The Born Queen (Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone Series #4)

The Born Queen (Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone Series #4)

by Greg Keyes

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345440730
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/27/2009
Series: Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone Series , #4
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Greg Keyes was born in Meridian, Mississippi, to a large, diverse storytelling family. He is the author of The Briar King, The Charnel Prince, and The Blood Knight (Books One, Two, and Three of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone), The Waterborn, The Blackgod, the Age of Unreason tetralogy, and the Star Wars New Jedi Order novels Edge of Victory I: Conquest, Edge of Victory II: Rebirth, and The Final Prophecy. He lives in Savannah, Georgia.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Queen of Demons

Anne sighed with pleasure as ghosts brushed her bare flesh. She kept her eyes closed as they murmured softly about her, savoring their faintly chilly caresses. She inhaled the ripe perfumes of decay and for the first time in a very long time felt a deep contentment.

Anne, one of the phantoms simpered. Anne, there is no time.

A bit irritated, she opened her eyes to see three women standing before her.

No, she realized. They weren’t standing at all. Feeling a weird tingle that she knew ought to be more, she turned her gaze around her to see what else there was.

She was elsewhere, of course, couched on deep, spongy moss grown on a hammock in a blackwater fen that went beyond sight in every direction. The branches of the trees above her were tatted together like the finest Safnian lace, allowing only the wispiest of diffuse light through to glisten on the dew-jeweled webs of spiders larger than her hand.

The women swayed faintly, the boughs above them creaking a bit from their weight.

One wore a black gown and a black mask, and her locks were flowing silver. The next wore forest green and a golden mask, and her red braids swayed almost to her feet. The third wore a mask of bone and a dress the color of dried blood. Her hair was brown.

Their undisguised lips and flesh were bluish-black above the coils of rope that had cinched about their necks and wrung out their lives.

The Faiths, those obtuse creatures, were dead. Should she be sad? Part of her thought so.

Anne.

She started. Was one of them still alive? But then she felt the ghosts again, tickling against her. Now she knew who the ghosts were.

Should she be frightened? Part of her thought so.

“You’re dead,” she observed.

“Yes,” the faint voice replied. “We fought to linger here, but too much of us is gone. We had something to tell you.”

“Something useful? That would be the first time.”

“Pity us, Anne. We did what we could. Find our sister.”

“That’s right, there are four of you,” Anne remembered. Was she asleep? She seemed to be having trouble recalling things.

“Yes, four. Find—ah, no. He’s coming. Anne—”

But then a cold wind started in the depths of the quag, and the canopy was alive with strange dark birds, and Anne was suddenly alone with corpses.

But only for a moment. Then she felt him, as she had another time when in this place. All of her blood seemed to gather on one side of her body, and all of the branches of the forest yearned toward his invisible presence.

“Well, there you are, little queen,” the voice said. “It’s been too long.”

“Stay back,” she said. “You remember last time.”

“Last time, I was weaker and you had help,” the voice replied. “This is not last time.”

“What do you want?”

“Your company, sweet queen. Your hand in marriage.”

“Who are you?”

“Your king.”

“I have no king,” Anne bristled. “I am queen, regent in my own right.”

“Look deeper in your heart,” the voice purred.

“Who are you?”

“You want my name? What do names matter when one is as we are?”

“There is no ‘we,’ ” Anne protested. But her belly tingled, as it had when Roderick had kissed her there.

The presence moved closer, and though she could not see him, she felt as if the shadow wore a wicked smile.

“Why did you kill the Faiths?”

A deep chuckle rustled through the branches, and the water stirred into circles all about.

Then a ruddy light fell on the broken surface of the fen, and Anne felt heat behind her. With a shriek, she turned to confront him.

But it was no male thing that stood behind her; there was no mistaking that. The body that shone like a white flame was willowy but certainly female, dressed only in locks that billowed and curled like strands of liquid, living fire. Her face was so terrible in its beauty that Anne felt as if icicles had been driven through her eyes and deep into her brain. She screamed so loudly, she felt her throat was tearing.

“Hush,” the woman said, and Anne felt her larynx instantly close. Then the horrible gaze went through and beyond her.

“Leave,” she commanded.

