4.6 6
by J. Gregory Keyes

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The River flowed through all the land, deep and unstoppable, a god in his own right. His head was in the mountains; his arms embraced the outlands; his body lay at the core of all the civilized realms; and his legs stretched on to the distant sea. Dark and sluggish, he rolled unchallenged, dreaming his own invincible might and glory into stark


The River flowed through all the land, deep and unstoppable, a god in his own right. His head was in the mountains; his arms embraced the outlands; his body lay at the core of all the civilized realms; and his legs stretched on to the distant sea. Dark and sluggish, he rolled unchallenged, dreaming his own invincible might and glory into stark reality.

Everywhere he touched, the River God held dominion. And in Nhol, the fabled city at the heart of the world, an emperor ruled as the living aspect of the god, presiding over the splendors and intrigues of a prosperous land and a glittering court.

Hezhi was an imperial princess; her blood carried the seeds of the River's power. When her favorite cousin disappeared, Hezhi searched throughout the sumptuous palace with its ghosts and priests, giants and courtiers, and frightening creatures of wizardry. And the magic within her began to grow; soon it must attract dangerous attention. Hezhi's anxious quest ripened into a desperate fight for her own life—a battle she could not hope to win alone.

Small wonder that the princess wished for a hero.

And far away, a hero's journey began...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Many elements in Keyes's first novel are traditional to fantasygods, politics, a princess and a barbarian warriorbut they're mixed in unexpected ways. Facts about the imagined world are presented only as needed; the plotting flows logically, supporting well-drawn characters. In this world, the River, a jealous and powerful god, runs in the blood of the nobility of the city of Nhol, including in that of a bright and independent princess, Hezhi. Ten years old, Hezhi wishes to understand the world she was born into and why her cousin and best friend, Den, was taken away to the River by the priests. Meanwhile, Perkar, a young warrior, has fallen in love with a Stream Goddess who fears being eaten by the River. Wishing to save his beloved, Perkar vows to kill the River. In interweaving story lines, both protagonists make mistakes but unravel mysteries and, aided by many strong secondary characters, come of age. Tackling important themes of values and identity, both personal and social, this is a satisfyingly robust, impressive debut that offers some genuine surprises. 75,000 first printing; author tour. (July)
VOYA - Sandra M. Lee
Keyes has crafted an ambitious first novel, typical of quest and adventure fantasy. It is full of mythical beasts, gods, swords, giants, and conflict. The story is a double coming-of-age and quest fantasy involving two young heroes whose tales are told in alternating chapters. Hexhi, an independent and resourceful princess whose royal blood carries the seed of the powerful river god, is searching for her cousin and special friend. As she matures and her search gets more dangerous, she wishes for a hero. Far off in the distance, Perkar, the son of a chieftain, begins a near-suicidal quest. After falling in love and having sex with a stream goddess he can never have, he vows to kill the evil river god who feeds on her. But Perkar is pulled to the city of Nohl, where Hexhi lives, by dreams of a girl calling to him. As the storylines merge, both heroes' growth is marked by adventure: Hezhi discovers more about her genealogy as she searches for her cousin in a palace full of priests, ghosts, and magic; meanwhile, along the way to Nohl, Perkar confronts gods, monsters, and magic in bloody sword fights. Keyes uses many high-fantasy devices to link the simultaneous quests. He also provides engaging battles, strong characterization, and solid relationships to tie blood and quest into final confrontation and maturation. However, following the relationships will require some attention to the many secondary characters. This adult fantasy is accessible to serious young adult fantasy fans. It is part one of a planned saga. Buy this in anticipation of future adventures. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Library Journal
In his first novel, Keyes weaves an epic fantasy world of myth and magic reminiscent of Terry Brooks's work. This coming-of-age adventure finds Hezli, a teenage imperial princess, devouring books to help her locate her missing favorite cousin, and Perkar, a chieftain's son, sworn to slay the River God whose power flows in Hezli's blood. Highly recommended for fantasy collections.
Sally Estes
Keyes has created a memorable world, forged eons before the events of this book, when there was a ferocious battle between two brother gods. One of those, the River God, now wields total dominion over the land through which he flows. The emperor of that land, whose blood carries the god's seed, serves as the god's "living aspect" in the great city of Nhol. The blood of the emperor's young daughter Herzhi also carries the seed, and as she enters puberty, she discovers that its growing power within her is placing her in grave danger. In desperation, she wishes for a hero. She is, however, no namby-pamby and, intelligent and courageous in her own right, investigates the sordid secrets hidden in the waterways beneath the imperial palace. Far away, in lands ruled by various aspects of the Forest Lord--among them Karak, the Crow God--young Perkar is embarking on his manhood quest. He is inexorably drawn to Nhol by nightmares not only of the River God, whom he has sworn to slay, but also of a young girl calling to him from a city of white stone. Keyes handles the elements of high fantasy well, from the awakening of Herzhi's power at her menarche to the enchanted sword Perkar takes from the Forest God and the marked capriciousness of his tale's gods. Keyes' richly detailed tapestry, steeped in American Indian myth and lore, is book one in a planned saga, Children of the Changeling. May the next volume come soon.
Kirkus Reviews
First of an ambitious fantasy series entitled Children of the Changeling, full of ghosts, gods, magic, and mischief. The Changeling, the powerful river god of the city Nhol, has absorbed or driven off all the other gods for miles around; his waters flow in the blood of Nhol's royal family and confer magic powers. At puberty, the royals are tested by priests, after which they move into the royal apartments—or vanish. When her friend disappears, young dark-eyed Princess Hezhi vows to find out why. According to rumor, the disappeared ones are banished to an ancient flooded tunnel system beneath the palace. But then Hezhi feels the first stirrings of magic within her and suspects that the power will bring her trouble, perhaps even cause her to be exiled. Secretly, she prays for a hero to help her and dreams of a pale-skinned barbarian. Meanwhile, far away, the pale-skinned farmer's son Perkar comes of age and, falling in love with the local stream- goddess, swears to kill her enemy—the Changeling. After various adventures, he dreams of a dark-eyed girl, acquires a magic sword, and ends up unable to escape from a boat controlled by the Changeling, which is heading inexorably for Nhol. Finally, Hezhi investigates the mysterious flooded tunnels, only to discover that she's fated to turn into a ghastly monster—unless she can evade the Changeling's influence.

