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The River Kings' Road

(Ithelas #1)

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  427 ratings  ·  86 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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3.46  · 
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 ·  427 ratings  ·  86 reviews

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Mar 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-review, 2011
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
Jun 13, 2014 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
Therese Arkenberg
Sep 26, 2013 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 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, fantasy
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
Apr 07, 2019 marked it as abgebrochen  ·  review of another edition
Ich breche keine Bücher ab. Ich hätte dann ein schlechtes Gewissen. Es hört sich auch ein meinen Ohren seltsam an, aber ich hätte dann tatsächlich ein schlechtes Gewissen dem Buch gegenüber.
Gestern habe ich bei Stehlblüten einen Blogpost gelesen, den ich mir jetzt wirklich zu Herzen nehmen werde, oder es versuchen werde.
Es stimmt einfach nunmal; warum sich durch ein Buch “quälen”, wenn noch so viele andere tolle Bücher auf einen warten.
Deshalb breche ich nun “Der Krieger und der Prinz” nach ca
Paul Weimer
Apr 24, 2010 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
Jun 28, 2012 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
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really, really enjoyed this. I understand that Ms. Merciel has only written one other Ithelas novel. It's next on my reading list, but I really want there to be more.

For a clearly role-playing influenced world (no big surprise; she writes for both Paizo and BioWare), this has a lot of the ring of authenticity to its medieval European roots, and has a real world with real edges and definitions, rather than the "anyone-can-play" watering down of those settings that, I should emphasize, is explic
Jessica Strider
Aug 11, 2011 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
Mar 20, 2010 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 10, 2010 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
Mar 11, 2010 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
William Bentrim
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The River Kings’ Road by Liane Merciel

Great Book! I enjoyed this book. It was populated with realistic characters set in a medieval time who were dealing with magic, war and questions of succession.

This could be qualified as a morality play. Is Lord Leferic an ambitious patriot or a crass villain? Does mercenary Brys Tarnell have a secret or is he exactly what he seems? This is a well done story that also forces you to ponder the motivation of the characters. What makes them tick? Why do the do
Jun 21, 2011 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
Mar 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love a good fantasy book. But I have a hard time finding ones that I like. Often fantasy books have to much imagery with many characters and not enough story line for me.
Did I like The River King's Road yes I did. The story draws you in from the first page and the characters are real and the story line is a real page turner I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed the book and I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series Heaven's Needle
If you do not normally read fantas
Mar 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Battles have been fought between Oakharn and Langmyr from the start of time. When a truce is called for, Sir Galefried of Bull's March in Oakharn takes his wife and child to a town called Willowfield in the name of friendship. What his family couldn't have known was that this was their last day of life. The baby survives which enrages the evil Luferic who wants the child dead. Now! Luferic's brother is determined to return the baby to safety before it's too late.

Loved it! I've always been a fan
Geddy Israel
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I liked it a lot. The characters were rich and felt like real people. She described their interactions with one another in a way that was easily imaginable and true to the characters. It was also a lot more subtle book than your everyday fantasy novel. Sometimes I wonder if life is more or less just a bunch of subtly leading onward.

There's a lot left to discover, and I look forward to seeing where The River Kings' Road will take us.
T. Frohock
Mar 20, 2010 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!
Angela R.
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
LOVE LOVE LOVE this author. I read her 2nd novel after I received it in the Goodreads giveway, and I was hooked! I finally got around to purchasing The River King's Road and loved it every bit as much as Heaven's Needle (book 2 in the series). It's well written, original, and just a fun read. Will definitely look for more from this author!
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.
Dec 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
My review is HERE.
Mar 22, 2010 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
Mar 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
In many ways I feel its unfair of me to review this book.  The concept is interesting, and I certainly wanted to enjoy it since it promised all sorts of gray morality fun, but in the end it didn't deliver.  It should say something that I felt the worst for Leferic, who's intentions were fine and meant for the good of his Kingdom's people, but who went way overboard in his methods.  I mean he went from a simple assassination plot to a conspiracy that wiped out an entire village and then just kept ...more
Christine (booktumbling)
Mar 14, 2010 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 25, 2010 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
Mar 24, 2010 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 12, 2010 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 28, 2010 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
Jun 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
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
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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.

Other books in the series

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