The Briar King by Greg Keyes
|Called 'Martin Lite' by many fans, Greg Keyes' The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series is certainly among the best epic fantasies currently being written.|
This series is based upon the premise that the missing colony of Roanoke, Virginia, the first British colony in the new world founded by Sir Walter Raleigh, has somehow dissapeared to a mythical fantasy world. The first child born in America to English parents, Virginia Dare, is the ancestor and nigh-mythical hero to our protaganists.
To free humankind from slavery to an evil race, Virginia Dare had to make use of unholy sorcery. In so doing, she and her descendants became the victim of an awful curse. In The Briar King, set hundreds of years later, this dreaded curse begins to rear it's ugly head.
The Briar King himself is an obvious nod to Green Man mythology; he wakes to defend his forest from destruction by man. The idea is well developed, and Keyes is even able to add his own twist to the ancient story. His world is meticulously constructed, rich in both history and culture, and with at least five different languages -- which can be a bit overwhelming at times.
The comparisons to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series are apt; there are a slew of different characters whose viewpoints are woven in a manner which tells the complete story. Some of the characters border on stock fantasy archetypes, but they're the type that we can't help but love; the questing knight, the roguish swordsman, and the princess who was prophesied.
While Keyes may not be redefining epic fantasy, he succeeds in telling a vastly enjoyable story. Without reservation, I would reccomend The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone to all fans of epic fantasy, and especially for those who are looking for something to tide them over until A Dance With Dragons.
The third in the series, The Blood Knight, is due out in July 2006, and will be reviewed on this site within the next week.
Keyes is becoming more popular by the book, and this series looks to be moderately collectible. At some point first editions of The Briar King will certainly be a worthy investment.