A quartet of fantasy novels by Gregory Keyes, consisting of The Briar King
(2003), The Charnel Prince
(2004), The Blood Knight
(2006) and The Born Queen
(2008).Two thousand years ago Virgenya Dare
overthrew the Skasloi
overlords that had enslaved humanity. Her descendants rule the kingdom of Crotheny, until a traitorous plot to overthrow them leads to tragedy. The legendary Briar King has awakened from his slumber, heralding death. All is not as it seems and Anne Dare
must become the queen her country needs while monstrous assassins stalk her. Sir Neil MeqVren
must learn that the politics of the court are as deadly as the battlefield as he tries to safeguard the queen. Aspar White
must face murderous creatures of legend as he tries to unravel the mystery of the Briar King.
This series provides examples of:
- Abusive Precursors: The Skasloi, though they're a bit more complex than they first seem.
- Action Girl: Lady Erren and Alis Berrye. Leshya as well.
- A God Am I: Anne, especially in the last book.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: In the last book, Aspar becomes the Briar King.
- Back from the Dead: Robert.
- Big Bad Ensemble: There are lots of villains in this series, mostly operating independently - the most notable are the Church, Robert, the Black Jester, and to an extent Anne herself in the last book, but in the end the most dangerous villain is probably the Kept.
- Berserker: Neil, full stop.
- The Chess Master: The Black Jester.
- Cool Sword: Feyswords in general; Draug in particular.
- Cool Old Guy: A few: z'Acatto, Duke Artwair, Sir Fail.
- Corrupt Church
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Fastia. Doesn't end well.
- Drunk on the Dark Side
- The Determinator: Sir Neil in battle. Queen Muriele in pretty much everything else.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Skasloi give off this vibe.
- Evil Prince: Robert.
- Evil Sorcerer: The Black Jester. Also a Sorcerous Overlord.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Eslen is Colonial America rather than the typical British analogue. The tribes of Hansa possibly correspond to the Francs. Vitellio is Italy more or less right down to the heart of the Church being there. In fact, the backstory indicates that the different nationalities of humans in this world were brought there from real-world Earth locations by the Skasloi, and the languages they speak are recognizably related to real-world languages. (For example, Vitellian is related to Oscan, an extinct language of Italy; and Lierish is a Celtic language.)
- Five-Man Band: Among the main characters, though hardly ever all of them share a scene:
- Handsome Lech: Cazio starts out this way.
- Historical-Domain Character: Virginia Dare.
- Implausible Fencing Powers: Cazio has these a few times.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Oh yes.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Sir Neil.
- Ley Line: Possibly faneways.
- May-December Romance: Aspar and Winna.
- Magic is Evil: The general opinion by most, especially the Church. Although not all magic is evil and the Church itself uses magic of the evil variety to create holy warriors.
- Manipulative Bastard: Praifec Hespero.
- Meet Cute: Their story is anything but ordinary, but Stephen and Zemlé still count.
- Multi-Melee Master: Aspar.
- Musical Assassin: The Black Jester was a master of this, so much so that the mixing of singing with instruments has been banned by the Church.
- My Nayme Is: There are a few names with "y"s thrown in, and several monster names do this as well.
- No More Lies: z'Acatto has to tell Cazio about what happened to his father when he realizes that unless he learns the truth he will come to a bad end. Subverted in that he is already too late when he admits his deception.
- Only Mostly Dead: The Black Jester.
- Our Elves Are Different: The Sefry. Especially once you find out that they were once the Skasloi.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Robert and the "death knights".
- Prophecy Twist
- Rebellious Princess: Anne. And maybe Brinna.
- Royal Brat: Anne starts out as this, but subverts it pretty soon.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Anne, especially when she becomes Empress of Crotheny. She leads an attack on her treacherous uncle in the third book. And in the fourth, she personally leads the war against Hansa.
- Science Hero: Stephen, who is a Cunning Linguist.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The Kept, aka Qexqaneh, the last of the Skasloi. He's kept around deliberately as a source of knowledge for the royal family.
- Smug Snake: Robert.
- Time Skip: Happens 3 times during the first few pages of the first book.
- Took a Level in Badass: Stephen after walking the faneways.
- Tying Up Romantic Loose Ends: Austra and Cazio.
- Unstoppable Rage: Neil's battle rage.