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Literature / Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone

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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.


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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.
  • The Chosen One: Anne and Aspar are both hinted right from the first book to have a major role to play in saving the world. In the third book, Stephen turns out to also be preordained for great things. Subverted in that Anne and Stephen turn out to be destined to be great villains, while Aspar is the one who saves the world in the end.
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  • Cool Sword: Feyswords in general; Draug in particular.
  • Cool Old Guy: A few: z'Acatto, Duke Artwair, Sir Fail.
  • Corrupt Church
  • Deconstruction: Of a number of fantasy tropes, especially Rebellious Princess. Anne's strong will and desire for freedom is ultimately portrayed as signs of a terminal selfishness.
  • 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.)
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Aspar gets called out on being one, but defends his position.
    Winna: In the stories I heard growing up, utins could shrink to the size of a gnat or turn into moss. It could be hiding right beneath our feet.
    Aspar: That's just stories.
    Winna: Greffyns used to be just stories too.
    ...
    Aspar: All it ever took to convince me there was such a thing as a greffyn was to see one. All it will ever take to convince me a beast that weighs half a ton can turn into moss is to see it. I'm a simple man.
  • Handicapped Badass: Neil in the fourth book. After being rendered unfit to fight from his injuries in earlier books, he gets roped into a duel with another knight that's intended to kill him. At the start of the duel, Neil throws down his shield and announces that since he has no chance of surviving, he won't even try - instead, he'll make damn sure that he takes his opponent down with him. In a later scene, Muriele admonishes him that while that was all good and well, chasing the other knight through half the town after he fled the field in terror was just excessive.
  • Handsome Lech: Cazio starts out this way.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Virginia Dare.

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