The Briar King by Greg Keyes

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.

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