“You only delay the inevitable,” the male voice muttered.

“Leave,” the woman repeated.

Anne felt the weight of him lessen.

“I didn’t kill your friends,” he said, and was gone.

Anne felt the woman’s gaze on her but could not look up.

“Who are you?” she whispered.

“The Kept gave you my true name,” the woman replied. “He gave you some of my old epithets—Queen of Demons, and so on.”

“Yes. But I don’t . . .” She trailed off in confusion.

“You wonder rather what I am. What I want. Why I’ve helped you.”

“I guess so,” Anne said weakly, feeling suddenly presumptuous.

“Am I demon or saint?” the woman sighed, so close that Anne could feel her breath.

“Yes,” Anne barely managed.

“If there were a difference, perhaps I could tell you,” she replied.

“And the man . . .”

“He’s quite right, you know,” the woman went on. “He didn’t kill the Faiths. I did. For you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You led me to them. You rejected them, withdrew your protection, and I ended their existence. All but the one, and I shall find her.”

“But why?”

“You don’t need them,” she said. “You never did. They were poor councillors. And now you have me.”

“I don’t want you,” Anne protested.

“Then say my name. Tell me to leave.”

Anne swallowed.

“You won’t,” the woman said. “You need my help. You need all the help you can get, because he will come for you and will either make you his or destroy you. Which means you must destroy him. And that you cannot currently do. Your friends will fall first, then you.”

“And if I believe you, how can I stop that?”

“Strengthen yourself every way you can. Let me teach you the ways of your power. When he comes, you will be ready, if you trust me.”

“Trust you,” Anne murmured, finally lifting her gaze to the woman’s face.

This time it wasn’t so terrifying. There was something in the set of the woman’s eyes that seemed truthful.

“Give me a reason to trust you,” Anne said.

A smile slit the woman’s face. “You have another enemy, one you haven’t noticed yet, one that even I have difficulty seeing, for he—or perhaps she—sits deep in the shadows of the Reiksbaurg Palace. Like you, he is able to look across leagues and through time. Haven’t you wondered why you manage to surprise the forces of the Church but Hansa is always one step ahead of you?”

“Yes,” Anne replied. “I assumed spies and traitors were involved. How can you be certain it’s shinecraft?”

“Because there is a place I can never see, and that is the sign of a Hellrune,” the woman replied.

“A Hellrune?”

“A Hellrune sees through the eyes of the dead, who do not know past from present. Because the law of death has been broken, that is an even more powerful gift than it once was. But you get your visions directly through the sedos power. You can be stronger: See the consequences of his visions and act against them. In time, you will even be able to command the dead to give him false visions. But before you achieve that mastery, he can do much harm. If you act as I say, you may stop him sooner.”

“How is that?”

“Send an embassy to Hansa, to the court of Marcomir. Send your mother, Neil MeqVren, Alis Berrye—”

“I’ll do no such thing,” Anne snapped. “I just got my mother back; I won’t send her into danger.”

“Do you think she isn’t in danger in Eslen? Try to dream about that. I promise you that you will not like what visions come.”

A sick dismay was starting to grip Anne, but she tried to stay strong. “You’re less use than the Faiths,” she said.

“No, I’m not. Your mother is going to ask to go, anyway; she thinks there is a chance for peace. You’ll know by that that I’m telling you something useful. But further, I’ll tell you this: If you send your mother, the knight, and the assassin to Kaithbaurg, I foresee an excellent chance for them to end the threat of the Hellrune and thus weaken Hansa. If you do not send them, I see you weeping over your mother’s body in Eslen-of-the-Dead.”

“An ‘excellent chance’? Why can’t you see whether they kill him or not?”

“Two reasons. The first is that since you haven’t decided to send them, the future is cloudy. But the deeper reason is that as I told you, I am not able to see the Hellrune. But I know the opportunity can arise. Try seeing it yourself.”

“I can’t direct my visions,” Anne said. “They just come.”

“You can direct them,” the woman insisted. “Remember how once you had to be summoned here? Now you come and go as you please. It’s the same. Everything you need is here, especially now that the Faiths aren’t mucking around.”

