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The River Kings' Road (Ithelas #1)

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  382 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
Liane Merciel's "The River Kings' Road "takes us to a world of bitter enmity between kingdoms, divided loyalties between comrades, and an insidious magic that destroys everything it touches.... "The wounded maidservant thrust the knotted blankets at him; instinctively, Brys stepped forward and caught the bundle before it fell. Then he glimpsed what lay inside and nearly dr ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Pocket (first published February 16th 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,444)
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Jun 13, 2014 Dorian rated it really liked it
Shelves: other-ebooks
This book starts with a not unfamiliar scenario: a prince murdered, his family with him in a bloody massacre; a lone knight survives to hide the prince's baby son away, that the child may live, and grow up to avenge his father's death and retake his rightful throne...

But, in fact, the lone survivor is no noble hero, but a cynical ex-mercenary who saves the child for reasons of his own. The dead prince was not as much loss to his kingdom as might be thought. The author of the massacre has compoun
Aug 01, 2011 seak rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, arc-review
While visiting the rival's city of Willowfield, the Lord of Bull's March, Sir Galefrid, has been ambushed by a dark magic only a Thorn could wield. The entire town is decimated, except for Brys Tarnell, who is able to escape just before the bloodmist fully takes its toll.

The coincidences and timing make it hard to believe it's only the workings of a Thorn and its bloodmagic. Sir Kelland, a knight of the Sun, blessed to work magic in the goddess Celestia's name, and Bitharn, hopelessly in love wi
Therese Arkenberg
Sep 26, 2013 Therese Arkenberg rated it really liked it
This is exactly the kind of fantasy I love: a potentially epic setting but with "low fantasy" focus on the actual people within it. Peasants have the chance to determine fate for a change. Like Saladin Ahmed, I also want "fewer kings and starship captains, more coach drivers and space waitresses" in my spec fic.

Beyond class diversity, the spec fic genre also needs progress in racial diversity. It's something I try to do in my own writing and also something I consciously keep an eye out for in my
Mar 25, 2010 Michelle rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, 2010
At a very young age my older brother handed me The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks and I fell in love. Up to that point I had been stuck with such light, kiddy books as The Baby Sitters Club or Encyclopedia Brown - never knowing about this whole other, magical world. But when I stepped into the pages that epic fantasy, I was completely and utterly lost. And although I no longer name Brooks as my favorite author, I still thank him (and his books) for introducing me to the magical world of epi ...more
Paul Weimer
Apr 24, 2010 Paul Weimer rated it really liked it
An impious mercenary witnesses, and avoids an attack in a bordertown between two fractious medieval fantasy kingdoms, Langmyr, the site of the attack, and their implacable enemy, Oakharn. Also surviving the attack are a young woman, and the heir to the Oakharn lord killed in the massacre.

This sets the stage for a complex web of alliances, struggles and strivings, as forces not only on both sides move to investigate and take advantage of the attack, but powers from beyond Oakharn and Langmyr as
Paul Williams
Sep 02, 2012 Paul Williams rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
All I can really say is that this book is adequate. I figured it probably would be, but had hoped it would surprise me and be a bit more. It got better towards the end, but never had anything to make it truly great.

Really, this felt like a really good high school production of a big-time musical. Sometimes you go see some teenagers perform Les Miserables, and you know it won't be spectacular, so you're not really disappointed. In fact, a few performances might even be stellar, even though they c
Mar 24, 2010 Melissa rated it it was ok
This book really sounded promising. Magic, adventure, and a mystery to be solved. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book as I thought I would. The author jumps from several points of view. This might have been fine if you knew the characters and the places well. Unfortunately, this served to draw me out of the story until I could place who what and where. I think if she followed two major players in this book, it would have flowed much better. My submissions for this would be Odosse, the peasa ...more
Mar 21, 2010 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
The year is 1217.

There is a feuding war going on between the kingdoms of Oakharn and Langmyr.

Brys Tarnell is a mercenary. He was part of Sir Galefrid of Bulls’ March entourage. An ambush was waiting for Sir Galefrid outside the church, they were praying in. Brys was not in the church. On his way out of town, Brys is handed a baby. The baby is Wistan, who is heir to the throne.

