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The One Kingdom: Book One of the Swans' War Trilogy Hardcover – 18 Jan 2001

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; First British Hardcover Edition edition (18 Jan. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841490202
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841490205
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.8 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,342,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The One Kingdom, the first volume of the "Swans' War" sequence, takes us to a land cut into a myriad of small valleys by an endlessly curving and treacherous river which sometimes wanders out of reality. Selfish nobles have reduced the land to barbarism and poverty with their feuding over what is no longer even credibly a throne--even the honourable Arden and Dease are plotting to kill their much-loved kinsman for trying to make a peace with enemies they will not trust. And into this mess of arranged marriages and evil henchmen and blind minstrel lords wander three young men from the further reaches of the valleys looking for the man who pilfered the minor treasures they had gleaned from old battlefields, a man who is more than he seems and whose enemies are not people to whose attention one wishes to come. Russell is setting things up for the long haul here, and yet this is a book full of set pieces and a sense of the bloody past haunting the present like a nightmare. We find ourselves caring passionately about minor characters: a disfigured noblewoman who attends a ball behind a mask and the minstrels casually butchered by a dark magician's hired thugs. --Roz Kaveney

Review

The One Kingdom, the first volume of the "Swans (War" sequence, takes us to a land cut into a myriad of small valleys by an endlessly curving and treacherous river which sometimes wanders out of reality. Selfish nobles have reduced the land to barbarism and poverty with their feuding over what is no lon)

#NAME? ('A master of intelligent fantasy subtle, wellcrafted and gripping.')

STEPHEN Donaldson ('This book is the beginning of something big, something very big')

DIVERSEBOOKS.COM

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Jun. 2002
Format: Paperback
Like the previous reviewers I was finding much fantasy writing stale (I was reading Stone of Tears at the same time as The One Kingdom which proved a useful contrast). The One Kingdom is a marvellous, leisurely paced book without many of the usual fantasy cliches. You get a real sense that the main characters are being slowly but irresistably drawn into a greater story with its origins in the distant past. The magic is low key evoking mystery rather than wizz bang pyrotechnics. I can't wait for the second part! Knights of the Vow = Knights Templar?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 May 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a beautiful book. The plot is intricately woven,layers building one on another, and the characters are believable, flawed, and human. The atmosphere is tense at times, and yet there is something dreamlike and at times idyllic in a relaxed kind of way. A book that will drop images into your mind and induce a variety of moods. I was impressed. And then horrified that I'll have to wait almost a year for the sequel. How can they do that?
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Format: Paperback
The One Kingdom tells the story of three young lads from the Vale of Lakes, Tam Loell and his cousin Fynnol, and Fynnol's cousin Baore Talon, who set off on the river Wynnd to sell artefacts found on an ancient battlefield in the town of Inniseth.

The first night they're met by Alaan, a stranger looking for old stories about given names in the Vale. When they're attacked by brigands, Alaan sacrifices himself to help the young men escape. The next morning, they meet a party of travelling Fáel. Among them Cynddl, a story finder, asks to join the boys on their trip downriver. A trip that will end up taking them much further south than they initially intended.

South, where Dease, Samul, Arden and Beldor Renné are plotting the political murder, at the annual Westbrook Fair, of their cousin Toren, current leader of the family. This way they want to prevent him from returning the Isle of Battle to the Wills, the Renné's age-old enemies. Indeed, they think this peace offer will make them vulnerable and bring the family to ruin, plus they hope to frame the Wills at the same time.

Also caught in the midst of this intrigue is 20-year-old Elise, daughter of the blind musician Lord Carral Wills and niece of the despicable Menwyn, who wants to marry her off to Prince Michael, son of Prince Neit of Innes, and use her to reawaken war against the Renné.

I found the beginning of the story rather slow, with the first four protagonists mainly rowing down the river, and sometimes reminiscent of the Fellowship of the Ring, with young cousins off on an adventure, meeting elf-like Fáel, being tracked down by scary men... I also thought the short glimpses at the numerous other characters' stories were kind of confusing. Thankfully, the plot really gets interesting when all pieces finally click together around 200 pages before the end, and the book suddenly becomes a page-turner.
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Format: Paperback
Three young travelers leave their village to see more of the world - that's when the trouble begins. Meeting a mysterious man, Alaan, who seems to know more about their family and ancestors than they do, they're suddenly attacked by nameless soldiers and forced to flee - leaving Alaan, presumed dead, behind them.

Barely escaping, Tam, Baore, and Fynnol stumble into a Fael camp. The Fael - a people of wandering minstrels and storytellers - remind me, for some reason, of Robert Jordan's Tuatha'an.

Meanwhile, a feud between two noble houses - the Renné and the Wills - threatens to open up again, and engulf the world in a bloody fire of vengeance and betrayal. But, both sides are being played against each other by the sinister Eremon - thought killed many years ago, under another name...

From a somewhat unoriginal and atypical fantasy start, the story soon started taking on its own flavour; quickly becoming apparent that Sean Russell was not simply dredging up old cliches, but doing something new and inventive ... as well as just being a plain great writer!

I thought the idea of a story-finder - able to pick up memories and events from the past - was a really original idea, and Cynddl was certainly an interesting character. It was a very clever way to have someone knowing about the past, but not be a Useless Guide type of character.

The background characters were fleshed out well, too; it can be all too easy to have main protagonists well developed, and the supporting cast, cardboard, cliché-cut-outs. The Renné and the Wills were very intriguing, and it'll be exciting to see in the next two books, whether Russell lets both Houses realise their similarities and same cause ...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this series partly due to the recommendation of Stephen Donaldson, who apparently described it as "subtle, well-crafted and gripping". Well, 'subtle' - yes, 'Ill give him that; 'well-crafted' - certainly; but gripping - hmm... really?

There are aspects of this book that are really good - the quality of the writing, the unfolding history that underpins the story, the sense of various Celtic myths being interwoven and retold in a very different way. But whilst some of the characters are reasonably intriguing, some are, well, a bit flat - particularly, I have to say, the lead character, Tam. The biggest problem, though, was that long chunks of the story are positively tedious - essentially, they consist of: they travel a bit, then some baddies attack them, but against the odds our guys beat them or manage to escape, then they travel a bit more, then some more baddies attack them but, guess what, against the odds ...

I persevered with all three books, and was reasonably happy with how all the various characters' threads in the storyline were resolved at the end, but to be honest, it became a bit of a chore getting there. So, it was OK, but not something I will be going back to re-read.
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