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The Briar King (Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone) Paperback – Unabridged, 2 Jul 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Tor; 1 edition (2 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330419455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330419451
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 3.2 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 570,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The Briar King opens Greg Keyes' four-volume fantasy sequence "Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone". Besides being highly readable, the novel offers an intriguingly tangled plot and back-story that rises well above the black-and-white simplicities of commercial fantasy.

A prelude of magical battle and hard-won victory over hated slave masters strikes a note of doom as it's suggested that the coming Golden Age is already poisoned by misuse of magic at its founding. Next, a much later historian's note records that "In the year 2,223 E, the age of Everon came to an abrupt and terrible end." This is the year in which the main narrative begins.

It's a time of late-medieval kingdoms, with credible political tension and devious diplomacy. In the kingdom of Crotheny, something is very wrong in the royal forest--signalled by the forest warden's sighting of a "greffyn". Both like and unlike the griffin of myth, this creature's mere presence poisons streams with a deadly contamination that lingers and can be passed on by touch.

Something is rotten in the Church, too, where a gifted novice monk finds himself translating ancient, unspeakable texts that should have been left in decent obscurity. Other kinds of wrongness fester at court, with shifting tensions among the mostly likeable members of a dysfunctional royal family, increasing political pressure from outside and genuinely shocking treason within. When a knight of the Queen's most trusted personal guard abruptly tries to kill her, there seems to be no safety anywhere. Not even in the well-defended "coven" or convent to which the youngest, most wilful princess is despatched to be trained as an assassin-nun.

As a variety of neatly-drawn characters pursue personal feuds, vendettas, love affairs, comic pratfalls, escape plans and paths to advancement, there are repeated hints that the land itself--defiled by sinister rituals of desecration--is dying. The greffyn and the appalling Briar King of prophecy seem to be symptoms rather than the real disease.

