Thursday, March 25, 2010

Review, Interview & Contest With Liane Merciel

The River Kings' Road
A Novel of Ithelas
Author: Liane Merciel
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Pocket (March 9, 2010)
Author's Website

Summary: 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 River King's Road is a dark medieval fantasy with complex characters, political intrigue, magic, both good and evil, plus a smidgen of romance. Liane Merciel's writing is rich and descriptive, bringing us into her original world of Ithelas.

I'd like to take a minute and explain my thoughts on reading medieval fantasy. The reader has to have a different mindset when reading traditional fantasy. It isn't as fast paced and "in your face" as urban fantasy or many paranormal romance books. Authors of medieval fantasy create worlds and plots where political and religious factions are often complex. The good guys are not always as easy to define, nor are the bad guys. There are usually many characters acting simultaneously in different parts of the world. Reading fantasy such as The River Kings' Road takes a lot of thought, and sometimes I found myself going back to a paragraph to make sure I understood correctly. (Why do you think Tolkien had so many appendixes?)

I found the characters in this book very interesting, and thought provoking. In our normal lives, loyalty to family is almost a given, but in medieval times power, and control often meant every man for himself, or herself as the case may be. Love, morals and loyalty are often set aside to gain power. This book shows us some of the pitfalls of setting aside one's morals without
considering the complete consequences. You can't play with evil, and come out unscathed.

At the same time we see the plot through the eyes of Odosse, a single peasant girl with a baby she loves dearly, and a companion who only looks out for himself. I loved the character of Odosse. She is strong, loyal, and brave because of her love for her child. She can never think of giving up because it will mean giving up his life as well. I found myself cringing when Odosse was referred to as ugly. A girl with such a loving personality, who is quick thinking, witty and brave could never be ugly in my eyes. Awkward perhaps, but never ugly. I understand the author wanting her to be normal with no advantages, but it still made me inwardly cringe.

Liane Merciel's description of the evil witch, and her created minions had me quaking in my boots. This witch is seriously dark and evil. The author created a unique take on what I
can only call medieval zombie lore. Creepiness and terror comes through in all the scenes with the witch.

The romance aspect of The River Kings' Road comes from the scenes with Bitharn and Kelland, who grew up together as cloister children. Kelland was called to be a Knight of the Sun, but she was not. Bitharn trained on her own, refusing to leave his side. Their part of the story is my favorite because of their love for each other that has to remain unspoken.

If you are a fan of dark urban fantasy or historical romance I think you will enjoy reading The River Kings' Road. The second book is titled Heaven's Needle, and will be released in March 2011. I will be waiting for it's release to learn more of Odosse and Bitharn as they struggle to find love in their lives in a dangerous and complex world.

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. I emailed her immediately after finishing The River Kings' Road to ask her a few questions that were on my mind.

I loved the character of Odosse and wondered if you had any thoughts on her future? She seems to be destined for loneliness, yet the personality you gave her would make her a wonderful partner for someone. I'm not asking for spoilers, but wondered how you felt about her and the idea of her finding love?

Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't. :)

Unofficially my prediction is that eventually she'll find the person who's right for her. I think she's too generous in spirit to remain alone, and too sensible to fall for someone unsuitable a second time. But it's unlikely that we'll see Odosse again, so the official answer is that it's up to each reader to imagine what becomes of her after the events in RKR. Your answer is as good as mine.

I know the second book in the Ithelas world will be released next year. Will you try to wrap up many of the situations, or will you keep a third book in mind as you write?

I guess it depends on your definition of wrapping things up. Each book is designed to be a more or less self-contained story. The main plot of each one ends within the covers of that book, although there are links to things that happened before and things that will come after.

For the most part I try to leave characters at a comfortable stopping point, but there's never a completely definitive "happily ever after." Real life doesn't work that way, so I'm of the view that fiction shouldn't either. The characters' lives will go on after the story (well, unless they died), whether or not we follow them. So there may be a little ambiguity, but as far as I'm concerned, that's a wrap for them.

HEAVEN'S NEEDLE, the second Ithelas book, takes place in a different part of the world and involves a mostly different cast of characters. Two of them are carried over from RKR, but the rest are new, and their concerns are largely distinct from those that drove the first book. Similarly, the third book is intended to follow some familiar faces from RKR (Brys Tarnell, for one), but others will be new to that story, and again, their concerns will be mostly distinct. There are connections between the books, but it should be possible to read each one as its own separate arc.

That's the goal, at least.

What made you choose medieval fantasy rather than an urban setting for your novel?

It's just where I'm drawn. I started out in medieval fantasy; it's what sparks my imagination most often and most strongly, and I've been working in it long enough that by now it feels like second nature. While I enjoy reading urban fantasy and am a fan of many writers now working in that genre (love Carrie Vaughn's Kitty books and Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson novels), it's not where my inclinations lead as a writer.

Urban fantasy looks like a lot of fun and maybe someday I'll take a shot at it, but for now I'm content to just read the marvelous books being produced by other people... and keep writing about witches and castles and swords!!, oh my.

Sarah at Pocket Books has graciously allowed me to give away one copy of The River Kings' Road. As always, I have a discussion question for you to answer in the comments as your entry.
Have you read medieval fiction? Do you think more books should feature heroines that are normal women vs. warrior women?

The contest will end April 4th, 2010 and I will post the winner on April 5th, 2010. The winner will be chosen using the Random Number Generator. If your email is not linked to your profile please leave it in the comments.



doreen lamoureux said...

I love Medieval fiction. I like the woman as warriors. Makes it more interesting but it is nice to have a normal girl in there too.

dorcontest at gmail dot com

Lisa Richards/alterlisa said...

Other than the Canterbury Tales, I don't think I've read any Medieval fiction. I'd love to see what passes for Medieval fiction today. And I know that women as warriors would make a great story.

alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com
(='.'=) Happy Easter from Bun!

Persephone said...

Sounds like a good one. I love when characters do not speak of their love (aka have hidden feelings).

patronus89013 at yahoo dot com

Kelsey said...

Medieval and fantasy: two great combinations! Please enter me. This book sounds GOOD.


Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

I love medieval fiction! While I enjoy reading about a warrior woman, of course I love powerful women in all of their forms, a 'normal' woman can be powerful and strong in her own right. So I'd love to read about non-warrior women in medievals too!!
Thanks for the contest!!

inthehammockblog (at) gmail (dot) com

booklover0226 said...

I enjoy reading medieval fiction, especially with some fantasy thrown in.

I have no preference in the heroines, though. I like the warriors and the normal ones.

If I like the author and his/her works, I won't care what kind of heroine she is!

Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I love medievel fiction. This is where I found to love reading. I think there should be more strong women in medievel fiction, both of smart or of warrior types.

This really sounds like a great read. Thank you for the great review and interview.