The Briar King

The Briar KingI’ve been a lazy SOB. I finished Greg Keyes’ The Briar King quite some time ago but never got around to posting a review of it. Or whatever you call these short verbal spewings about books that I do…

And the damned thing is, The Briar King is the best fantasy book I’ve read in a long time! Keyes has a talent for breathing real life into his characters, making sure that each is an individual. And he has a talent for weaving several plot lines into a coherent whole. Like Mike Stackpole in The Secret Atlas, Keyes rotates through the various plots on a chapter by chapter basis. This does create the same problem that one could run into with Atlas, which is a loss of continuity if you’re reading one chapter every other night or something.

So what is it about? Well, its about the end of the world, apparently. The end of this fantasy world. The titular Briar King is a kind of boogeyman creature: used to scare small children but not considered real. Except, well, he is. And he’s wakened from his long, long sleep. Legend has it that him stirring means the end of the world is near. With him come all kinds of other things that go bump in the night.

We have a broad cast of charactors, from the forester (born as his mother was being hung!) who looks after the king’s forest, to the king himself, and his family. Toss in a very noble and pure of heart knight, a bookish monk, the king’s rather wild daughter, and the forester’s rather young love interest, and stir them up with lots of intrigue, gruesome sacrificial murders, forbidden texts, and spirits of ancestors, and you get an epic fantasy tale that isn’t even close to finished at the end of The Briar King.

Which is why I’m mid-way through the volume two, The Charnel Prince. Volume three is set to hit stores right around now, if it hasn’t already. [Ach! It’s been delayed until July!!! -dc]

In a lot of ways this series reminds me of George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Heck, the series is called “The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone.” If you liked Ice and Fire, you’re going to like Thorn and Bone. A lot.

An enthusiastic two thumbs up. If you love fantasy, you must read this book.