Cover image for The Briar king
Title:
The Briar king
Author:
Keyes, J. Gregory, 1963-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Del Rey, 2003.
Physical Description:
552 pages ; 25 cm.
Language:
English
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.8 26.0 88477.
ISBN:
9780345440662
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

"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 It has been two thousand years since the Born Queen defeated the last of the Skasloi lords. In doing so she freed the race of humans--once taken from their distant homes and forced to wear the bitter yoke of slavery. Thus begins the saga of the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, an epic tale of war and virtue, sorcery and betrayal. . . . THE BRIAR KING Book One of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone In the kingdom of Crotheny, two young girls play in the tangled gardens of the sacred city of the dead. Fleeing an imaginary attacker, the girls--one of whom is the reckless young daughter of the king--discover the unknown crypt of the legendary, ancestral queen, Virgenya Dare. In the wilds of the forest, while investigating the slaughter of an innocent family, king's holter Aspar White weaves his way through a maze of ancient willows--and comes face-to-face with a monstrous beast found only in folk tales and nightmares. Meanwhile, traveling the same road, a scholarly young priest begins an education in the nature of evil, found festering just beneath the surface of the seemingly peaceful land. The royal family itself comes under siege, facing betrayal that only sorcery could accomplish. Now--for three beautiful sisters, for a young man made suddenly into a knight, and for a woman in love with a roguish adventurer--a rising darkness appears, shattering what was once certain, familiar, and good. These destinies and more will be linked when malevolent forces walk the land. For Crotheny, the most powerful nation in the world, is shaken at its core. And the Briar King, harbinger of death, has awakened from his slumber. Imbuing his tale with richness, pathos, action, and passion, Greg Keyes begins an amazing new epic that takes fantasy fiction to a new level. At the heart of the story, Keyes has placed a remarkable young woman, Anne Dare, the youngest daughter of a royal family . . . and the one person upon whom the fate of this world may depend.


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The Sefry, who have lived in the king's forest in the land of Crotheny for centuries, are fleeing it in fear for their lives. They have heard that the Briar King is waking, and human sacrifices at the holy places of the old gods and the depredations of a terrifying beast, the greffyn, seem to substantiate the rumor. In the monastery d'Ef, a novice monk realizes that the ancient volume he is translating contains unholy curses apparently intimately related to the dark events and the Briar King's revival. Moreover, in the king's castle, betrayal and murder by the psychotic prime minister, King William's brother Robert, run rampant. Each day further wakens the Briar King, which prophecies say means that the bloody end of the world is at hand. Only a queen of the Dare lineage on Crotheny's throne when the Briar King comes can prevent it. William and two royal daughters are gone, leaving Murielle--the Dare queen--and youngest daughter Anne. The evil haunting the land targets Murielle. To be continued (pant, pant). Paula Luedtke


Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Jan. 1) Forecast: With a six-city author tour, plus blurbs from Katherine Kurtz, Terry Brooks, Charles de Lint, Elizabeth Haydon and Melanie Rawn, this could well be Keyes's breakout book, garnering the kinds of sales associated with George R.R. Martin. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

As war threatens the kingdom of Crotheny, a series of dark and strange events presages the coming of a prophesied age of terror and evil. In the forest, the ancient Briar King stirs, while a queen and her daughters seek to preserve their heritage. Drawing on Celtic lore and the legend of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, the author of "The Age of Unreason" series begins a new epic fantasy featuring a unique world and familiar themes. Keyes's talent for world crafting and storytelling makes this series opener a strong addition to fantasy collections. Recommended. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-A high-level, high-fantasy novel from the author of "The Age of Unreason" series (Ballantine). Complex story lines and multifaceted characters are introduced deftly, detailing the multiple intrigues afoot across the world of Everon, whose populace may have descended from figures in our history, particularly the lost colony of Roanoke. (An influential area is called Virgenya, and a revered ancestor from antiquity is Virgenya Dare.) Strange and deadly events plaguing the kingdom of Crotheny seem to be inaugurating a time of terror long predicted in prophecy. As Crotheny faces war with its great enemy Hanzish, a murderous conspiracy involving the prime minister and a band of rogue monks moves to prevent the land from ever having a true-born queen of Dare descent. Human sacrifices are performed, a horrifying monster drives forest dwellers from their homes, and the powerful, mysterious Briar King begins to stir. The closing action finds spunky survivor Princess Anne on the run from assassins and sorcery, accompanied by her loyal servant Austra and by Cazio, a master swordsman who is infatuated with the princess. Meanwhile, a large cast of well-drawn supporting characters is left facing challenges that equal or surpass Anne's. Drawing intriguingly on multiple cultural and religious traditions, Keyes employs his considerable storytelling skills to great effect here, creating an epic cliff-hanger that will leave most readers eager for the next installment.-Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