A well-constructed, perky, imaginative debut that, even if the details aren't always rigorously worked out, manages to avoid the usual fantasy stereotypes.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Children of the Changling Series
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.10(d)

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Meet the Author

When J. Gregory Keyes was a small boy, his father's job took his family to live on an Arizona Navajo reservation; he quickly became bilingual.  At four years old he didn't find it difficult to learn another language, and Navajo became as much a part of him as English.  Keyes's early experience in the Navajo culture was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with linguistics, rituals, myths, and legends.  It wasn't only the Navajo reservation that had an impact on his imagination; equally important were the long evenings his extended family ( some of Choctaw ancestry ) spent spinning stories.  These early experiences produced in him an emotional connection to other worlds that indelibly marked Keyes's memory and his impressionable soul, a connection that now culminates in the thirty-two-year-old author's first fantasy novel, The Waterborn.

To Greg, writing has always been the window through which his imagination is released.  "The written word has been compelling to me since before I could read; my mother used to read to me, but it was when I realized that I myself could see stories in the ink of a book that I wanted to create such stories myself,"  Keyes said.

Years later, after Keyes had married Nell (a maker of jewelry whom he supported while she got her degree in metalworking), he began writing (not fiction, but a retelling of Southeastern Indian myths and legends produced in the hours after he returned from his mindless day job.  Soon he earned an M.A. in anthropology at the University of Georgia at Athens and began teaching.  His research expanded from the usual journals of eighteenth-century travelers and Franciscan monks, of killers and of scholars, to global folklore and mythology.  Much of the material he read was unusable for his class, but he stored it away until it blossomed into a rich landscape on which he has painted his fabulous stories.

