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The Briar King

(Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone #1)

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  10,881 ratings  ·  382 reviews
In the kingdom of Crotheny, two young girls are playing in the tangled gardens of the sacred city of the dead when they stumble upon the unknown crypt of a legendary ancestral queen.
Paperback, 553 pages
Published July 2004 by Tor / Pan Macmillan UK (first published November 1st 2002)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,881 ratings  ·  382 reviews

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Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
Greg Keyes needed to torch his thesaurus, and who ever told him such a thing existed needs to be drug out into the street and shot.

“But oh ye blogger, why would thou, an English major, deny the beauty that synonyms dost bestow upon the worn, weary, and drear language?”

Because, ye ingrates– synonyms are only replacements. They don’t make worn, wear, drear language any better. They just make it ridiculous. Like putting Alexander McQueen or Prada on a scarecrow. Or a cow. And I mean a literal cow,
I am giving this 4,5 stars. This is the first book of a interesting series.

At the beginning, it takes us way back in the time when mankind were slaves to a race of powerful magic users. We get to see how we fought against them and earned our freedom, lead by a powerful witch queen. But in doing so, we did something that has a potential to come back and haunt us.

Times change, mankind moves on and forgets. Kingdoms are formed, they are fought for, grow strong, then stagnate, become too compliant
Understand that this author is new to fantasy and this is his first stab at writing in such a genre. So, while this was compared to George R.R. Martin's SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series, understand it doesn't come close.

That said, this is an honest start with solid promise in the future.


(1) Lots of time spent on a believable History;
(2) good cast of character;
(3) it moves;
(4) author is good at creating emotional affects; especially fear and curiosity


(1) dialogue needs work.
What is often cited as a weakness for this book is the standard, cookie-cutter characters that inhabit the story. And while I admit this is very true, I believe that Keyes pulls it off nicely. He takes those typical tropes and works them through an original and intriguing story. His dialogue and plot are great, and his world building is fantastic. The characters themselves are solid in their representation, and I hope that in further volumes of this series, they are fleshed out and given a ...more
Aug 14, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: sff, locus_poll
The one where people are about to pay the price for some sort of unclean power used by their ancestors, as the Briar King, a figure out of myth, rises to destroy the world.

Or, in other words, six hundred pages of prologue. By the time we're done, we have the enemy (dimly known and poorly understood through mythology) and the cast of characters: a gruff woodsman and his plucky girlfriend, a monk who's the classic scholar-turned-fighter in the Blair Sandburg mode, a swordsman who's so very Italian
Jun 07, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This title always catchs my eye... then I read the description...and realize I've read it! This has happened 4 or 5 times! I don't know why this book was so unmemorable to me. Only the names of the characters and the backstory of the slave rebellion stick in my mind.
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Not a bad caught up right away, but it slowed down some. :

Update (originally reviewed 2009): I never followed it up, much. I started the second book and laid it aside.
Shari  Mulluane
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The Briar King is one of those delightful books that slowly grows on you. It starts off a bit slow, gaining in momentum, until you look up and it is 3am, and you kick yourself for all those "just one more chapter..." moments.

Not only does the story grow on you, but most of the characters do too. Notice I said most. There were a few characters that I never got in touch with, but overall I was happy with the characterization. Actually, I feel that way about the entire book. The story was great,
Nov 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I was very quickly carried away by the characters and the race-to-the-finish plotlies. Some developments I was able to predict, some not, but overall I bought in.