The Born Queen The sky cracked and lightning fell through its crooked seams. With it came a black sleet tasting of smoke, copper, and brimstone. With it came a howling like a gale from hell. Carsek drew himself up, clutching his bloody bandages, hoping they would keep his guts in until he saw the end of this, one way or another. "She must order the charge soon," he grunted, pushing himself to his feet with the butt of his spear. A hand jerked at Carsek's ankle. "Get back down, you fool, if you want to live until the charge." Carsek spared a glance at his companion, a man in torn chain mail and no helm, blue eyes pleading through the dark mat of his wet hair. "You crouch, Thaniel," Carsek muttered. "I've done enough crouching. Fourteen days we've been squatting in these pig holes, sleeping in our own shit and blood. Can't you hear? They're fighting up front, and I'll see it, I will." He peered through the driving rain, trying to make out what was happening. "You'll see death waving hello," Thaniel said. "That's what you'll see. Our time will come soon enough." "I'm sick of crawling on my belly in this filth. I was trained to fight on my feet. I want an opponent, one with blood I can spill, with bones I can break. I'm a warrior, by Taranos! I was promised a war, not this slaughter, not wounds given by specters we never see, by ghost-needles and winds of iron." "Wish you may and might. I wish for a plump girl named Alis or Favor or How-May-I-Please-You to sit on my lap and feed me plums. I wish for ten pints of ale. I wish for a bed stuffed with swandown. Yet here I am still stuck in the mud, with you. What's your wishing getting you? Do you see your enemy?" "I see fields smoking to the horizon, even in this pissing rain. I see these trench graves we dug for ourselves. I see the damned keep, as big as a mountain. I see-" He saw a wall of black, growing larger with impossible speed. "Slitwind!" he shouted, hurling himself back into the trench. In his haste he landed face first in mud that reeked of ammonia and gangrene. "What?" Thaniel said, but then even the smoke-gray sun above them was gone, and a sound like a thousand thousand swords on a thousand thousand whetstones scraped at the insides of their skulls. Two men who hadn't ducked swiftly enough flopped into the mud, headless, blood jetting from their necks. "Another damned Skasloi magick," Thaniel said. "I told you." Carsek howled in rage and frustration, and the rain fell even harder. Thaniel gripped his arm. "Hold on, Carsek. Wait. It won't be long, now. When she comes, the magicks of the Skasloi will be as nothing." "So you say. I've seen nothing to prove it." "She has the power." Carsek brushed Thaniel's hand from his shoulder. "You're one of her own, a Bornman. She's your queen, your witch. Of course you believe in her." "Oh, of course," Thaniel said. "We believe whatever we're told, we Bornmen. We're stupid like that. But you believe in her, too, Carsek, or you wouldn't be here." "She had all the right words. But where is the steel? Your Born Queen has talked us all right into death." "Wouldn't death be better than slavery?" Carsek tasted blood in his mouth. He spit, and saw that his spittle was black. "Seven sevens of the generations of my fathers have lived and died slaved to the Skasloi lords," he sneered. "I don't even know all of their names. You Bornmen have been here for only twenty years. Most of you were whelped otherwhere, without the whip, without the masters. What do you know of slavery? You or your redheaded witch?" Thaniel didn't answer for a moment, and when he did, it was without his usual bantering tone. "Carsek, I've not known you long, but together we slaughtered the Vhomar giants at the Ford of Silence. We killed so many we made a bridge of their bodies. You and I, we marched across the Gorgon plain, where a quarter of our company fell to dust. I've seen you fight. I know your passion. You can't fool me. Your people have been slaves longer, yes, but it's all the same. A slave is a slave. And we will win, Carsek, you bloody-handed monster. So drink this, and count your blessings we got this far." He passed Carsek a flask. It had something in it that tasted like fire, but it dulled the pain. "Thanks," Carsek grunted, handing it back. He paused, then went on. "I'm sorry. It's just the damned waiting. It's like being in my cage, before the master sent me out to fight." Thaniel nodded, took a swig from the flask himself, then stoppered it. Nearby, Findos the Half-Handed, deep in a fever, shrieked at some memory or nightmare. "I've always wondered, but never asked," Thaniel said pensively. "Why do you Vhiri Croatani call us the Bornmen, anyway?" Carsek wiped the rain from his eyes with the back of his hand. "That's a strange question. It's what you call yourselves, isn't it? Vhiri Genian, yes? And your queen, the firstborn of your people in this place, isn't she named Genia, 'the Born'?" Thaniel blinked at him, then threw back his head and laughed. "What's so funny?" Thaniel shook his head. "I see now. In your language that's how it sounds. But really-" He stopped, for a sudden exclamation had gone up among the men, a mass cry of fear and horror that moved down from the front. Carsek put his hand down to push himself up, and found the mud strangely warm. A viscous, sweet-smelling fluid was flowing down the trench, two fingers deep. "By all that's holy," Thaniel swore. It was blood, a river of it. With an inarticulate cry, Carsek came back to his feet. "No more of this. No more!" He started to clamber out of the trench. "Stop, warrior," a voice commanded. A woman's voice, and it halted him as certainly as the spectral whip of a master. He turned and saw her. She wore black mail, and her face above it was whiter than bone. Her long auburn hair hung lank, soaked by the pestilent rain, but she was beautiful