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The River Kings' Road
Liane Merciel
Pocket, 400 pages

The River Kings' Road
Liane Merciel
As a so-called "Army brat," Liane grew up in Germany, South Korea, and several different parts of the United States. She now lives in Philadelphia, where she practices law. She is an alumnus of Yale University and the College of William & Mary Law School. She is of Korean and European heritage.

Liane Merciel Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Katherine Petersen

Fire arrows and bloodmist -- the dark magic of a maimed witch -- obliterate the Langmyr village of Willowfield, killing a noble from the kingdom of Oakharn, his wife and retinue of knights. This devastation shatters the temporary truce between the two kingdoms, causing both kings to call forth their soldiers. Unbeknownst to anyone at first, Brys Tarnell, one of the noble's men and the noble's babe survive. Brys is determined to bring the heir to safety, but it isn't long before the Thorn responsible for Willowfield is asked to finish the job. With Odosse, a village girl he met on the road to care for the baby, Brys is free to find out who is behind the Willowfield disaster, but he doesn't have much time with the Thorn on his trail.

A Langmyr noble, hoping to avoid war, asks Kelland, one of the Blessed -- a healer who worships the light -- to discover the cause of the Willowfield catastrophe. Traveling with Bitharn, an expert archer, Kelland recognizes the Thorn's signature and vows to confront her. As one of the Blessed, Kelland has taken vows of chastity among others, but Bitharn can't help her love for him. These two stories connect as the two sides try to find answers with the Thorn and her revived dead crows as spies, on their heels.

Liane Merciel has written a terrific debut novel that offers readers a well-developed, world, three-dimensional characters and a fast-paced story. Alternating between points of view, she maintains tension by switching back and forth between her characters at crucial moments. Her characters, such as the Thorns, are unique, at least to this reader, and her ability to paint vivid pictures of action scenes as well as interior and exterior surroundings shines through. You can almost hear the sounds of swishing sword blades, hear the clip clop of horses' hooves on the River Kings' Road and the people's terror as the bloodmist moves inevitably towards them. Merciel expands on her characters's pasts, giving us an idea of what stories will follows in books two and three.

Merciel sneaks food for thought into her tale such as whether love is a strength or a weakness. Another issue she touches on is whether one is justified in doing something evil for a good cause. With a lot of debut novels to choose from, I definitely recommend The River Kings' Road and Liane Merciel is an author to watch.

Copyright © 2010 Katherine Petersen

Katherine Petersen started reading as a young child and hasn't stopped. She still thinks she can read all the books she wants, but might, at some point, realize the impossibility of this mission. While she enjoys other genres, she thrives on fantasy, science fiction and mysteries.

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