“Where is here?” Anne asked. “I’ve never understood that.”

“Why, inside the sedos,” she replied. “This is where the world is moved from, where the power flows from. It is given form only by those who live here. It is your kingdom now, and you can shape it as you want. Hansa, the future, the past—all are here. Grasp the reins of power. You need not take my word for anything I’ve just said. Discover it for yourself.”

And like a fire blown out by a wind, she flickered and was gone.

Anne stood there for a moment, looking at the dead faces of the Faiths.

Was it possible? Could she really free herself from the whims of the forces around her? Could she actually steer them herself, be free of doubt, finally chart her own destiny without the meddling of untrustworthy wights?

“Why didn’t you tell me any of this?” she asked the Faiths.

But their whispering was over.

“Well,” she murmured. “Let’s see if she’s telling the truth.”

And she saw, and woke with tears streaming on her face, and knew some things had to be done.

She rose to do them.

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Born Queen (Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone Series #4) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Following the murder of her father and incarceration of her mother by her undead Uncle Robert, all looked lost for self-exiled Princess Anne Dare and her Kingdom of Crotheny especially since the demonic race abetted by Robert has returned to overrun the land. Yet perseverance, strong allies, and inner strength prevail with Anne, a descendent of the great Queen Virgenya Dare who has succeeded in taking the throne. --- However winning the throne is not the same as ruling. She needs time to learn how to be a queen to all her subjects while learning to use her eldritch skills, but time is not what she has. Enemies still plot to replace the independent tyro with a puppet Briar King while she remains inexperienced and assumed weak. Allies in a common cause against the same enemy are no longer friends and cannot be depended upon for help. Worse the Church leader Hespero manipulating prophecy sanctions a holy war that allows the powerful neighboring Hansa to invade at the same time the Sarnwood Witch plots to replace the Dare with a new Briar King by ordering the holter Aspar White to do his job or else suffer for failing in his geas to her. Queen Anne¿s only hope for her people rests with finding the lost journal of her ancestor as Robert remains at large and the Kept Skashoi Lord survived his recent defeat and has a scheme to destroy her too as the veil between life and death continues to be shredded. --- The final The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone fantasy thriller (see THE BRIAR KING, THE BLOOD KNIGHT and THE CHARNEL PRINCE) is an exciting ending that ties the major loose ends into an engaging finish. There are numerous subplots as plotters work to destroy THE BORN QUEEN with none concerned with secondary consequences that will devastate a world. Although the characters and the setting are out of the quest fantasy guidebook, sub-genre fans will still acknowledge that Greg Keyes has written a great ending to a strong tale. --- Harriet Klausner
Queensowntalia on LibraryThing 10 months ago
With 'The Born Queen,' Greg Keyes provides a suitably epic finish to his engrossing, endearing 'Kingdom of Thorn and Bone' books. Lush with well fleshed characters, mysterious figures and fantastic monsters, this series engrossed me since the start, and the conclusion was satisfying, fulfilling and poignant. Anne Dare's quest to become empress is coming to a close, but she still must face off against her direst foes: her uncle Robert continues to make trouble, and Hansa continues to threaten military action. Meanwhile, Aspar struggles to survive while contending with the sinister Fend, and Stephen makes unsettling discoveries. Magic, prophecy and destiny intermingle. The world is on the brink. And these characters, whom we've followed through highs and lows, against the gravest perils, square off against their biggest, most difficult challenges yet. For some of them, their ultimate fates are surprising. Just really brilliant. The tome succeeds in casting an air of uncertainty over characters who were previously black-and-white. Until nigh the conclusion of the book, its unclear who's REALLY fighting for the preservation of all, which adds a lot of suspense. Keyes presents his usual colorful mix of action and mysticism, which makes for a lively read. Overall, I found it completely satisfying, and I think anyone who enjoyed the rest of the series will be pleased with how it ends.