The Waterborn evolved from a world history class Keyes took as an undergraduate.  The class discussion centered on civilizations, like Egypt and Mesopotamia, that arose from the organizational demands created by flood control and irrigation.  Keyes's imagination began to race, until he was obsessed by a vision of a city upon a river that was actually, rather than metaphorically, alive.  This city, as he dreamed it, had a dominating or even vaguely malevolent relationship with its "children."  He held this powerful glimpse in this head for over twelve years until it forced itself onto the page and became The Waterborn.

In many fantasies, there is a circular movement to the stories.  And Greg Keyes's life has imitated the genre in which he has chosen to write.  At nine years old he read his first real science fiction book, Moon of Mutiny by Lester del Rey, in the shade of a hogan on the Navajo Indian reservation.  From that first step he set out on what was to be his life's path.  It is with no small amount of awe that he welcomes the publication by Del Rey Books of the first book of his trilogy.  "The fabric of my world was woven from imagination.  In my work, opposites attract.  Between these two contradictory places a story sprang up and characters whom I could scarcely control were born to populate it."  And this is just the beginning...

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Waterborn 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was surprised when I picked up this book! I had not heard of this author, but now I will check out what else he has to offer. This was a totally original book, something that is hard to find in today's fantasy clones. The author's writing was so refreshing and filled with detail. I felt like the world he described actually existed. I was taken away this world every time I opened The Waterborn. It's basically about a girl named Hezhi, who's a princess in the imperial city of Nhol. For years she has been ignored by her parents, only getting occasional glimpses and even fewer visits. When her friend D'en disappears, Hezhi makes it her mission to find out what happened to him. She has a feeling his disappearance and the area known as The Darkness Stair beneath the city have something in common. Meanwhile, on the otherside of the world we have clumsy Perkar, who gets his first sword and becomes a man after he indulges himself with a local stream goddess whom he loves. A few years later we find Perkar leaving on an expedition with the king of his area to the Forest Lord to gain more land for the Cattle People and to stop young foolish men killing Mang to gain their lands. After the mission ends in disaster, mainly his fault, Perkar escapes with the only survivor of the mission, Ngangata, down the River. Around, or a little before this time, Hezhi makes a wish for a hero to come save her. Little does she know about the magic in her very blood that causes the wish to come true. After being attacked by a demon that looks like it was summoned from the River, Hezhi decides to find out about the Royal blood in her. She goes to the library and discovers the grumpy librarian that works there. At first he doesn't like her being there, but eventually teaches her to read the old glyphs and comes to like her. When Hezhi starts getting mysterious visits from the Priesthood something awakens inside of her. She later on develops a scale on her arm after she realizes what happened to her friend D'en and all of the Royal Blood when they have too much of the River's power in them. With the help of Ghan and Tsem, her bodyguard/friend, they make plans to escape the city. After floating down the River for some time, Perkar drops Ngangata off on an island in the center of the River, to stay with a strange Mang man named Brother Horse. Eventually Perkar gets attacked by boat, meets a lady on land and makes it to Nhol, the city he's been dreaming about. Soon he meets Ghan and Tsem who realize he is the person Hezhi dreamed would save her. Perkar, Tsem, and Hezhi flee the city, despite being attacked by the Priesthood, a Jik assasin Hezhi once though was her friend, and a demon. Even as they are running away Hezhi almost succumbs to the River's power. I won't say anything else! This book is great, with many good qualities. Also read the excellent conclusion to this story, The Blackgod! Read it, you won't regret it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of Keyes' greatest works, The Waterborn is an absolutely wonderful story! The characters are well written, and the story itself keeps you from setting the book down. No matter what your age, read this book and it's sequel, you won't be sorry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up the book just to have something to read in class ended up never being able to put it down. The story switches back from a young princess to her saviour, Perkar. And with each chapter you will get deeper and deeper engrossed in The Waterbron.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a tale worth reading. A young prinncess struggles for her life against the elements. The seeds of a river are in her blood. Read to see how this river tries to get what's rightfully years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You really should read this. Don¿t for a second think you won¿t like it just because a bunch of kids did. Let me tell ya something. These kids know what they¿re talking about.