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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, 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.
Top customer reviews
What's to like: Gregory Keyes is a solid writer, something I'd known from his Babylon 5 books. In fact, that's the reason I gave Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone a shot. His characters in general react plausibly, and the world he creates feels real.
What's annoying: The women in this book get short shrift. Seriously. There is only one "point of view" female character, and her main motivation for most of the book is which man she will moon over. The other woman are largely side characters, and they do little except to cleave to men and get rescued. In fact, every single named female character in this book at some points becomes a damsel in distress, which a feat I don't think I've seen previously accomplished in a fantasy book. (Once will do.) Also, I've had enough of woman-takes-up-with-man-twice-her-age.
The Briar King also takes a really, really long time to get moving. I don't necessarily mind the slow boil--and it's far better than a tale that's constantly turned up to volume 10--but it might reasonably discourage some readers.
I'll very likely move on to the next book in the series, which I guess means that The Briar King did the job. I just wish I could feel more certain about what it delivered.
The characters come to life with energy and draw the reader in to their stories. The diverse cast is clearly distinguished so there is minimal confusion; each character has his/her own energy and "flavor." I feel like I have just gained a new set of friends while journeying into the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. I know who I want at my side and watching my back!
The plot builds with tension so the pages turn faster and faster. There is clever humor, believable romance, vivid and exciting fighting, mystery, dramatic irony that makes the reader want to scream to warn the heroes away from disaster, and cliff hangers at the end of most chapters, which makes turning out the light to go to sleep nearly impossible.
While there is much to savor about this book, what impressed me more than anything was the smooth inclusion of such realistic details about the characters' back-stories, their thought processes, their habits, their motivations, their personal artifacts, their fund of knowledge, etc., that I felt as though I were completely immersed in their world.
I highly recommend to readers who enjoy battles of wits, sword-fighting, magic, good vs. evil, monsters, twists and turns, death-defying escapes, murder mysteries, damsels in distress, feisty heroines, manly men, and geeks whose brain power can win the day. However, this book does have a handful of dark moments with blood and guts gore. Even so, it's a worthwhile investment of money, time, emotion, and imagination. I'm definitely buying the next book in the series.