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The Briar King

2 Ratings: 3.5
A book by Greg Keyes

The Briar King, Greg Keyes's latest elegant entry into the world of high fantasy, lays the groundwork for what promises to be a mesmerizing four-book series--the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. Keyes spins his tale in a meticulously crafted fantasy realm … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Greg Keyes
Publisher: Del Rey
1 review about The Briar King

Underrated And Original

  • Aug 20, 2008
One of the top contenders to the unofficial "Most Underrated Voice in Fantasy Today" would have to be Greg Keyes. I ordered the Briar King on one of those completely spontaneous moments and went into the tale with very little in the way of expectations. By the end I came out wondering why this book (or rather this series as the case may be) doesn't seem to generate the hype it deserves. Keyes is very easily on par with some of the top names in the genre both in terms of plot, pacing and style. But before I get ahead of myself here, let's break down the pros and cons of diving into the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone (KOTAB) saga.

Coming in at 608 pages, it's a fairly typical (if not a bit on the light side of late) first entry into an epic fantasy saga. Surprisingly, Keyes elects to forgo the recent trend of 10, 11 and 12 part series and keeps his KOTAB efforts to a four-book run. Thos who favor epics with seemingly no end in sight may view this as a deal-breaker but I for one felt like the smaller series allowed Keyes to keep the main plot relevant throughout (and didn't force him into penning up thousands of pages of filler or subplots).

Without giving away too much of the plot itself (there are dozens of reviews posted already that do a better job at that than I could if I wanted to) I will say that Keyes deserves credit in sidestepping the cliché fantasy literary elements that have run rampant in the genre as a whole and instead brings a pretty slick prose to the table. Aside from the misunderstood Briar King himself, the majority of once-believed mythical beasts that make their appearance in this series are simply misspelled incarnations of creatures straight out of mythology (griffons, basilisks, and so on). The jury is still out on exactly how effective the slight misspellings of modern English words proves their point, but I suppose they neither detract nor add to the flow of things as a whole.

Perhaps Keyes greatest strength is his ability to pour on the creepiness when required. Some scenes would fit right in the horror category just as effectively as the fantasy niche (making a fence of intestines from disemboweled corpses for example). Younger readers or those easily grossed out need not apply. However, this isn't to insinuate that Keyes relies upon gore to make up for a weak prose; in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Like George RR Martin, Mr. Keyes breaks the story down into the individual exploits of a bunch of seemingly unrelated characters then has their paths cross and intertwine later on. Some authors attempt this with little success- Keyes needn't worry. Not quite as large in scale is the universe GRRM or Robert Jordan have become famous for creating, Keyes isn't too far behind (quite an accomplishment considering he's done in only 4 books what it has taken others 10+ to accomplish).

The author's second greatest asset is pacing- a trait that many other fantasy authors could stand to note. Never does the reader get bogged down with wordy descriptions of mundane objects such as clothing or a dinner menu. Instead the character development is steady and just thorough enough to get the job done until a hardy action sequence picks up and effortlessly bridges the gap to the next instance of development.

All in all the Briar King (and its subsequent entries) represent a gem among many bloated and over-hyped fantasy entries. It isn't perfect but then again nobody has ever charged it with being so and in the end maybe that's what makes it special.

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August 11, 2010
wow...my buddy posted a book review! I will keep this in my radar, I am working on a book called "Dust" right now. Thanks!
August 12, 2010
William: So much entertainment, so little time. I would like to read more in fact. Maybe one day. lol
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