Two thousand years ago, the Born Queen defeated the Skasloi lords, freeing humans from the bitter yoke of slavery. But now monstrous creatures roam the land—and destinies become inextricably entangled in a drama of power and seduction. The king’s woodsman, a rebellious girl, a young priest, a roguish adventurer, and a young man made suddenly into a knight—all face malevolent forces that shake the foundations of the kingdom, even as the Briar King, legendary harbinger of death, awakens from his slumber. At the heart of this many-layered tale is Anne Dare, youngest daughter of the royal family . . . upon whom the fate of her world may depend.The Briar King by Greg Keyes
Published by Del Rey in 2004
I picked this book up at the bookstore one day pretty much on a whim. I had been seeing the third book in the trilogy around, The Blood Knight, and thought the trilogy looked promising, so when I saw the first book at the second hand store, I decided to give it a try.
There is a lot going on in this book. The book starts out in peaceful times, but there is a change coming. People can feel it coming, and though they are warned about what is about to occur, it is so out there that they do not believe it will happen. This is the story of a kingdom on the brink of take over, on the brink of something from the past reappearing in the future. The king's woodsman has been warned that his life is about to change, he can feel the differences in the forest, but he chooses to ignore the warnings until it is almost too late.
The princess of the kingdom is not your average princess. She refuses to confirm to the common ideals of being a princess and is not at all like her older sister. The sister that used to be her friend has become more like her jailer, making sure that she does not break the rules of decorum. When it gets to the point that she refuses to listen to anything, she is sent to a convent to be trained as an assassin-like character. The changes in the kingdom come to her sanctuary, though. Someone has desires to overthrow the king, and they cannot be successful if she is still alive to risk their plans. They plan to put her brother on the throne because he is mentally slow and will be a puppet king. Suddenly the princess that played at being daring is forced into that role for real.
There is an interesting band of characters in this book. Other than the woodsman and the young princess who both have destinies to fulfill, there is a young priest who sort of annoys me, but he is supposed to. He has spent his time living in books, and suddenly he finds himself in the middle of an adventure that he is not ready to handle. But when safety is offered to him, he finds that maybe he is ready to break outside of his norm afterall. There is also the roguish adventurer who knows nothing but fighting for his honour, but he finds himself up against forces that even surpass his fighting abilities. He becomes an unlikely ally to a rebellious princess.
Lastly, there is a young boy who finds himself the queens protector. He is the youngest of the guard, but he has dedicated his life to his queen and he will do anything for her. It might be the difference between success and failure for those that plot the overthrowing of the kingdom. As you can see, this book has a large band of heroes and heroines in the mix. The princess is supported by her lady in waiting, the king's woodsman finds himself caught up with a woman, and the queen finds herself in a place that she never dreamed of being.
This was an interesting fantasy novel and a decent beginning to a trilogy. I would not say that it is very revolutionary in content, but a lot happens in it to make it a good read. I look forward to seeing how this band of people transforms in the sequel, The Charnel Prince.