Book Review: The Briar King by Greg Keyes

Book Review: The Briar King by Greg Keyes

Title: The Briar King
Author: Greg Keyes
Series: Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Book 1
Publisher: Tor
Paperback: 553 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

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 on the brink of apocalyptic change. The Briar King, a legend cobbled from children’s stories and rural folklore, is waking from his slumber to an unknown but cataclysmic end. Dark agents are afoot in the land, stirring war and edging an ancient prophecy closer to fulfillment. In destiny’s path are a king’s woodsman, his headstrong lover, a bookworm priest, a cocksure swordsman, and the embattled (from within and without) kingdom of Crotheny. Keyes masterfully intertwines far-off courtly intrigue with the personal quest of the woodsman and his brave companions who seek to unravel the secret of the Briar King before all is lost.

My Rating: 3/5


The storyline of The Briar King is fantastic. I enjoy fantasy plots with a doomsday prophecy and characters who have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. There are the stereotypes that one comes to expect in this sort of novel: stubborn, hot-headed princess, naive priest, brave knight, cynical woodsman, etc. However, I think there are quite a lot of unique elements to the story, and the imagery of the Briar King thoroughly creeped me out. What really sold me at the end was how everyone’s stories start fitting together.

Despite this, I found this book extremely difficult to get in to. The writing gets progressively better throughout the book, but the beginning was tough going. It reads like a middle-grade novel instead of adult fantasy. There’s very simplistic narrative, unrealistic dialogue (and a lot of it!), and many of the characters aren’t likeable at first. At about three-quarters of the way in, the plot gets moving and the characters get better. I think it’s because they have to deal with real problems instead of whining about trivial things.

I’m not sure if it’s worth investing in this series yet, considering that it doesn’t become good until the later part of the first book. There are three more books, and if these three are anything like the last part of The Briar King, I think it will be worth it. The ending of this book is definitely enough to keep me reading more, but the sequel has to be very good for me to continue with this series all the way.

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