Posts Tagged With: Greg Keyes

The Briar King, by Greg Keyes

briarkingEveron was an age of human beings in all their glories and failings.  The children of the rebellion multiplied and covered the land with their kingdoms.
In the year 2,223 E. the age of Everon came to an abrupt and terrible end.
-The Codex Tereminnam, Author Anon.

Over two thousand years ago, humanity did not control its own fate.  Mankind was only a slave race, taken from far-off lands by the Skasloi, beings of exceptional cruelty.  At about that time, though, humanity decided to do something about it-and overcame their former masters.  But as the last Skasloi lord fell, he declared a curse on humanity, telling the victors that even as they believed themselves free, they had only exchanged masters.

And now, it seems that the promised end for humanity is nigh.  Man has (unsurprisingly) separated into various kingdoms; while they work against each other in the usual sort of intrigues, something terribly ancient is awakening, and a creature of legend has already begun to walk the forests.  This is the setting of The Briar King, the first book in The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone.

The books opens slowly, with a two prelude and prologue to set the stage and setting; once past that, we meet our main characters, a chapter at a time.  For example, the squire Neil MeqVren, preparing to enter the service of the kingdom of Crotheny, and the man who has raised him fully expects that Neil will be made a knight in the near future.  This, in turn, gets him involved with the intrigues of the royal family-which includes King William II, his brother and close advisor, Robert; the Queen, Muriele, and her three daughters, Fastia, Lesbeth, and the youngest-Anne, who is doing her best to avoid being the prim and proper daughter a King or Queen might hope for.  However, there are forces at work that are planning to undermine the kingdom-for ambition, and for darker reasons.

And speaking of darker reasons-in another part of the kingdom, in the King’s Forest, the king’s forester, Aspar White, becomes aware of a presence in the forest-a creature that is driving out all that reside there (many of whom shouldn’t be there in the first place) or are passing through, such the Sefry, not-quite-human beings who remind me a lot of gypsies in attitude.  The Sefry inform White that the Briar King is awakening, a being older even than the Skasloi-and his awakening would signal bad things.  And Aspar finds himself chasing a creature out of legend, a legend that he doesn’t even really believe in.  On the way, he meets up with the priest Stephen Darige, on his way to the monastery at d’Ef-which has some pretty serious hazing going on; Darige quickly becomes exposed to some darker truths as well.

Need it be said that the two plots are destined to come together?

I have to admit, I might not have picked this book up under ordinary circumstances; however, a co-worker had mentioned the book to me, and I’d read a couple sample chapters on the Web, so I figured I’d see what it was like.  There are some similarities to another book series, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but only superficially-while both stories cover kingdoms in turmoil that have some outside danger about to hit, the substance of The Briar King stands alone.  For starters, it doesn’t have quite the same cast of thousands that Martin’s book has.  That allows the plots and subplots to be a bit more tightly focused.  There’s a number of minor characters who also gain in prominence as the book goes along; Stephen was someone I’d expected to only be a minor character, but his part expanded unexpectedly on me (I shouldn’t have been surprised, if I’d actually read the inside cover flap); and the character of Cazio who shows up later is a fellow who strikes me as trying to be a charming rogue (and needing work!)-he’s a rather fun character so far, and I hope to see more of him in the next book.

Another aspect that I liked was the mix between the political intrigues of Crotheny (and the mess that results), and the hunt that leads Aspar to secrets he’d probably be happier not to find.  I feel that it’s about the right balance.  In addition, I had to admit a bit of admiration for the character of Anne, who does her level best to only obey the letter of the law as far as her parents are concerned, and seeing her develop into…well, someone slightly less spoiled.  And while there are some who might disagree with me, I rather liked Neil; there’s something about a fellow of common birth rising to prominence that always makes for good reading.

I expect that readers of Martin will also find a great deal to like about Keyes; while The Briar King is definitely a fantasy novel, the concepts of magic are fairly low key at best, and while it doesn’t follow a quest-like storyline like some other fantasy novels, it does tell a compelling story of a kingdom about to find itself with more problems than it can handle (perhaps); and it succeeds in guaranteeing that I’ll be looking at the next book when it is released.  For folks who aren’t into the usual fantasy books with elves and wizards, and more interested in a “realistic” fantasy (now there’s an odd thing to say), I’d highly recommend this book.  And if you are-well, try this book, anyway.  It’s a solid read.

Categories: The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Rebirth, by Greg Keyes


The old Jedi order died with the Old Republic.  Then there was Luke, and only Luke, and a lot of fumbling to re-create the Jedi from what little he knew of them.  He did the best he could, and he made mistakes.  I was one of them.  His generation of Jedi was put together like a rickety space scow, but something new has emerged.  It’s not the old Jedi order, nor should it be.
We, Jaina, are the new Jedi order, and this is our war.
-Kyp Durron, Jedi Knight

While the last book was an Anakin Solo showcase, this one is more of an ensemble.  The entire Solo clan, the Skywalkers, and even Threepio get time in Rebirth.

On one front, Anakin and Tahiri return to the location of the rest of the Jedi students, on Booster Terrik’s Errant Venture.  Anakin is learning to fight without using the Force, in an effort to deal with foes who still mysteriously exist outside the Force.  However, when Corran Horn asks for his help on a simple supply run, Anakin jumps at the chance-as does Tahiri, who’s coming to terms with what was done to her by the Yuuzhan Vong.  To nobody’s surprise (at least on the reader’s end), it’s never that easy.

Luke and Mara spend time beginning to take a more active role, setting up safehouses (or safeworlds, really) for the Jedi, in a response to the hunting of Jedi; of course, it might also have something to do with the fact that Chief of State Fey’lya has ordered Luke and Mara’s arrest.  Luke also decides to try to contact Kyp Durron, in an attempt to get some clue what he’s up to, and he sends Jaina Solo (still on a leave of absence from Rogue Squadron) to do it.  She tracks him down at the broken world of Sernpidal, where the Jedi Knight has discovered something very, very unpleasant.

Han and Leia, with Jacen and Threepio, are also working on gathering supplies; I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I want to say that Han and Leia are in rare form, and while Jacen seems to backslide into his moral morass, he doesn’t wallow in it as much as in previous books.

And on the other side, the Vong Nen Yim is attempting to find a way to heal a dying world-ship, and isn’t afraid of using what the Vong consider heretical means to do so….

I can’t help but wonder why Greg Keyes named this book Rebirth; for that matter, after having read this book and the previous one, I can’t figure out why this pair of books were labelled as “Edge of Victory”.  Things aren’t that close to resolution for one side or another.  Still, there was at least a fair amount of movement on the greater war; and two subplots are wrapped up in a permanent manner.  One subplot, the continuing fragmentation of the Jedi, seems to be speeding up with Luke’s actions.  Kyp, on the other hand, seems to me to be inching his way to the Dark Side; to be honest, while some of Kyp’s ideas are dead on, his methods are definitely questionable for a Jedi Knight.  If this is a subplot by the Star Wars authors to create a credible Dark Jedi, then I have to admit they’re doing a great job of it-why should a Jedi fall in the span of a simple trilogy? (okay, Darth Vader is an exception!)

The Vong also get a bit more depth, continuing to explore the role of the Shapers, and a bit more of the politics/religion that permeate the Yuuzhan Vong.  Events seem to be occurring behind the scenes which should have an impact in the ongoing saga; it remains to be seen just how much of an impact.  We also get a little more info on the reasons why the Vong act as they do, and see the impact that the Jedi have made on some elements of the invaders.

Things are looking like they’re beginning to escalate further, and Rebirth does a good job in getting all the players in place, and it closes with a couple of surprises (some good, some not-so-good).  While the stated theme of the latest books seems a bit off, Rebirth is still a pretty good read, especially for the fans of the original heroes like me!

