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on 11 May 2007
I'm not sure what to make of this instalment. I'll start with the criticism:

First, I was a little bit peeved to see that it was the first in the series to come out as a hardback (which I refused to buy) then peeved even more when the long-awaited map (which featured in the hardback) was not included in the paperback. Secondly I was under the impression this was a trilogy until about 20 pages from the end of this book. Of course I'm happy that there's another book, but Aristotle might have had a point about drama and three acts. Third point of criticism I take from my review of the Charnel Prince - the characters know more about the setting than the reader which can be confusing if you're balancing lots of fantasy novels, even though it makes for good dramatic effect (especially since he deftly avoids dei ex machinis).

However, these are all minor points and don't seriously detract from the quality of the novel. Anyone who likes the GRR Martin approach to individual chapters for individual characters will feel at home with the approach Keyes takes here. Moreover, he seems to have lifted an element of his own background and grafted it in detail on to some of the characters making each of them very believable. This really comes through, with the fencer, the musician, the scholarly monk all being very individual in their behaviour and language.

Because I thought it was a trilogy I anticipated all the plot threads being tied up as the book progressed, but this is certainly not the case as they diverge and twist and turn. I'm not even sure who's on who's side or where they'll be heading next - which makes it rather difficult to guess how the next book will shape up. I'd still love to know more about the Roanoke connection... but presumably that's something he'll drop in right at the end.

Roll on book 4.
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VINE VOICEon 10 December 2007
"The Blood Knight" is the best book to date of what is a good - but not great - fantasy series. There are a few revelations to move the plot in new directions, and there is LOTS and LOTS of action to keep it all moving at a fast pace.

Pretty much all of the parallel plotlines are interesting, and Keyes intertwines them excellently, finishing each chapter with a mini-cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more, reading several more chapters just so you can get back to where your favourite character left off. My main complaint character/story-wise is that I'm still not buying the strand about Leoff the composer - to me it just doesn't seem necessary or exciting. No doubt it will tie in well with the overall story in the fourth and final book, "The Born Queen", but I haven't been won over by it thus far.

I also have to say that I am becoming increasingly annoyed by the Briar King, who seems more and more to be becoming entirely pointless in the overall scheme of things. In the first book he was a harbinger of doom for the world; ever since then he has just faded to obscurity and beyond, and at this stage I don't have much hope that he has a purpose at all. One would think that a writer of Keyes' stature could pull something out of the bag with it, but I am skeptical, to say the least, about where he is planning to go with the Briar King.

The book is also slightly windy, and comes to a bit of an anti-climactic conclusion. The promised final battle isn't really a battle but a series of semi-exciting skirmishes, and Keyes conveniently rushes its conclusion by having one of the protagonists knocked out during the fighting, waking up after it's all over and having the outcome reported to him. I found this to be a cop-out. For the amount of time the plot of the re-capture of Eslen was given in the book, it really didn't pay off for me.

But despite all the flaws laid out above, I still think this is the best book in "The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone" so far, largely because of the developments in the story which are revealed in it, particularly towards the end, with at least one quite surprising revelation coming to the fore.

Now comes the long wait for The Born Queen to be released.
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The third and penultimate book in The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series, The Blood Knight resumes the story where we left off in The Charnel Prince. Robert Dare, the late king's brother, has usurped the throne of Crotheny. He has imprisoned his brother's wife, Muriele, but has been unsuccessful in capturing or killing her lackwit son or youngest daughter, Anne. Meanwhile, Anne has overcome numerous obstacles and returned to southern Crotheny, which she begins the difficult task of winning some of the noble lords to her cause and raising an army. The monk Stephen's path leads him into the east to find knowledge that will aid in combatting the rising evil in the land, whilst the former royal holter, Aspar, will likewise find his destiny taking him into the wilds to a final confrontation with the mystical Briar King.

From the start, The Blood Knight feels a little uneven. The story takes a while to speed up again as we are, at length, reintroduced to characters from the previous books and what they are up to. This takes some considerable time. Once the plot gets going again, things get more interesting, paticularly as we get to the biggest battles in the series so far (although these are mere skirmishes rather than large set-piece engagements, which I suspect will be held back for the final volume). However, the writing feels a little less confident than in the first two volumes. Things are not as tight and sloppy, whilst the inexplicable need to end every chapter on a cliffhanger gives the book a juddering pace which makes reading it at times mildly frustrating. Also, the extreme passivity of characters such as Aspar and Stephen becomes grating. They are both carried along by events outside their control, constantly second-guessing themselves and the people they need to trust. The moment when Anne, who was going the same way, breaks free and starts making her own decisions rather than blindly following some ancient prophecy, is extremely carthartic for that reason. One disappointment is that Leoff, given his importance to the second book, is extremely inert for this volume and doesn't accomplish much, whilst Muriele is pretty much absent, although given her conditions that is perhaps not surprising.

The Blood Knight is the weakest of the three books so far. The decline in quality of the series across its length was something I'd been pre-warned about, but is still regrettable. That said, even at this stage the core storyline remains interesting, the characters mostly sympathetic and, most importantly, the story remains intriguing enough to make you want to read on into the final volume, The Born Queen.

The Blood Knight (***½) is available from Tor in the UK and Del Rey in the USA.
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on 25 July 2006
One of the most anxiously awaited books this year (by me, anyway) was The Blood Knight, by Greg Keyes. The third book in the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series, this book is once again phenomenal. It avoids the one pitfall The Charnel Prince had (namely, one huge coincidence that almost broke my suspension of disbelief) and doesn't add any others to the mix. I'd say it's even better than the first book, The Briar King. This is yet another part of one of the best fantasy series I've read in a long time.

Unrest settles over the kingdom of Crotheny. Princess Anne, who escaped assassination at the Coven of St. Cer where she was sent for training, has been apparently captured, but the book opens with her waking up to discover herself lying next to a man who has been brutally killed. She's been having visions of some otherworldly entity, some demon in female form that may be helping her, or at least preventing others from harming her. Her uncle, Robert, has returned from the dead and deposed her mother, Muriele, from the throne. With a steadily growing entourage, Anne must march on the capital and wrest back control of the kingdom, though other events around the world may make this all pointless anyway. The Briar King is back, a force of nature that seems to think that all men must die for what has been done to the forests in the land, but even he may not be the force everybody believes he is. What does all this have to do with ancient history, and the exploits of Anne's distant ancestor, Virgenya Dare and how she freed humanity from the Skasloi? Old secrets come to the forefront again, the laws of Death have been breached, and who knows what will happen even if Anne is successful?

This summary is extremely narrow, as it leaves out a number of different plotlines that all have to do with the overarching story. The Blood Knight is definitely a complicated book, but Keyes makes it all look effortless. Keyes' writing is vivid, whether he's writing a battle scene or a tender scene between two people in a budding romance. His turn of phrase is wonderful, with interesting descriptions and an excellent use of language. Best of all, though, is the style of the book. Each chapter centers on one character or group of characters, leading to a bit of a cliffhanger or sudden twist, before moving on to another one. Thus, while all the different situations are related to each other, they're all clearly defined. This sets a kind of leisurely pace that makes the book a pleasant read despite some of the cruelties or destruction contained therein. However, as the book rushes to a climax, this rule is thrown out the window. Scenes flash by in quick succession, points of view change and many of the sections are quite short. This adds an intensity to the ending that, while it may not have been needed, definitely made the book hard to put down as the ending approached.

Once again, the characterization is almost flawless. The female characters are all strong (some stronger than others, of course) but not needlessly rough. Anne has some serious doubts about her ability to lead the march on the castle because of her aloof childhood, but she marshals her strength as well as incorporating some of the magical abilities that she has discovered. Stephen, the bookish monk who comes into his own near the end as he discovers that he is more than just a sidekick, is masterfully handled. His transition is logical and helped along by outside forces as they require him to see more to himself than he ever thought possible. One slight issue with the female characterization is that most of them (pretty much all but Anne) are partially defined through their relationships with the men. What saves Keyes in this case, however, is the fact that most are strong despite that, not because of it. Their relationships are only part of their characters, not the only aspect that gives them depth. Austra is the only one who really suffers here, but since she's Anne's servant and childhood friend, she's more defined by her relationships to everybody, not just the man she loves. Even Austra, however, has some really good moments where she comes into her own.

I also can't say enough about the plot of the book (and this series). It's truly an epic story, covering religion, mystical forces, and the usual politics. Keyes gives some nice twists to the old "the kingdom is in danger from outside forces who want to take control" theme, and while it's unclear exactly what the relationship is between the political and the more mystical aspects of the series, it's clear that there is one. For those who are really confused, Keyes provides a very thorough explanation (pretty much an infodump, but told in a way that wasn't completely boring) near the end of the book.

Speaking of the ending, keep in mind that there is a fourth (and final) book coming. Keyes seems to like 4-book series (see his Age of Unreason books). It was strange, because everything seemed to be building toward a climax, but as the end neared, there was clearly too much to resolve by the end of The Blood Knight. Keyes produces a couple of massive twists that move things off in a new direction, which should make for a cracking finale.

Forgive me if this review sounds like a gush, but I truly loved this novel, and I think any fan of high fantasy would too. The entire series is worth reading, and the wait for the final book will be excruciating. Whenever you do so, you have to read this series.

David Roy
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The continuation of Gregs latest series has had readers guessing as to who's who and how the tale will continue to develop. Guessing at all times will drive the reader mad as they attempt to figure out who's really on who's side as the supernatural battle amongst themselves with mankind drawn in to the deadly struggle. Highly entertaining and is something that will keep the reader glued to the end. However this is a novel that you can't read without having read the rest of the series so if you plan to read it, read the others first to get the full pleasure of this series.
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on 29 August 2007
This book is a must have for all fantasy lovers.
I have read Tolkien, George RR Martin, Robin Hobb, Pullman, Terry Goodkind (not proud of that one :)), and I have to say that Mr. Keyes is definetly 1st class fantasy writer.
The story is complex, the characters are amazing (Stephen, Neil, Anne, Aspar, Cazio,...), there is a lot of action, twists, a lot of history, politics, mystery - so everything a good fantasy saga needs.
I can not wait for the last book the Borne queen!
If you like fantasy novels, you will love this saga for sure.
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on 14 October 2008
This is a good series so far, I've read the first 3 books in close succession and am writing this review mainly to disagree with the 3 star reviewers here who have noted a decline in the story - I have to say I haven't found this to be the case and am looking forward to the final installment (altho worried by the 2 star reviews I have seen but not read - I'll judge it on its own merits!)
I wouldn't put this series up there with the greats of GRR Martin or Robin Hobbs, but this is still a very well written and readable story with a well concieved world complete with an interesting back-history which emerges through the books. One of my favourite concepts is that of the 'skasloi' the ancient race of slave masters and I like the portrayal of religon vs power/magic and the ambiguity in some of the characters.

All in all if you have read and enjoyed books 1 & 2 then I'd be surprised if you didn't enjoy this one.
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on 17 July 2006
I don't usually write reviews, but this series deserves one. I devoured the first two books within 5 days, and only had to wait two weeks for The Blood Knight to be released. It's defiantly as good as the first. Keyes is a fantastic writer who really draws you into his story and keeps you intrigued and leave you wanting more at the end of each chapter. If you enjoy fantasy novels like Jordan and Goodkind (at least the first few) I would recommend you read these ones, The Briar King is the first, The Charnel Prince is the second and the Blood Knight the third. I am now in for a long wait for the final book.
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on 13 February 2016
Brilliant book and a great price
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