystery that has surrounded the character the Nuban.
Choices shares a little of Gorgoth, his family and more about his thoughts and intentions. This short adds a lot more depth to Gorgoth as he was present as a main brother but lacked in a lot of background elements until now.
The Secret highlights brother Sim on a tale of assassination that adds a little backstory to one of the more dangerous brothers.
Know Thyself digs into father Gomst and his interactions with Jorg and his brother William. It's a tale that provides good insight on King Olidan's children and their perspective mindsets.

My Thoughts: This collection was a must read for me. Mark Lawrence's The Broken Empire trilogy is among my favorite fantasy novels all time. Since finishing Emperor of Thorns I've hungered for more Jorg and his road brothers. Though I've read many of these stories already in other anthologies and some have been sold separately on the Kindle store, there were still a few new tales that were very compelling and provided a lot of cool connections and information. Do not read this collection if you've not read The Broken Empire trilogy though. This anthology was designed to be appreciated by fans of the series and you would do yourself a disservice to read it without reading the trilogy. The short stories were powerful and well crafted and I've been left with the desire to do a reread of The Broken Empire trilogy to get more Jorg and the road brothers. If you've enjoyed Mark Lawrence's novels as much as I have, give this anthology a fair shake. You won't regret your decision.

About the Author: Mark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled. His day job is as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say 'this isn't rocket science ... oh wait, it actually is'.
Between work and caring for his disabled child, Mark spends his time writing, playing computer games, tending an allotment, brewing beer, and avoiding DIY.
Author Website: Mark Lawrence's Blog
Buy the Book: Road Brothers: Tales from the Broken Empire on Amazon

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