Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book Review of The River Kings' Road by Liane Merciel

The River Kings' Road: A Novel of Ithelas
The blurb:
A thrilling new voice in fantasy makes an unforgettable debut with this "intriguingly twisted tale of treachery and magic" (New York Times bestselling author L.E. Modesitt, Jr.) 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 dropped it himself. There was a baby in the blankets. A baby with a tear-swollen face red and round as a midsummer plum. A baby he knew, even without seeing the lacquered medallion tucked into the swaddling -- a medallion far too heavy, on a chain far too cold for an infant who had not yet seen a year.

A fragile period of peace between the eternally warring kingdoms of Oakharn and Langmyr is shattered when a surprise massacre fueled by bloodmagic ravages the Landmyrne border village of Willowfield, killing its inhabitants --including a visiting Oakharne lord and his family -- and leaving behind a scene so grisly that even the carrion eaters avoid its desecrated earth. But the dead lord's infant heir has survived the carnage -- a discovery that entwines the destinies of Brys Tarnell, a mercenary who rescues the helpless and ailing babe, and who enlists a Langmyr peasant, a young mother herself, to nourish and nurture the child of her enemies as they travel a dark, perilous road. . . Odosse, the peasant woman whose only weapons are wit, courage, and her fierce maternal love -- and who risks everything she holds dear to protect her new charge. . . Sir Kelland, a divinely blessed Knight of the Sun, called upon to unmask the architects behind the slaughter and avert war between ancestral enemies. . . Bitharn, Kelland's companion on his journey, who conceals her lifelong love for the Knight behind her flawless archery skills -- and whose feelings may ultimately be Kelland's undoing. . . and Leferic, an Oakharne Lord's bitter youngest son, whose dark ambition fuel the most horrific acts of violence. As one infant's life hangs in the balance, so too does the fate of thousands, while deep in the forest, a Maimed Witch practices an evil bloodmagic that could doom them all. . . .

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 maasacre of a village and the assasination of an Oakharne lord and his family. By a stroke of luck, one mercenary that serves the dead lord survives. This mercenary, Brys Tarnell, notices a unique pattern in the attack and identifies the presence of unusual "bloodmagic". Brys stumbles across his lord's heir and undertakes to protect the child. Brys' aversion to black magic and his loyalty to his lord lead him down a dangerous path. Brys faces unbelievable odds and comes to rely upon the generous help of the peasant woman, Odosse, who cares for the orphaned babe along with her son. Brys and Odosse are unlikely heroes, but their courage and integrity throughout the struggle is worthy of the noblest heroes.

The River Kings' Road is an engaging fantasy adventure full of twists and turns, tests of loyalty and courage.

ISBN-10: 1439159114 - Hardcover $26.00
Publisher: Pocket (March 9, 2010), 400 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Liane Merciel makes her fiction debut with The River Kings' Road. She lives and practices law in Philadelphia, where she is at work on Heaven's Needle, the next novel in this new fantasy series.

Thank you so much to Sarah and Simon and Schuster for this review opportunity!

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