The Briar King is a strong start to what promises to be a gripping fantasy sequence. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A wonderful tale . . . It crackles with suspense and excitement from start to finish."--TERRY BROOKS "STARTS OFF WITH A BANG, spinning a snare of terse imagery and compelling characters that grips tightly and never lets up. . . .A graceful, artful tale from a master storyteller."--ELIZABETH HAYDON Bestselling author of "Prophecy: Child of Earth ""THE CHARACTERS IN "THE BRIAR KING" ABSOLUTELY BRIM WITH LIFE. . . . Keyes hooked me from the first page and I'll now be eagerly anticipating sitting down with each future volume of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series."--CHARLES DELINT Award-winning author of "Forests of the Heart "and "The Onion Girl ""A THRILL RIDE TO THE END, WITH PLENTY OF TREACHERY, REVELATION, AND EVEN A FEW BOMBSHELL SURPRISES."--"Monroe News-Star "(LA)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Feb. 2005
Format: Paperback
As fantasies go, I have to say I enjoyed this novel - it is certainly in the upper rungs of the genre. Perhaps it didn't rank among the greats, but it certainly entertained me consistently. One of the signs of a talented author is their ability to control several overlapping storylines and characters in a way that keeps you on your toes no matter which person's story you are reading at the time. I hated the end of every chapter when it meant that thread of the story was left hanging, while we delved into another, but again, I was reluctant to finish the next chapter, too. If I had to pick a fault in this book, it would be the character of the king. I assume Keyes intended him to be a good man who suffered from the faults of humanity, but I found myself unable to get over his disrespectful treatment of his wife, a good person, the reasons for which are never explained. I also found it slightly odd that he never actually speaks to his children, though they feature often in his thoughts. Though the impending-evil-doom story is slightly contrived, The Briar King himself is a wonderfully twisted creation of folktale and your typical fantasy-baddy, one of the best villainous concepts to come out recently, and I only wish he had a larger role in the novel. In saying this, I have yet to read the second in the series, a task I am thoroughly looking forward to. Put simply, not one to be missed by any serious fantasy addict like myself.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Timbertwig VINE VOICE on 6 Dec. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Briar King is the first volume in The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series. It is a multi-threaded novel following several groups of characters, each with their own mini-adventures. In most fantasy novels, the focus is on a main hero but in this book - rather like Geroge R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire sequence - we follow the fate of several characters, never quite knowing how their destinies are connected.
There's one thing for sure, however. Greg Keyes shows great skill in jumping from scene to scene and ending each chapter with a cliffhanger. Seldom is there a dull moment as every chapter is filled to the brim with action and fresh developments to keep readers at the edge of their seats. Numerous sword fights, boy-meets-girl encounters, political intrigues, and man vs. monsters matches keep the page turning.
Keyes succeeds in creating characters that you get to care about: a royal forester, a rebellious princess, a naieve priest, a young man who is suddently turned into the queen's protector, and a roguish adventurer to name but a few. You are advised not to get too attached to any of them, however, as the author does not hesitate to kill his characters whenever the plot dictates.
If you're on the lookout for another fantasy series to get your teeth into while waiting for the next Martin or Jordan novel, give this a go. The Briar King grips from the first chapter and never lets go. The final chapter ties up just enough loose ends to satisfy those expecting a conclusion but it also makes promises of even greater things to come.
Review by Antonio Pineda
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By David Roy on 2 Nov. 2004
Format: Hardcover
I bought The Briar King, by Greg Keyes, a while back because everybody told me that it was so good. However, I found myself reluctant to start yet another epic fantasy series, so it languished in my "To be read" stack. Then, I received a review copy of the second book in the series, The Charnal Prince, so I decided I should probably read both of them soon. I tell you this not because you should necessarily care what I do (what a man reads is really his private business unless he writes reviews about them), but so that you can avoid doing the same thing I did. If you like fantasy at all, you should go out, get this book, and maybe even the second book, and read them. Right now. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Oh, you want me to tell you why you should read it? Ok. Keyes has created a masterpiece with vivid characters, an interesting overarching plot, and a doom from the dawn of time. This is not your ordinary doom from the dawn of time, though. The Briar King is a force of nature that is never truly understood, something that's called forth to wreak havoc on the land, changing this world into its own gruesome image. With this book, Keyes is well on his way to reshaping that world. We follow a disparate group of characters, including a king, his queen, a young knight who becomes her protector, a couple of princesses, and a fencer who becomes infatuated with one of those princesses. On the other hand, we have the guardian of the King's Forest, his lover, and a monk who finds himself translating some very ancient, and very evil, documents, much to the detriment of the world, not to mention his own skin. A conspiracy is afoot throughout the land, one which may bring down an entire royal family, and one which may result in the death of everybody. Everywhere. Treachery abounds, and nobody is safe.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Joe Sherry on 18 Aug. 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I had never heard of "TheBriar King" or Greg Keyes until I saw Terry Brooks plugging the book on his web site. I decided to check it out. It has always been difficult for me to get excited about a new fantasy series, it feels like a major investment of time and I don't want it to be a waste. But, with the Terry Brooks recommendation and blurbs on the back cover from Melanie Rawn and Katherine Kurtz, I was willing to give the book a chance. I'm glad that I did.
"The Briar King" will suffer from inevitable comparisons to Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" and to George Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire". While such comparisons are only natural, they are unfair. A fantasy series needs time to develop over several books to be fairly compared to another major series. Also, while there are a couple of stylistic similarities, "The Briar King" is wholly distinct. It also stands up quite well on its own.
The novel begins thousands of years before the main story, as we see the origins of the land and the prophecy that will begin to shape the events of the book. The novel follows several characters: the headstrong daughter of a king, a woodsman, and a bookish scholar. While some of these paths to intertwine at points, there is quite a bit going on to build the world as a real place as well as creating a detailed story that will be a joy to follow over 4 books. The series will be called "The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone" and will be four books.
This is an exciting new fantasy series, and any fan of Robert Jordan or George Martin owes it to him or herself to check this one out.
-Joe Sherry
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