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The Briar King (The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – March 30, 2004

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The Briar King (The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Book 1) + The Charnel Prince (Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Book 2) + The Blood Knight (The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Book 3)
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Product Details

  • Series: The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 594 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Reprint edition (March 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345440706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345440709
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #255,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The Briar King, Greg Keyes's latest elegant entry into the world of high fantasy, lays the groundwork for what promises to be a mesmerizing four-book series--the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. Keyes spins his tale in a meticulously crafted fantasy realm on the brink of apocalyptic change. The Briar King, a legend cobbled from children's stories and rural folklore, is waking from his slumber to an unknown but cataclysmic end. Dark agents are afoot in the land, stirring war and edging an ancient prophecy closer to fulfillment. In destiny's path are a king's woodsman, his headstrong lover, a bookworm priest, a cocksure swordsman, and the embattled (from within and without) kingdom of Crotheny. Keyes masterfully intertwines far-off courtly intrigue with the personal quest of the woodsman and his brave companions who seek to unravel the secret of the Briar King before all is lost.

Although The Briar King will suffer the inevitable comparison with George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, it should be said that Keyes's work is no mere rip-off. This is excellent world building, applied with a dark, powerful touch that should convince Martin fans to become Keyes fans, too. --Jeremy Pugh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The author of the bestselling Age of Unreason tetralogy (The Waterborn, etc.) inaugurates the Kingdoms of Throne and Bone quartet with this epic high fantasy. The inhabitants of this splendid and dauntingly complex parallel world, Everon, are mostly descended from folk magically transported from our world. This is not quite the land of Faerie, although the Briar King resembles the old Celtic horned god Cernunnos, while Keyes brings his expertise as a fencing teacher to the swordplay, here called dessrata. The Empire of Crotheny faces war with its arch-rival, the Hanzish, and magical intrigues aimed at preventing the land from having a born queen (as opposed to a king's consort). By book's end, Princess Anne, the daughter of the Crotheny king, is fleeing for her life with Austra, her maid, and Cazio, a young Vitellian nobleman, having earlier experienced the pains of discipline in a convent and the horrors of having her family butchered. With aplomb, the author employs one of the most classic fantasy plots: the heir(ess) with a destiny and a necessarily huge cast of supporters. Keyes mixes cultures, religions, institutions and languages with rare skill. The main theme may emerge with formidable slowness, but patient readers will find the rewards enormously worthwhile.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Keyes brings the characters to life very well.
Usually in books that jump from character to character with each chapter I only get to like one character...or none at all.
Morgan W.
You might as well get them all because you aren't going to want to stop reading this series.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By the_smoking_quill on April 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Briar King is the first novel in the (planned) fantasy quartet, "Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone." The gist of my review is this: TBK is perhaps the first wonderful fantasy book of the 21st century and worthy of a place beside A Game of Thrones (George Martin) and Assassin's Apprentice (Robin Hobb) on your shelf reserved for engaging, well-written, mature, contemporary fantasy. It is, in a word, a keeper.
TBK opens with one of (if not the) best preludes in fantasy, which raises the overshadowing concept for the saga: a warrior-queen leads an army of enslaved humans in the storming of their demonic masters' citadel, only to learn that the means of their victory may have set in motion the doom of the world. In the story itself, set over 2,000 years later, the first signs of this doom begin to appear in the kingdom of Crotheny. The mythical Briar King, doom's harbinger, is said to be waking from his ancient slumber, even as the wars and intrigues of the human nations carry on, seemingly unaware ...
I've been deliberately vague about the actual story and principal characters so as to let the book speak for itself. I read a good deal of fantasy fiction (and write it as well), and I'm pleased to say that this is one of the best I've read in recent memory. Keyes writes in clear, often artful prose and has a true gift not only for world-building (and the research that surely underlies it) but also for showing the world and its wonders and horrors vividly without over-description or telling. (Or at least, when he must tell, he does it in a plausible, often inconspicuous manner.) The dialogue is crisp and spiced with wit and various languages; the characters are, for the most part, realistic and distinct. The plot is well-balanced and builds to a page-turning crescendo.
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116 of 136 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 16, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Greg Keyes' "The Briar King" is a mix of good fantasy and thorny mess. While the worldbuilding and background for the first book of his new series is outstanding, his writing doesn't live up to his imagination. It's a flawed but deeply interesting book overall.
The Briar King is a remnant of the old pagan beliefs, living on only in little superstitions and children's songs. But after the old holter Aspar rescues a nerdy young priest, they learn of strange things that are stirring in the woods, and human beings are dropping dead or being sacrificed -- and Aspar encounters a greffyn, a mythical monster whose touch and breath can kill. They're all signs that the Briar King is waking.
But the Briar King isn't the only source of trouble: the royal Dare family is being quietly turned on its head. Someone is trying to kill the queen, Princess Lesbeth has vanished mysteriously, and idealistic young knight Neil has fallen in love with Princess Fastia (who is married). Worst of all, one of the royals has gone mad, and threatens to destroy his entire family. The only one who may escape is immature Anne, who has been having strange visions.
It's virtually impossible to write semi-original fantasies now, but Keyes dodges the typical cliches -- elves, wizards, Dark Lords and demons. The story is engaging and unusual, but it starts stumbling partway through. But it demonstrates that Keyes has a good story worth telling; it ends on a "to be continued" note, of course.
Keyes starts off strong with mysterious occurrances and plenty of creepiness. He puts a lot of effort and description into his worldbuilding, such as the Dare family, the pseudo-Christian religion and well-crafted myths. But about halfway through "Briar King," Keyes starts to lose control of the story.
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59 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In my estimation this exceeds the quality and readability of Robert Jordan, and nips at the heels of Tolkien and my favorite, George R R Martin. The characters, writing, language/history/culture/magic concepts, and clever (and at times brutal) plot twists are the best features. In some way it lacks the full feel of the "sweep" of other epic fantasies, but the work Keyes does with characters, along with the writing itself, distinguish it as absolutely first-rate.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By StdPudel VINE VOICE on February 24, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Every time I go to the book store, I pick up fantasy novels, flip them over to read the blurb on the back, and put them down when I read "blah, blah blah, end of an age, prophesy, only so-and-so with hidden powers/heritage/last of his-her line, blah, blah blah". The Briar King presents a medieval-like world which, thank you Greg Keyes, did not send me to the map with every new chapter. There's a handful of main characters in parallel storylines, some of which converge by the end of this book. The most appealing character is Aspar White, the forester. He's spent most of his life patrolling the King's forest, a solitary employee of an employer he's never seen. Disturbing things in the forest cause him to investigate, and the further things he finds brings out his heroism. Stephen Darige, the novice monk and scholar, is another reluctant hero. Through him we learn that the church has real powers we would call magic. Another storyline is devoted to the unravelling of the royal family of Grotheny and Anne Dare, its ultimate heir.

The Briar King was slow to get into (I made a few false starts) but once I got going, I was able to keep the characters straight in my head (unlike A Song of Ice and Fire) and enjoyed the story very much. Greg Keyes must like language, because he uses a few invented languages, much like Tolkien. For someone like me who wanted to be a philologist after reading Lord of the Rings, this is a real appeal.

The Briar King is the first of a trilogy, which somewhat disappointed me since it would have been gratifying to have the story wrap up in one volume. However it is a sprawling tale and there's clearly a lot more to tell by the end of the book.

Male and female fantasy fans alike will enjoy this story, with its swords and sorcery, myths and religions, and well-drawn characters.
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