Title: The Briar King
Author: Greg Keyes
Series: The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bones, book 1
Genre: Epic fantasy
Recommendation: If you like character-driven epic fantasy, you will love this book.
Summary: Thousands of years ago Genia Dare won the war, freeing humans from Skasloi overlords. Her descendant, Anne Dare is a princess of the throne and may have a much bigger role to play than she dreams of. For the Briar King is starting to awaken in the far away forest and no one knows for sure how the world is going to change.
Reactions: I have been meaning to read Greg Keyes for some time now. There are many praises written about this series and I was not disappointed in the least. The Briar King is a well-woven story bringing together a diverse set of characters.
The story switches between several story lines each chapter, but after some time you can start to see a bigger picture coming together. I am very impressed with how the plot is crafted to tie in the story lines and keep a good pacing in each individual quest at the same time. My biggest disappointment is that there is very little closure at the end of the novel. It's definitely not meant to be read as a stand-alone and in many ways just a start of a story rather than a complete book.
I also enjoyed getting introduced to Keyes' characters. Some of them may sound like stock characters; there is a royal family, a cheeky princess, a traveling monk, a rough woodsman, and a knight. Yet somehow, each of them manages to stand out, capture attention, and make you want to meet them in person. I felt quite involved with most of the characters by the end of the book and wanting to know more.
At the same time, Keyes sticks to the traditional epic fantasy tropes. It's easy to tell the good characters from bad. The good guys all possess heroic traits, while the bad guys are outright villains. All in all, it's a traditional fantasy epic, well written and fun to read. I would definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys the genre.