as no earthly woman could be. Her eyes sparked like lightning in the heart of a black cloud. Behind her stood her champions, clad much as she, bared fey- swords gleaming like hot brass. Tall and unafraid, they stood. They looked like gods. "Great queen!" Carsek stammered. "You are ready to fight, warrior?" she asked. "I am, Majesty. By Taranos, I am!" "Pick fifty men and follow me." The forward trenches were filled with milled meat, with few pieces still recognizable as human. Carsek tried to ignore the sucking his feet made, somehow different from walking in ordinary mud. He had less success ignoring the stench of opened bowels and fresh offal. What had killed them? A demon? A spell? He didn't care. They were gone, but he was going to fight, by the Twin and the Bull. When they halted in the foremost trench, which was half again as deep as Carsek was tall, he could see the black walls of the fortress looming above. This was what nearly a month and two thousand or more sacrifices had gained them-a hole at the foot of the fortress. "Now it's just a brisk walk to the wall that can't be broken and the gate that can't be breached," Thaniel said. "The battle's nearly won!" "Now who's the skeptic? Here's a chance for glory, and to die on my feet," Carsek said. "It's all I ask." "Hah," Thaniel said. "Myself, I intend not only to cover myself in glory, but to have a drink when it's all done." He held out his palm. "Take my hand, Carsek. Let's agree-we'll meet for a drink when it's over. Overlooking the arena where once you fought. And there we shall account who has more glory. And it shall be me!" Carsek took his hand. "In the very seat of the master." The two men clenched a mutual fist. "It's done, then," Thaniel said. "You won't break a promise, and I won't, so surely we'll both live." "Surely," Carsek said. Planks were brought and laid so they might scale their own trench. Then Genia Dare, the queen, gave them all a fierce smile. "When this sun sets we shall all be free or all dead," she said. "I do not intend to die." With that, she drew her feysword and turned to Carsek. "I must reach the gate. Do you understand? Until the gate falls, five thousand is no better than fifty, for I can protect no greater number than two score and ten from Skasloi slaughter-spelling if they have us 'neath their fatal eyes, and if we can do naught but stand in their gaze. Once the gate is sundered, we can sweep through too quickly for them to strike down. This will be a hard charge, my heroes-but no spell will touch you, that I swear. It's only sword and shaft, flesh and bone you must fight." "Flesh and bone are grass, and I am a sickle," Carsek said. "I will get you to the gate, Majesty." "Then go and do it." Carsek hardly felt his wounds anymore. His belly was light and his head full of fire. He was the first up the plank, first to set his feet on the black soil. Lightning wrenched at him, and slitwinds, but this time they parted, passed to left and right of him, Thaniel, and all his men. He heard Thaniel hoot with joy as the deadly magicks passed them by, impotent as a eunuch's ghost. They charged across the smoking earth, howling, and Carsek saw, through rage-reddened vision, that he at last had a real enemy in front of his spear. "It's Vhomar, lads!" he shouted. "Nothing but Vhomar!" Thaniel laughed. "And just a few of them!" he added. A few, indeed. A few hundred, ranged six ranks deep before the gate. Each stood head and shoulders taller than the tallest man in Carsek's band. Carsek had fought many a Vhomar in the arena, and respected them there, as much as any worthy foe deserved. Now he hated them as he hated nothing mortal. Of all of the slaves of the Skasloi, only the Vhomar had chosen to remain slaves, to fight those who rose against the masters. A hundred Vhomar bows thrummed together, and black-winged shafts hummed and thudded amongst his men, so that every third one of them fell. A second flight melted in the rain and did not touch them at all, and then Carsek was at the front rank of the enemy, facing a wall of giants in iron cuirasses, shouting up at their brutish, unhuman faces. The moment stretched out, slow and silent in Carsek's mind. Plenty of time to notice details, the spears and shields bossed with spikes, the very grain of the wood, black rain dripping from the brows of the creature looming in front of him, the scar on its cheek, its one blue eye and one black eye, the mole above the black one . . . Then sound came back, a hammer strike as Carsek feinted. He made as if to thrust his spear into the giant's face but dropped instead, coming up beneath the huge shield as it lifted, driving his manslayer under the overlapping plates of the armor, skirling at the top of his lungs as leather and fabric and flesh parted. He wrenched at his weapon as the warrior toppled, but the haft snapped. Carsek drew his ax. The press of bodies closed as the Vhomar surged forward, and Carsek's own men, eager for killing, slammed into him from behind. He found himself suffocating in the sweaty stench, caught between shield and armored belly, and no room to swing his ax. Something hit his helm so hard it rang, and then the steel cap was torn from his head. Thick fingers knotted in Carsek's hair, and suddenly his feet were no longer on the ground. He kicked in the air as the monster drew him up by the scalp, dangled him so it was staring into his eyes. The Vhomar drew back the massive sword it gripped in its other hand, bent on decapitating him. "You damned fool!" Carsek shouted at it, shattering the giant's teeth with the edge of his ax, then savaged its neck with his second blow. Bellowing, the Vhomar dropped him, trying to staunch its lifeblood with its own hands. Carsek hamstrung it and went on. Excerpted from The Briar King by Greg Keyes 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.