Odosse and her newborn son, Aubry are all alone. When Brys comes upon them promising safety, Odosse agrees to become n
Jul 24, 2010 Patricia rated it did not like it
Recommended to Patricia by: embarrassment of riches
I really disliked this book. First off, what does every medieval fantasy novel worth its salt have in the front cover? Yes! A map. This is handy for several reasons, but mostly because when I read that Brys and Odosse traveled between Willowfield and some border town in Oakharn I need a visual to understand how far that is and also where everything is in relation to each other. Without that, all those town names are only made-up words on a page. The map makes the narrative real. Other problems? ...more
Jessica Strider
Sep 15, 2011 Jessica Strider rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Pros: clear writing, fast paced, brutal but intelligent characters

Cons: the story jumps around and with the size of the cast it was sometimes hard to remember who was who

When Sir Galefrid's entourage is ambushed at prayers in Willowbank, on the wrong side of the border everyone, even the villagers, is killed. Only his infant son Wistan and a sellsword, Brys Tyrell, survive.

Brys encounters a young mother and child, away from the village for the day and convinces her to accompany him and help the
Jul 02, 2011 Kristen rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2011

This was a very quick read, and in places it felt awfully D&D. Every time the gods of the setting were discussed, I could picture the author pouring over a source book to pick out the relevant details to tell me about the gods in any particular explanatory sentence. That's probably not a good thing, and it definitely broke up the sense of immersion in the novel.

That said? The plot was good. The characters were likeable if somewhat under-described. There was a good bit of gentle feminism here
Mary (BookHounds)
This is a wonderful fantasy debut and once I started reading it, I found it hard to put down. The story takes right off and the alternate world will be a joy for any historical fiction fan. The story weaves magic in a very believable way and I didn't even question them since they were introduced so subtly. It really reminded me of a knights of the round table type tale. The author does a great job with the characters as well and you will find yourself cheering for the good ones! I especially lik ...more
T. Frohock
Apr 16, 2010 T. Frohock rated it really liked it
Another excellent fantasy for adults with believable characters. I'm looking forward to the next book in the Ithelas series, which according to Liane Merciel's interview at Alex Bledsoe's blog ( is going to be even darker than this novel. Good stuff!
Feb 05, 2014 Dan rated it it was amazing
This was a great story. Why it stood out for me within the realm of fantasy novels is that the story started, it got complicated, and then it finished. Yes, there is a lot of room for the continuation of some of the sub plots within the book but I don't feel pressured to read the next book in the series to find out what happened in the first. The majority of the characters don't fall into a simple classification of good or bad but rather change through the story given the developments in their o ...more
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Interesting characters, though frankly there are a lot of sociopaths trapped in between the pages of this novel. A little slow to get going, particularly since the first three-four chapters are devoted to introducing separate parties. But interesting once it gets past that.
Jan 10, 2010 Peterwilliam rated it really liked it
My review is HERE.
Zachary Muse
Aug 10, 2014 Zachary Muse rated it really liked it
Great book. I love the characters. They're unique and consistent to the personalities Merciel shapes for them. I love that none of the characters are completely "bad" or completely "good". The book has some extremely dark content without being completely depressing as some books that have a similar feel are. At the end of the book, I was surprised and a little disappointed that there wasn't more closure. I understand it's a series, but it felt like it ended too abruptly. That is the only reason ...more
Mar 05, 2016 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was probably a solid 3.5, but I was feeling generous for the way this book got better as it went along. It didn't have much world building and it took a while for the characters and story to really come together, but by the end I was hoping for more.

I'm only bothered by one thing: what's with the kind of racist character development? One character is obviously described as shocking to anyone he meets because of his darker skin tone. I couldn't really get past that. At least he's kind of th
Wendy Hines
Jun 24, 2013 Wendy Hines rated it liked it
The Langmyrn border village of Willowfield is desecrated by great evil, but the dead lord's babe survives. Bry's Tarnell is a mercenary who rescues the baby and enlists a young peasant mother, Odesse, to feed and take care of the child as they travel.

Sir Kellend is a Knight of the Sun whose job is to reveal the perpetrators of the blood slaughter and try to avert war. Bitharn is Sir Kelland's companion, who is fiercely in love with him, but he doesn't know it. There is a witch who practices evil
Jul 11, 2011 Jonathan rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
Really good epic fantasy. Nothing too ground breaking here, but I enjoyed the characters. Much like George RR Martin's characters, they all have their flaws and Liane tries to get you to see behind even the most despicable characters. Yes, it is one of those novels told via the "point of view per chapter" (like I said, it isn't groundbreaking by any means). And, also like Martin, magic is kept to a minimum and isn't some kind of duex ex machina used to propel the plot. The main characters, even ...more
Mar 24, 2010 Debbie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
"The River Kings' Road" is a well-written and enjoyable epic/heroic fantasy novel. I look forward to reading the next novel in the series. The pacing was very good, and I had a hard time putting the book down because I wanted to know what happened next. The world-building was also very good, and the author built believable cultures and characters.

The complex characters were interesting and engaging. They varied from cynically practical to naively good-hearted. Each character was faced with the h
Mar 24, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
From my blog...[return][return]This novel truly surprised me, I was quite literally mesmerised from the first sentence to the very last word and now find myself anxiously awaiting the next novel in the series.[return]The River Kings' Road by Liane Merciel is a brilliantly written debut novel and will grab the reader's attention from the very beginning of this story of one baby, heir to the throne, and his control of the destiny of two kingdoms. This intricately woven tale begins in 1217, a time ...more
Jul 04, 2010 Leslie rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-books
Set in a feudal world not unlike Europe after the breakup of the Roman Empire, The River Kings' Road begins with the massacre of a village and a visiting lord from a neighboring country, along with his family, who were the targets\. One knight and the lord's infant child survive, however, and along with a village girl and her child, they make their way across dangerous country seeking safety and attempting to avoid the killers, who know that they have not succeeded in wiping out the entire famil ...more
Christine (booktumbling)
Mar 25, 2010 Christine (booktumbling) rated it really liked it
I do not normally delve into the fantasy genre when choosing books. The number of pages, detailed plots/characters/worlds, and the commitment involved when there are 7 books in a series can be very daunting. I jumped at the opportunity to read The River Kings' Road by Liane Merciel - a debut work and what may be the first in a new series - for a book blog tour.

The story captured my attention from the start. An entire village is destroyed by forces of great evil. A mercenary/former knight rescu
Mar 28, 2010 Brenda rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This book started off really strong, and I was hooked pretty quickly. Unfortunately, it didn't stay quite as strong throughout. The writing was good, and the story is definitely interesting. At times I had a hard time figuring out the time period--exactly how much time had passed, a few days, weeks?

The baby they were carrying was really sick. In fact, Odosse mentioned that she had seen a baby who looked similarly ill who had died within a few hours. But it seems that this baby lives on for week
Apr 19, 2011 Gaby rated it really liked it
Liane Merciel's The River Kings' Road takes us to a kingdom similar to Medieval Europe in social structure, technological and economic development. The neighboring kingdoms of Oakharn and Langmyr have a longstanding history of enmity and war.

When the story opens, the fragile peace between Oakharn and Langmyr is broken with the massacre of a village and the assassination of an Oakharne lord and his family. By a stroke of luck, one mercenary that serves the dead lord survives. This mercenary, Brys
Mar 25, 2010 Ziaria rated it really liked it
I read Fantasy novels about 3 or 4 times a year. Usually because their worlds are so full of life that I can't delve into too many. I've got to say, I am so glad I picked this one! By page two, I was hooked!

Fantasy books usually take me a bit to read because their background it epic in nature. Lots of places, people, battles, magic etc. This book had all that and yet instead of taking days, I devoured it. I literally read the majority of it in one day. I just had to know it ended.

The storyline i
Mar 25, 2010 Theresa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Teens through Adult
It has been quite a while since I've had the pleasure of reading a really, really good fantasy, and "The River King's Road" was a fantastic read. In a way, I find this reminded me of "The Lord of the Rings". It had all the wonderful and scary things I crave... magic, witches, knights, good -vs- evil, murder, lies, deceit, treachery, love and loyalty. I found the storyline exciting with lots of twists and turns and the characters reacted just as I would expect for the setting and made them very r ...more
Abby Miller
Aug 27, 2010 Abby Miller rated it really liked it
Debut novel, and all in all not a bad read. The author has a good voice and the background is lush with intrigue and interesting characters, class structure, and magic. My only problem with the book, hence the four stars, is that in making her characters so well rounded and motivations as clear as a bell ringing on a cold winter night, is that I had trouble finding any of them that I truly liked all that well. I really wanted to get into the head of the Paladin, but alas, his is not the POV we g ...more
May 29, 2011 Enjee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.
This is a fantasy, rated PG.
The world-building is suberb, complete with a religion and touches of magic. The characters are well-developed, some with backstories that nudge one's curiosity. Odosse was a pleasure, not the average fantasty heroine but she becomes one by the simple virtue of displaying the courage of a mother.
The plot was not as good as I wanted it to be. For most of the story, there was little tension. We are told
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As a so-called “Army brat,” Liane grew up in Germany, South Korea, and several different parts of the United States. She now lives in Philadelphia, where she practices law. She is an alumnus of Yale University and the College of William & Mary Law School. She is of Korean and European heritage.
More about Liane Merciel...

Other Books in the Series

Ithelas (2 books)
  • Heaven's Needle (Ithelas, #2)

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