I like that one of the main character is more if an aging hero - his insights add a great deal to the storyline. I also appreciate the younger brash and somewhat naive characters who are a counterbalance to his worliness. I like that some of the good characters can be petty and vindictive, and that some of the questionable ones are
Robin Wiley
Greg Keyes is one of my all time favorite authors. That man can create a world with physical laws, and religions, and creatures - all different from the usual goblin and elf fare. Then he does is again. Of everything he's written, this is the best series. So it's probably better to save it for last. Go read the Waterborn duo, then his Age of Unreason series (a quad), then come back and do this one - called Thorn and Bone. Keyes writes with a driving force. Each chapter is devoted to a character, ...more
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This excellent fantasy series ("Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone") is very
reminiscent of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire - except that
it's actually finished! (There's one more book in the series that I
haven't yet read.) It follows a similar format, structurally, and the
'feel' of the writing is very similar. The story itself, however, is
quite original - at least, more so than many fantasy epics. I mean,
it's still got Dark Forces and Bold Warriors and Beautiful Queens etc,
etc... but we want
Sep 09, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I feel like an evil person giving this book one star, especially when everyone else seems to love it. If you are reading this review you should note that I didn't finish this book. I read about 250 pages, got bored and angry, guessed at the ending, checked to see if I was right (I was), and put it down.

Why didn't I like the book? I'm the eldest child in my family. I am very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
Ben Babcock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eli-recommends
This was the best first installment of an epic fantasy series I've come across since I first picked up A Game of Thrones. It is similarly presented as an ensemble story, with multiple characters alternately sharing the spotlight. Keyes has crafted an old world, filled with forgotten legends and creatures, obscure prophecies, conspiracies, courtly intrigues, and even some occasional wry humor. The story thus far is shaping up to be a masterpiece fully deserving the adjective "epic," and if the ...more
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this book. As if someone took all of my favourite authors: Tad Williams, Terry Brooks, & Patrick Rothfuss and mashed them together to create Greg Keyes's The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone. An epic fantasy tale with familiar character types: noble knight, young book-worm, the woodsman, the spoiled princess, the evil brother, etc. Despite all of this, you turn the pages because each character is written so fully and so well that you do not care that these are familiar places and ...more
Sep 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Valerie by: free
Shelves: fantasy-sf
I first read Keyes when someone gave me Waterborn, and I loved his use of mythology in his storytelling. When a free copy of this one came my way, I devoured it. Excellent.
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Recommended for: Lovers of well-executed, standard fantasy, i.e. swordplay, magic, fantastic creatures, royalty, gifted commoners, children becoming legends, various locations strongly based on real-earth places, etc.

I first read this series back in 2008. Once I'd forgotten the plot (which I do with almost all books), all I had left was the memory of really enjoying it while working the night shift at the front desk of a hotel. So, in search of some quality, non-epically-verbose fantasy to read,
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Thanks to Amazon's Kindle Books, I downloaded this for free (on my iPhone, no KIndle here) and was rightfully rewarded for it!

I found this book to be rather enjoyable and engaging, with his fast-paced plot, endless cliff hangers and mysteries, this new world of mysterious powers, brave knights, spunky princesses and beautiful and wise queens. I loved the detailed action, and especially how the characters are so well developed, where even the third person narrative changes tone depending on which
I liked this book but did not love it and probably will not continue the series. I must note that this is likely due to personal preference more than due to the quality of the novel. I prefer “lighter” Fantasy literature in the sense that I prefer less fighting, swordplay and graphic violence. I very much enjoy epic fantasy with extensive plot, setting and character development; I just prefer more PG rated battles. This book was by no means extreme, just not my cup of tea.

As for the book itself,
I don't know why but I went into this book expecting not to like it. I cannot figure out why. I don't remember anyone talking about this book to me but I'd been pushing it to the back of my challenge list with the other books I'm not looking forward to.

But once I started reading it I really enjoyed it. There was a lot of cliche, predictable in parts, but I enjoyed a lot as well. The not really discussed link to Roanoke. The faneways and the Briar King. Lots of things not quite explained but
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one I found through Goodreads a while back and I am so glad I did because it was such a gem of a book. I also understand this is quite an underrated fantasy, and I believe the series deserves more recognition because it has so much going for it.

Two thousand years ago, the Born Queen defeated the Skasloi lords, freeing humans from slavery. But now monsters roam the land and characters’ destinies are to become entangled in schemes of power and seduction. Our cast of characters is set to face
Lasairfiona Smith
Aug 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone that enjoys a good story
Re-reviewing based on most recent read (I reread this series every couple years).

