Title: The River Kings' Road
Author: Liane Merciel
Page Count: 385
Why I read it: received review copy
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...
This book started off really strong, and I was hooked pretty quickly. Unfortunately, it didn't stay quite as strong throughout. The writing was good, and the story is definitely interesting. At times I had a hard time figuring out the time period--exactly how much time had passed, a few days, weeks?
The baby they were carrying was really sick. In fact, Odosse mentioned that she had seen a baby who looked similarly ill who had died within a few hours. But it seems that this baby lives on for weeks in a weakened state near death. I couldn't quite figure that out. It's not a huge thing, but if I can't figure out how much time is passing it makes it harder for me to stay immersed in the story.
There were a lot of interesting characters, although some things could have been fleshed out a bit more. The back story that was given in places wasn't quite enough to get a feel for what was going on and why. It seems, at times, the author wanted to bring in too many different cultures and characters and so instead of being given a richly detailed world, a lot of what we were given was just surface stuff.
I really did like the writing, though, and will definitely read the next in the series. The story didn't go at all where I thought it would; it went in a completely different direction, so I'd like to see where it goes from here. I would recommend this to fans of fantasy, and will watch this author in the future.