Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"The River Kings' Road"

As a so-called “Army brat,” Liane Merciel 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 applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The River Kings' Road, and reported the following:
As it turns out, Page 69 is a pretty good representation of the whole.

The River Kings' Road
is a high fantasy that begins with that most archetypal of opening scenarios: a village destroyed by faceless villains, a plucky lone survivor, a quest to... well, to run away and stay alive, actually. Oaths of vengeance are for people who don't have kids.

Anyway, the villains don't stay faceless for very long (nor are they as entirely villainous as that opening might suggest), and on this page we see the mastermind of the ambush get the news that not everyone died in the massacre -- an inconvenient little fact that drives much of the action:
For an instant he felt that the floor had dropped away under his feet. The ghostly taste of metal tingled on his tongue. He put out a hand to steady himself against his brother's coffin, and was reassured by its solidity. "Who?"

"Some of the villagers. A runaway horse crashed into the gate, and some fled through the gap it made. One rider. He might have been one of Gal-- one of the targeted men. Hard to say. I couldn't tell who all the dead were, not after she was done, so I can't say for a certainty who's missing. But I thought I knew the face as he went by." Albric paused. It was a tiny hesitation, hardly long enough to blink, but from him that heartbeat of silence spoke volumes. "And the child."
A little later down the page, we come to a snippet that largely sums up the characters' (and, equally, their author's) perspective on their situation: aware of the classic tropes, aware of those romantic happily-ever-afters... and aware that nothing in their own lives is likely to be so simple or so rosy.
The troubadours' songs were filled with orphaned princes who grew up in secret and returned to claim their birthrights from tyranny. The histories were littered with the bloody wreckage of those who had tried it in fact.
...and the rest of the book concerns the various characters' efforts to keep themselves from joining that bloody mess. Some succeed, some don't. Read it and find out who falls where.
Read an excerpt from The River Kings' Road, and learn more about the book and author at Liane Merciel's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue