Cover image for The one kingdom
The one kingdom
Russell, Sean.
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Publication Information:
New York : EOS, 2001.
Physical Description:
463 pages ; 25 cm.
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X Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Science Fiction/Fantasy
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The cataclysm began more than a century earlier, when the King of Ayr died before naming an heir to the throne, and damned his realm to chaos. The cold-blooded conspiracies of the Renne and the Wills -- each family desirous of the prize of rule -- would sunder the one kingdom, and spawn generations of hatred and discord.

Now Toren Renne, leader of his great and troubled house, dreams of peace -- a valiant desire that has spawned hostility among his kinsmen, and vicious internal plots against his life. In the opposing domain, Elise Wills's desire for freedom is to be crushed, as an unwanted marriage to an ambitious and sinister lord looms large. As always, these machinations of nobles are affecting the everyday lives of the common folk -- and feeding a bonfire of animosity that has now trapped an unsuspecting young Valeman Tam and two fortune-hunting friends from the North in its high, killing flames.

But the closer Toren comes to achieving his great goal of uniting two enemy houses, the more treachery flowers. Nobles and mystics alike conspire to keep the realm divided, knowing that only in times of strife can their power grow.

And perhaps the source of an unending misery lies before an old king's passing, beyond the scope of history, somewhere lost in a fog of myth and magic roiling about an ancient enchanter named Wyrr -- who bequeathed to his children terrible gifts that would poison their lives...and their deaths. It is a cursed past and malevolent sorcery that truly hold the land, its people, and its would-be rulers bound. And before the already savaged kingdom can become one again, all Ayr will drown in a sea of blood.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the land of Ayr two noble families, the Renn and the Wills, fight for political advantage in this sprawling first volume in a new high fantasy series distinguished by intelligent characters and believable politics. The Renn noblemen set out on a path of treachery, conceiving a plan to murder one of their own at the Westbrook Fair and, by so doing, frame the other family. The Wills plan an equally heinous act; they want to force a spunky young noblewoman to marry a handsome but subjugated prince, in order to produce an heir who'll be their puppet on the throne. Meanwhile, Tam, Fynnol and Baore, three young cousins of supposed peasant background, believing themselves far removed from the politics of the nobles, blithely set out from their sheltered homes in the Vale to make their fortunes. But when they encounter Alaan, a mysterious rogue with a charming demeanor, all their plans go awry. Supernatural forces cause paths and tributaries to mysteriously and unpredictably open, channeling the travelers into unforeseen lands and onto heretofore hidden islands, with hazardous results. Inevitably, all paths lead to the Westbrook Fair. Russell (River Into Darkness) so neatly interweaves the supernatural characters into the story that the magical elements seem an organic part of the history being made. This a perfectly plotted, beautifully written fantasy. Agent, Howard Morhaim. (Feb. 8) Forecast: With rights already sold to Germany and the U.K., for six figures each, as well as a strong blurbs from Stephen Donaldson, Robin Hobb and Janny Wurts, plus a three-city author tour, this novel looks to be on the fantasy fast track. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As the succession to the kingdom of Ayr lies in dispute, two feuding families become embroiled in plots and schemes to acquire the throne. Against the backdrop of impending war, a storyteller, a blind minstrel, a mysterious rogue, and a young woman bent on making her own choices find their destinies intertwined with the working out of ancient legends. Skillful storytelling and engaging characters recommend this series opener by the author of River into Darkness for most fantasy collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Two sons and a daughter were born to King Wyrr of Ayr. The Swans (as they were known) ended up either killing one another or disappearing to parts unknown. This first book in a new fantasy series starts more than a century after the war that was caused for lack of a successor to King Wyrr's throne. Running beneath a strained peace is a deep hatred between the royal houses of Renn? and Wills. Running through the land is a strange river as twisted as the plots hatched by the characters. Toren Renn? pushes for peace through diplomacy. His cousins plan to kill him using arrows stolen from the Willses. Elise Wills resists marriage arrangements concocted by relatives bent on amassing a war-size army. In the boondocks, Tam and his buddies strike out for adventure down the river to sell battlefield artifacts. Eventually, Tam realizes that he is on a quest to find answers about his dead father. Encounters with the mazelike river and its spirits conjure up feelings familiar to anyone who has been caught in the woods at twilight. Stories within stories are either revealed or hinted at in a tantalizing fashion. While there is a resolution to Toren's and Elise's predicaments, there are many questions left unanswered. Even with its remarkable depth, the book is fairly easy to follow. Once caught up in Russell's newly created world, readers will undoubtedly be eager to return for more.-Sheila Shoup, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The One Kingdom Book One of the Swans' War Chapter One In the moving landscape only the men were still. They sat at the long table atop Summer's Hill as motionless as stones in a running stream. Around them the wind was in flight, more joyous than a swallow, as heedless as a child. It swept down onto the new green oats and raked through the hay, making waves and patterns like sand on a riverbed. Gusts bent and swayed the trees, pulling away the spring leaves and spinning them up into the wind-washed sky. But in the center of this the men remained still. Dease was relieved that he and Samul had prevailed, and the others had agreed to meet here, where the countryside was visible for almost half a league. He didn't want to take the least chance that they would be overheard-it was enough that they had to listen to themselves. "I would say there is not one among the Wills who can even unhorse him, let alone manage what we need," Samul said--Samul, who almost never spoke out in the family assemblies, preferring to seed his ideas in the minds of others so that he might watch quietly. Samul the cunning, Dease thought of him. Beld shifted on his bench. "Toren is so sympathetic to the Wills that I think they should not even want to cause him a bruise, let alone do him harm." Dease noticed that the others looked a little uncomfortable whenever Beldor spoke. No matter what their feelings in this, no one else hated Toren the way that Beld did. Several were Toren's admirers, in many ways. "I fear we can't trust to others to do it for us," Samul said softly. "I think the earlier plan the best. We let our cousin win the tournament, as he is likely to do anyway, and then do the deed at night so that it looks like revenge. That would be best. It will see our dear cousin removed from the succession and place the blame clearly on the Wills." "It will hardly be clear," Dease said, unwilling to hide his distaste for what they planned, "not that it will matter. Everyone is ready to believe the Wills capable of the worst treachery." "Then that is what we'll do, Cousins," Beld said, sitting back a little on his bench. "I worry only that some might lose their nerve." He looked around the table. "That hard decisions do not come easy to everyone." "You can name me, Beld," Dease said. "We all know of whom you speak. You're hardly subtle." "But subtlety is not what's needed," Beld answered, sitting forward quickly, his temper flaring. Dease could see his cousin's muscles tensing beneath his tunic. "Deeds are what's required, Cousin, and I'm not sure you can stomach that, being such an admirer of Toren's and all." Dease met his cousin's gaze easily, not looking away or even looking particularly intimidated, and very few were not intimidated by Beld. He was a great bear of a man, but even more so, he looked like someone barely in control of a vast and raging anger-which was, in fact, the truth. "I do admire him," Dease said simply. "In many ways he is the best of us, and not just on the tournament field." Beld banged his fists on the table. "But Toren will give us over to the Wills! He thinks that they can be won over by charm and words, that they will be convinced to give up their feud of nine generations. He will gift them the Isle of Battle, which is no different than giving them the wealth to raise an army. Toren thinks that all we have to do is renounce our claim to the throne-as simple as that-and they will do the same, and all will be well with the world." He looked around at the others quickly. "Give up our claim! I've heard him say it myself. Does he know what the Wills would do to us if they were ever to ascend the throne? They would not forget the past. They would not forgive. Toren will see the Renné name eradicated from Ayr, that's what Toren's . . . statecraft will accomplish. But it isn't our name that I want to see forgotten. No, I for one have had enough of his conciliation. I-" "Enough, Beld!" Dease interrupted. "We've all heard you rant before. Spare us, this day." Beld lunged up from the bench, but Arden and Samul grabbed his massive arms, and he let them pull him back onto the bench. "Enough of this," Samul said, his voice, as always, firm and reasonable. "Don't bait him, Dease; we can't afford division now." "Yes, I know, but let's not try to justify what we do as noble, Samul. It is the most vile treachery. We are about to murder our own cousin, and though I admit it's necessary to our preservation, still I can't pretend it is anything but what it is. You all know I've tried to reason with Toren. I've spent countless hours in this vain pursuit, and I sometimes think he came nearer to convincing me, than me to him." He splayed a large hand on the table, looking down at it sadly. "But I'm sure now that he will not be convinced to give up this folly. So we must either follow him to disaster or resort to treachery. For the future of our family, I choose treachery, but I have no doubt that I am a blackguard--a murderer and a traitor. And if we are discovered, don't imagine that our family will think otherwise, for they would rather honorable ruin than this ignominy that we have chosen." The stillness returned, as the wind ranged around them, swaying the branches of the tree overhead so that shadow and sunlight chased each other madly across the table and over the grim faces of the gathered men . . . The One Kingdom Book One of the Swans' War . Copyright © by Sean Russell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The One Kingdom by Sean Russell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.