Categories: New Jedi Order, Star Wars | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Conquest, by Greg Keyes

But you back down from the fight, Master Skywalker.  You block and defend and never return the blow.  Meanwhile the blades directed against you multiply.  And you have begun to lose, Master Skywalker.  One opportunity lost!  And there lies Daeshara’cor in death.  Another slip in your defense, and Corran Horn is slandered as the destroyer of Ithor and driven to seclusion.  Again an attack is neglected, and Wurth Skidder joins Daeshara’cor in death.  And now a flurry of failures as a million blades swing at you, and there go Dorsk 82, and Seyyerin Itoklo, and Swilja Fenn, and who can count those we do not know of yet, or who will die tomorrow?  When will you attack, Master Skywalker?
-Kyp Durron, Jedi Knight

It’s Jedi hunting season.  The Yuuzhan Vong have made an offer to spare worlds, if only those worlds deliver to them the heads of any Jedi Knights they can get their hands on.  Unsurprisingly, in a New Republic well known for turning upon its heroes, there are a bunch of people willing to do just that-including an organization calling itself the Peace Brigade, which has hatched a plan to deliver a whole bunch of Jedi to the Vong-by stopping in at Yavin 4, at the Jedi Academy.

Meanwhile, the Jedi Knights are beginning to splinter.  Kyp Durron heads a faction of Jedi tired of waiting for the axe to fall on them, and are advocating an extremely pro-active stance against the Vong.  Luke Skywalker, on the other hand, continues to counsel helping where they can, acting as the shield for the New Republic.  Among the Jedi caught in the middle are the Solo siblings, Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin.  The three shrewdly guess the next move of the Vong (or the Brigade) in that the Academy is their next target, and tell their suspicions to Luke.  Luke sends for Talon Karrde, the former smuggler who had been so helpful against Grand Admiral Thrawn.  However, Anakin proves to be a bit more impatient…and heads to Yavin himself.

While Balance Point was a story of Solos, with an emphasis on Jacen’s moral questions, this one is purely Anakin’s. Conquest continues the process of a Jedi who-at sixteen-has seen more action than most Jedi might in their lives.  He also finds himself in the process of this story in the unusual position of being the adult minded individual among some of the students; among those students are Valin Horn, son of the Jedi Corran Horn, and Tahiri Veila, Anakin’s best friend.

The Vong aren’t as omnipresent in this book as they have been in previous books.  Yavin is hardly a major target for the Vong offensive, important only in the fact that a number of Jedi students are learning there.  This isn’t to say they aren’t present-they are, and we get further insights as to their character and motives-some of which throws a slight element of self-preservation into the mix-as well as some other strategies, represented by their Shapers.  And watch for Vua Rapuung-he’s a fellow who stands as a good example of the typical Vong warrior…even though he himself is anything but typical.

I do have one quibble with the ongoing storyline, though.  As unpleasant as it is to agree with an extremist, Kyp Durron has a good point-the Jedi have been reacting more than acting against the Vong.  While Kyp is nuts if he thinks that the Jedi alone can win this war, I think Luke has been far too passive in this whole thing.  My opinions are slightly colored, probably, by the movie The Phantom Menace, where we got to see the Jedi in their prime; I get the idea that the Old Republic Jedi wouldn’t just contemplate-they’d act.  Of course, the next movies may prove me wrong entirely….

The title Conquest is pretty misleading, as there’s precious little conquering going on (unless, of course, you count conquest over a person’s very soul-but I won’t go into any further details, since that might spoil some of the book).  Conquest is instead bringing the scope of the New Jedi Order from the battles for planets to the challenge of rescue and survival on a more immediate level.  And equally significantly, there is very little presence from who I would consider the Star Wars core characters (Han, Leia, Luke).  While hardly the first book without their presence, it continues the slow trend of passing the torch to the sons and daughters of the Heroes of the Rebellion.  Even Luke admits early in this book that it won’t be him or Kyp or any of the older Jedi who will bring this conflict to a conclusion, but one of the new ones.

Conquest is recommended for readers who have continued to follow the New Jedi Order saga, especially for fans of the Solo siblings.  For folks more interested in the continuing war, you don’t really need to read this one.  But to be fair, you’re missing out on the continuing growth of Anakin Solo as a person if you do.

Categories: New Jedi Order, Star Wars | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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