April 10, 2003
14. The Briar King, Greg Keyes
When you forget to respond to the Science Fiction Book Club, they send you the featured selections. I figured, since I'm stuck with them, I may as well read them. The Briar King is one of those. Generally, I'm a little skeptical about fantasy novels that have a big bad evil that has to be beaten back or the world will end, despite the fact that most epic fantasy is about this. The Briar King impressed me in spite of myself. The characters are well drawn and fantastic, and many of them don't follow the usual epic fantasy tropes. In fact, until nearly the end of the book, there's not a magic user in the bunch, and they aren't even a group that's traveling together. Amazing!
Overall, this book was vastly entertaining, and I'd recommend it. My only real complaint is that Keyes falls into the trap of making up names that involve extra apostrophes and stray Qs all over the place--a pet peeve of mine. Also, he has a habit of using made-up-sounding words instead of real ones, like instead of saying, "My name is Blah", people say "Zert is Blah", or whatever (I didn't bother looking up the exact phrase). Now, I could be wrong, and he could be using some archaic language I'm unfamiliar with, but it comes across as fake "foreignness" for foreignness' sake. Trust that your world is fantastic enough without an unnecessary fake vocabulary.