Excerpt from The Briar King by Greg Keyes, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Briar King

Book One of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone

By Greg Keyes

The Briar King
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jan 2003,
    560 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2004,
    608 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

The Born Queen

The sky cracked and lightning fell through its crooked seams. With it came a black sleet tasting of smoke, copper, and brimstone. With it came a howling like a gale from hell.

Carsek drew himself up, clutching his bloody bandages, hoping they would keep his guts in until he saw the end of this, one way or another.

"She must order the charge soon," he grunted, pushing himself to his feet with the butt of his spear.

A hand jerked at Carsek's ankle. "Get back down, you fool, if you want to live until the charge." Carsek spared a glance at his companion, a man in torn chain mail and no helm, blue eyes pleading through the dark mat of his wet hair.

"You crouch, Thaniel," Carsek muttered. "I've done enough crouching. Fourteen days we've been squatting in these pig holes, sleeping in our own shit and blood. Can't you hear? They're fighting up front, and I'll see it, I will." He peered through the driving rain, trying to make out what was happening.

"You'll see death waving hello," Thaniel said. "That's what you'll see. Our time will come soon enough."

"I'm sick of crawling on my belly in this filth. I was trained to fight on my feet. I want an opponent, one with blood I can spill, with bones I can break. I'm a warrior, by Taranos! I was promised a war, not this slaughter, not wounds given by specters we never see, by ghost-needles and winds of iron."

"Wish you may and might. I wish for a plump girl named Alis or Favor or How-May-I-Please-You to sit on my lap and feed me plums. I wish for ten pints of ale. I wish for a bed stuffed with swandown. Yet here I am still stuck in the mud, with you. What's your wishing getting you? Do you see your enemy?"

"I see fields smoking to the horizon, even in this pissing rain. I see these trench graves we dug for ourselves. I see the damned keep, as big as a mountain. I see-" He saw a wall of black, growing larger with impossible speed.

"Slitwind!" he shouted, hurling himself back into the trench. In his haste he landed face first in mud that reeked of ammonia and gangrene.

"What?" Thaniel said, but then even the smoke-gray sun above them was gone, and a sound like a thousand thousand swords on a thousand thousand whetstones scraped at the insides of their skulls. Two men who hadn't ducked swiftly enough flopped into the mud, headless, blood jetting from their necks.

"Another damned Skasloi magick," Thaniel said. "I told you."

Carsek howled in rage and frustration, and the rain fell even harder. Thaniel gripped his arm. "Hold on, Carsek. Wait. It won't be long, now. When she comes, the magicks of the Skasloi will be as nothing."

"So you say. I've seen nothing to prove it."

"She has the power."

Carsek brushed Thaniel's hand from his shoulder. "You're one of her own, a Bornman. She's your queen, your witch. Of course you believe in her."

"Oh, of course," Thaniel said. "We believe whatever we're told, we Bornmen. We're stupid like that. But you believe in her, too, Carsek, or you wouldn't be here."

"She had all the right words. But where is the steel? Your Born Queen has talked us all right into death."

"Wouldn't death be better than slavery?"

Carsek tasted blood in his mouth. He spit, and saw that his spittle was black. "Seven sevens of the generations of my fathers have lived and died slaved to the Skasloi lords," he sneered. "I don't even know all of their names. You Bornmen have been here for only twenty years. Most of you were whelped otherwhere, without the whip, without the masters. What do you know of slavery? You or your redheaded witch?"

Thaniel didn't answer for a moment, and when he did, it was without his usual bantering tone. "Carsek, I've not known you long, but together we slaughtered the Vhomar giants at the Ford of Silence. We killed so many we made a bridge of their bodies. You and I, we marched across the Gorgon plain, where a quarter of our company fell to dust. I've seen you fight. I know your passion. You can't fool me. Your people have been slaves longer, yes, but it's all the same. A slave is a slave. And we will win, Carsek, you bloody-handed monster. So drink this, and count your blessings we got this far."

Excerpted from The Briar King by Greg Keyes Copyright© 2003 by Greg Keyes. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Sailor Twain
by Mark Siegel

Published Mar. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.