This book is such a page turner! Keyes has written the chapters so that there is a climax at the end of nearly every chapter. The POV will then switch to another character (with another climax!) so there is always a reason to keep reading. They are also good stopping points if you really need to go to bed because you have been staying up too late to read the book. The overall flow of the book really gets you to keep
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Briar King is the first installment within Greg Keyes series 'The kingdoms of thorn & bone' and is a truely majestic tale to get lost in, with much suspense and excitement throughout. For those readers who love Terry Goodkind, Robin Hobb and JRR Tolkien and enjoy a book that is wordy and reflects that old-style, then this is a fantastic example of literature and writing at its very best. It contains thrilling action and drama with a lot of passion, within the telling of an epic fantasy ...more
Sep 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the 1st hundred or so pages....
...the Prelude was quite interesting, but the rest was hard for me to get into. I was reading this in short spurts and it was hard for me to get into as it jumps around from character to character and sometimes I felt like I wasn't quite understanding what was written haha. It was 'okay.' I knew I would finish this book like I always do, but I don't think I will read the next book in this series.

BUT...THEN...somewhere it happened, and I felt like I was actually
May 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book grew on me the more I read it. I liked it from the beginning, but I also didn’t have any trouble putting it down to do other things. The further I got into the book, the more invested I became in the story and the characters, and my reading sessions started to get longer.

I don’t think there was anything all that unique about the story, but it was told well. There are rumors about evil things happening in the forest, dire prophecies and legends, political intrigue, and a cast of
Sep 11, 2009 rated it liked it
I found it a struggle to finish this book. I both really enjoyed it and dispared in reading it. Characters were introduced, killed off, and resurected. I'm a main character kind of gal. Introduce whoever you want but I want to live in the main character's head. To read this book you have to live in at least five people's heads and some tertiary characters as well.

I think the story would have read better had we followed one character and not switched to a new character at the start of each new
Ryan Mishap
Dec 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fantasy
Epic adult fantasy that does the good work of establishing a complete world with a history: humans were slaves of the Skalosi, demons of great power. The slaves rebelled, led by Virginya Dare who tapped into the demon's power and used it to defeat them. Fast forward hundreds of years and the kingdom she established is under threat from religious fanatics, an evil brother to the king, poisonous creatures haunting the forest, and the spirit of the wilderness, The Briar King.
The viewpoint shifts
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Greg Keyes is an assured writer and accomplished story-teller. His tapestry of characters in this first in the series slowly comes together and the larger picturing is as terrifying as it is astonishing. It all starts humbly enough with the warden of the forest (Aspar White) looking into strange goings and a murder in the locale. There are rumours that The Briar King (a sort of malign Hern the Hunter) is returning. Meanwhile, a priest (Stephen) discovers unholy sacrifices being made along the ...more
May 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook, fantasy
An epic -- set in medieval times (when else) about a kingdom that is degenerating into chaos, at which time the Briar King will arise. It's told from the points of view of several main characters. Events unfold gradually. The scene switches back and forth between characters, each one ending in suspense, which drives me a little crazy, but keeps me reading if only to find out what happens when next we come upon whoever was left hanging.

The ending is fairly unsatisfactory, as things have just
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting blend of high and dark fantasy. I really liked Keyes' writing, though his plot was paced a little slowly throughout some points in the book. I thought that this was a good book, not a fantastic one.
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The Challenge Fac...: Angie & Denise - The Briar King 28 10 Jun 29, 2018 08:47AM  

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Gregory Keyes is a writer of science fiction and fantasy who has written both original and media-related novels under both the names J. Gregory Keyes and "Greg Keyes".

Greg Keyes was born in to a large, diverse, storytelling family. He received degrees in anthropology from Mississippi State and the University of Georgia before becoming a fulltime writer.
He lives in Savannah, Georgia.

Other books in the series

Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone (4 books)
  • The Charnel Prince (Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, #2)
  • The Blood Knight (Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, #3)
  • The Born Queen (Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, #4)
“If wishes were teardrops the world would flood.” 18 likes
“I have an idea," Cazio said after a moment.

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