Thursday, March 25, 2010

The River Kings' Road by Liane Merciel

book cover

The River Kings' Road
by Liane Merciel

Hardback: 400 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books
First Released: 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Back Cover Description (slightly modified):
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. . . .

A fragile period of peace between the warring kingdoms of Oakharn and Langmyr is shattered when a surprise massacre fueled by bloodmagic ravages the Langmyrne border village of Willowfield. A visiting Oakharne lord and his family are slaughtered along with the inhabitants, leaving behind a scene so grisly that even the carrion eaters avoid its desecrated earth. But the dead lord’s infant heir has survived.

Brys Tarnell, the mercenary who saves the ailing babe, enlists the help of a Langmyr peasant with a baby of her own. Odosse agrees to feed and care for the child of her enemies as they travel a dark, perilous road.

Sir Kelland, a divinely blessed Knight of the Sun, is asked by a Langmyr noble to unmask the architects behind the slaughter and avert war between ancestral enemies. Bitharn, his traveling companion, conceals her lifelong love for the Knight behind her flawless archery skills, but her feelings may ultimately be Kelland’s undoing.

Leferic, the youngest son of an Oakharne Lord, finds himself trapped in a cycle of violence which he justifies by his desire to bring about peace.

As one infant’s life hangs in the balance, so does the fate of thousands. For deep in the forest, a Maimed Witch practices an evil bloodmagic that could doom them all.

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 hard choice of following selfish desires or showing sacrificial love. Several had to decide if the ends justified the means. I liked how the novel played these choices out in realistic ways.

There were several point-of-view characters, but I didn't have any trouble following them and found all of the characters equally interesting. Since the novel completed Odosse's desire/fulfillment journey, I'd actually consider her the focal character of this novel, and her choices played a pivotal role. I suspect Sir Kelland will be the pivotal character of the next novel based on several hints at the end of this one.

There was no sex and no bad language. The magic was primarily of the "god-granted power" (i.e. paladin) kind. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
AUTUMN, 1217

Brys Tarnell was not a pious man. It saved his life that day.

The attack came at highsun, when Sir Galefrid of Bull's March and most of his men were in the tiny chapel of a tiny hamlet observing their daily prayers. Ever since Galefrid had married his pious young wife out of Seawatch, he'd become much more religious; all through their journey, she'd insisted that they stop at the nearest chapel for noon prayers, and he had obliged. By now their custom was well known, and the village solaros usually had the chapel ready for them before they arrived.

Brys, alone among the knights in Galefrid's retinue, was not anointed to the sun, and so was permitted--even expected--to avoid that daily bit of nonsense. He had just stepped out of the village inn to answer nature's call when he heard the thrum of bowstrings and saw the first flight of fire-arrows, trailing dark smoke against the bright sky, arch in through the chapel's open windows.

There were a dozen men waiting outside the chapel doors. Hard-faced men, armed in oiled leather and chain, who carried swords better than any bandit could afford. They stood to either side of the doors, hidden from the view of those inside but plain to any other eyes. Yet none of the villagers had called a warning.

Read more of chapter one.

No comments: