January 31, 2012

The Briar King

The Briar King by Greg Keyes is the first book of the fantasy series Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone.  The plot elements are the usual fantasy fare:  the Briar King, a legend from children's tales and folklore, is waking from his slumber and threatening the kingdom (and ultimately the entire world).  The host of characters includes but is not limited to a headstrong princess, a quiet but courageous woodsman, and a dedicated priest.

If I had to sum up this book quickly, I would say "good but not great".  The story reminds me of a host of other books:  Game of Thrones, Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series, and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books.  A fantasy story with a multi-perspective narrative combined with the end times has been done by many authors, and it really needs to be extraordinary if it's going to stand out.  

While Keyes does a great job with world building, there is no rhythm to the flow of the narrative.  Sometimes you may hear from one character for a single chapter and never get their perspective again.  It jumps around too much.  A major new character is even introduced in the last third of the novel--but by then I didn't really care, I just wanted to hear from the few well-established characters.  

I enjoyed this book enough that I plan to eventually pick up the second one in the series.  But I'm not in any rush. 

3.5 stars
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