Larou on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I also admit to being a bit disappointed in this concluding volume to what remains none the less one of the better fantasy series in recent years.I do not think the problem with "The Born Queen" is that it is rushed, for that would seem to involve some kind of sloppiness, and I could not find any of that here - quite to the contrary, as far as I could tell (though relying just on memory there, and without re-reading the previous volumes in the series) the various strands are all tied up quite deftly, without letting dangle any lose ends or having to resort to any kind of deus ex machina.To me, the problem seems rather that the novel has been pared down to the bare bones of the plot - there is nothing at all superfluous here, pretty much every sentence serves to advance the action in some way. Which is not a bad thing in and of it itself - it does become one, however, if it reduces the characters (that used to be one of the strength of this series) to mere functions of the plot.The Borne Queen reads for most of its length more like the abstract of a novel instead of the novel, and it's devoid of all the details and small episodes that give characters the necessary room to breathe and bloom. Instead, they appear hemmed in and restricted by the inexorable progress of the narrative that they are chained to like captives to the victor's chariot in a triumphal procession.And considering everything that happens to the various characters in this volume, one really would have liked to have seen some of their reactions to those things, of the impact the unfolding have on them, and of how they are shaped and - gradually in some cases, quite abruptly in others - changed from what they started out as. Instead, all the novel offers is a bare statement of fact, and that is immensely frustrating to the reader.While I appreciate that, counter to an increasingly common thread, an author tries to keep a series on course and doesn't let it sprawl into all directions and over many volumes, I think "The Kingdom of Bone and Thorne" would have profited if "The Borne Queen" had been fleshed out into two novels instead of being the bare skeleton of one.
lewispike on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This book continues with the elements that made the earlier books so good, but pushes everything to a climax. There are numerous threads to be juggled, tied off and resolved, and this is largely done successfully, although some of the juggling between threads draws attention to the juggling rather than the motion and the excitement.In other ways, this book feels rather rushed. The climax, in particular, builds up and up and up, then boom and it's all over in a single moment and on a single memory.The other thing this book does is take many of the characters we know and twist them, strongly. Anne's changes work best, although not completely. Aspar and Fend working together never really works for me. Stephen's changes are even more out of left-field and hard to accept to my mind. It's nice to see the rather stereotypical characters change, but they change to other stereotypes in the main and to stereotypes that aren't easy to accept.The story, also rather deliberately, messes with concepts of time and the ideas of who is trustworthy. Whilst this can be good in a book, and some of the unlikeliest characters are proven to be telling at least parts of the truth I'm rather left trying to pick the pieces out wreckage rather than feeling I know what was going on.It's a shame really, this is still engaging and has much to recommend it, but it feels like a let down after the earlier books and I started this with such high hopes.
Isamoor on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Nov10:Characters: The originals are still okay. The new ones are meh. Really this one is less about the characters. And that makes me sad.Plot: Went all about power. I was somewhat let down.Style: Went towards high fantasy.Still, a solid conclusion to an excellent series.
Karlstar on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This has been a really good series, and the last book is no exception. The characters that have been carrying the story so far - Anne, Aspar, Stephen, Sir Neil, and Cazio continue to carry the story to the conclusion we expected from the previous books, though with a few surprises. Nothing really amazing here, but this is a very good conclusion.
kd9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As someone more attracted to science fiction than fantasy, I was surprised to like the first book of this series as much as I did. I also liked the second book, which was why I may have been particularly disappointed in the disjointed nature of the third book. This is the fourth and final book in the series and it is certainly back to its old form. Keyes has always been a lyrical writer. Some of the scenes in this book are heart stopping and his characters have always been memorable and true.This is a story of elder gods awakening, including the last surviving alien of a conquering species. They are particularly adept at using the weaknesses for power and glory that many humans are prey to. Previously Anne Dare, the last of her ruling family, returned from exile with a growing power. But there are other powers, such as The Church and The Briar King, which have powers and agendas of their own. Power can be an easy path to change, but it can also be a corrupting one. In the end, the humans have to settle for human goals, human lifespans and human powers in order to retain their humanity at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it have read multiple times and just gets better every re-read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just Great
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SabsDkPrncs More than 1 year ago
A satisfactory ending to a very complex tale.  This is the best in the series.  Keyes' story telling feels a bit rushed at times, but that is a personal preference. These are not characters I became absorbed in, it was about the momentum of the story and the complexity of the inter-woven plot lines.  Definitely deserves a second reading.
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