Some really good bad guys!

Title: The River Kings' Road: A novel of Ithelas
Author: Liane Merciel
Genre: fantasy series
Source: Received from Sarah Reidy as part of the Pocket Books blog tours for purposes of giving my honest review.

Summary from the publisher:
Liane Merciel’s The River Kings’ Road takes us to a world of bitter enmity between kingdoms, divided loyalties between comrades, and an insidious magic that destroys everything it touches. . . .
The wounded maidservant thrust the knotted blankets at him; instinctively, Brys stepped forward and caught the bundle before it fell. Then he glimpsed what lay inside and nearly dropped it himself. There was a baby in the blankets. A baby with a tear-swollen face red and round as a midsummer plum. A baby he knew, even without seeing the lacquered medallion tucked into the swaddling—a medallion far too heavy, on a chain far too cold for an infant who had not yet seen a year. A fragile period of peace between the eternally warring kingdoms of Oakharn and Langmyr is shattered when a surprise massacre fueled by bloodmagic ravages the Langmyrne border village of Willowfield, killing its inhabitants—including a visiting Oakharne lord and his family—and leaving behind a scene so grisly that even the carrion eaters avoid its desecrated earth. But the dead lord’s infant heir has survived the carnage—a discovery that entwines the destinies of Brys Tarnell, a mercenary who rescues the helpless and ailing babe, and who enlists a Langmyr peasant, a young mother herself, to nourish and nurture the child of her enemies as they travel a dark, perilous road . . . Odosse, the peasant woman whose only weapons are wit, courage, and her fierce maternal love—and who risks everything she holds dear to protect her new charge . . . Sir Kelland, a divinely blessed Knight of the Sun, called upon to unmask the architects behind the slaughter and avert war between ancestral enemies . . . Bitharn, Kelland’s companion on his journey, who conceals her lifelong love for the Knight behind her flawless archery skills—and whose feelings may ultimately be Kelland’s undoing . . . and Leferic, an Oakharne Lord’s bitter youngest son, whose dark ambitions fuel the most horrific acts of violence. As one infant’s life hangs in the balance, so too does the fate of thousands, while deep in the forest, a Maimed Witch practices an evil bloodmagic that could doom them all. . . .

All good epic fantasy stories not only have a brave hero, and quest of grand porportions, but also have some great bad guys. No story worth its salt would dare go on with the hero left unchallenged.  The River Kings' Road is no exception. Thorns are a group of religious devotees that use their powers to kill, maim, and destroyin the name of their Goddess. In a world where a variety of warriors, knights, and everyday people follow dozens of Gods/Goddesses having a group go to the extreme violence side of life creates strong tension and interesting moments.

What I liked:
1.  I adore epic fantasies.  The idea that the story is so grand,  twisted and complicated, and has dozens of facets that it has to unfold over time (books) seems perfect to me. This novel easily balances the story with the character building and the world building. As a reader you are given insight and knowledge of the world and characters throughout the novel.

2. Like I said above, the Thorns are some really good bad guys. They are described as self-mutilated, sometimes horrifically beautiful and with a range of powers that are fueled by death and blood.

3. Well rounded characters abound in this novel. Unlike some novels, epic fantasies or others, not only the main characters were given full characterization. Everyone has motives (some known, some not discovered in this book) that come into play as the story unfolds.

What I disliked:

1. The names of people and places were constantly switching. Scenes changed, sometimes to quickly, as the story unfolded. It was hard at first to keep all the character names straight.

Overall: I truly enjoyed reading this novel. I wouldn't call it a must read for fantasy fans, but imho it's very close.

Thank you Sarah, for giving me the opportunity to read this novel!

**This book qualifies as part of my fantasy reading challenge.**


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