Keyes, J. Gregory 1963-
KEYES, J. Gregory 1963-
PERSONAL: Born April 11, 1963, in Meridian, MS; married; wife's name Nell (a jewelry maker). Education: Mississippi State University (Starkville, MS), B.A.; University of Georgia (Athens, GA), M.A., Ph.D.
CAREER: University of Georgia, Athens, faculty member. Has worked as a night guard and as a newspaper ironer.
The Waterborn (first novel in the "Chosen of the Changeling" series), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1996.
The Blackgod (second novel in the "Chosen of the Changeling" series), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1997.
Babylon 5 Final Reckoning: The Fate of Bester, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1999.
Conquest, Del Rey (New York, NY), 2001.
Edge of Victory II: Rebirth, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2001.
The Briar King (first novel in the "Kingdoms of Throne and Bone" series), Del Rey (New York, NY), 2003.
The Final Prophecy ("Star Wars" series novel), Del Rey (New York, NY), 2003.
The Charnel Prince, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2004.
"AGE OF UNREASON" SERIES; NOVELS
Newton's Cannon, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1998.
A Calculus of Angels, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1999.
Empire of Unreason, Del Rey (New York, NY), 2000.
Shadows of God, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: J. Gregory Keyes is an author and instructor at the University of Georgia in Athens. When Keyes was a child, his father's job took the family to an Arizona Navajo reservation. Keyes became bilingual and fascinated by language. As an undergraduate, he studied Russian, French, Mandarin, Japanese, and old Norse. On the reservation he was exposed to the storytelling that led to his first writings, which were retellings of Southeastern Indian legends and myths. After receiving an M.A. in anthropology, he began teaching and researching folklore and mythology in addition to subjects relevant to his class.
Keyes was inspired to write his first fantasy, The Waterborn, because of a world history class he took as an undergraduate and discussion of ancient civilizations, such as Mesopotamia and Egypt, that were organized around the control of water. The Waterborn is the first book of Keyes's series "Chosen of the Changeling." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called it "a satisfying, robust, impressive debut that offers some genuine surprises." In The Waterborn two young people make their way in separate plots that interweave in a tale of mythical beasts, gods, and fantasy. Hezhi is a young princess, the daughter of the emperor of Nhol. Her blood carries the seed of the powerful River god who controls Nhol. Hezhi is searching for her cousin, who was taken away by priests. The other plot begins in the distant land of the Forest Lord, where Perkar, the son of a chieftain, falls in love with a Stream Goddess who is threatened by the River. Perkar vows to kill the River and is drawn toward Nohl, where Hezhi lives, after dreaming of a girl calling to him. In his quest, he encounters monsters and magic and engages in sword fights. "Keyes has created a memorable world," said Sally Estes in Booklist. Estes called The Waterborn a "richly detailed tapestry, steeped in American Indian myth and lore." Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer Sandra M. Lee wrote that Keyes "provides engaging battles, strong characterization, and solid relationships to tie blood and quest into final confrontation and maturation."
The Blackgod is Keyes's sequel to The Waterborn. Hezhi flees from the River, who sends a ghoul to find her. She and her bodyguard take refuge with the horseworshipping Mangs, where Brother Horse teaches her how to bring forth her own powers. Blackgod the Raven reveals to Hezhi how she can defeat River at its source. River sends the ghoul Ghe into the mountains to kill Hezhi. A Publishers Weekly reviewer described Ghe as "a wonderful, Dostoyevskian character, at once repelling and touching," and noted Keyes's "mastery of the internal lives of his characters and his artful, theatrical shifts of point of view." Library Journal reviewer Susan Hamburger commented that the book is "enriched by spiritualism, mystery, and cultural detail." Writing again in Booklist, Estes asserted that The Blackgod "a richly developed page-turner for the fantasy cognoscenti."
Newton's Cannon is the first book of Keyes's alternate history series, "The Age of Unreason." The book begins in 1715, when the young Boston printer's apprentice Ben Franklin studies alchemic devices invented by Isaac Newton. One of Newton's discoveries is used as a weapon, and a struggle ensues between England and France, whose Louis XIV has been prolonging his life with elixirs. Franklin's discoveries put him in danger, and he turns to Newton for protection. Jackie Cassada noted in a Library Journal review that Newton's Cannon is "intricately crafted, elegantly delivered." A Kirkus Reviews contributor felt the book "is colorful, intriguing, and well handled, if somewhat difficult to swallow." The story is "eminently worthwhile reading for both fantasy and alternate-history lovers," concluded Roland Green in Booklist.
In the next book in the series, A Calculus of Angels, cold has shrouded the Earth after its collision with an asteroid. Franklin and Newton are in Prague, looking for the secrets of the beings whose science and powers have nearly destroyed the world. Other historical figures woven into the story include Peter the Great, Cotton Mather, and Blackbeard, the pirate. Keyes "supports this unique, ultimately plausible combination of alternate history and alternate science with good research and excellent storytelling," remarked Green. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the novel "a bravura performance."
In Empire of Unreason, book three in the "Age of Unreason" series, war rages throughout North America as Indian and European armies struggle for supremacy. The malakim, a group of malevolent spirits, seeks to destroy mankind by throwing the various human factions into conflict with each other. European leaders plot their own intrigues after their alchemical tinkering has brought about a new ice age in the northern lands. A number of human-based factions are rising up to oppose the malakim, including the American Junto, a group of American Indians, freed black slaves, and European intellectuals (including Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin) who want to see the malakim defeated; Red Shoes, a Choctaw heading west to destroy the malakim-sent dreams that threaten mankind; and a beautiful French scientist, Adrienne de Mornay de Montchevreuil, who manipulates individual malakim in Russia and who launches her own search for her son, said to be the leader of the malakim's battle against humanity. The novel "offers deliciously skewed portraits of historical figures as well as a genuinely intriguing plot," noted the Library Journal contributor Jackie Cassada. Keyes remains "master of the details that make much of this universe believable, and the amount of action definitely makes the book exciting," stated Green.
The fourth book of the series, Shadows of God, concludes the "Age of Unreason" with the culmination of the war between the angels, demons, and humans. Alchemist Benjamin Franklin uses his skills to forge a sweeping alliance among various warring factions, all with the goal of saving the direly threatened human race. Despite Franklin's efforts, the opposition remains strong, led by Adrienne de Montchevreuil's son, Nicholas, known as the Sun Boy. Adrienne, herself a powerful witch, is careful not to let anyone know what side she favors in the conflict. Meanwhile, powers in England want to recapture their lost colonies, while Russian troops march toward the destruction of the United States. Keyes also provides details of the technology of the world he has created, including air-ships that levitate by demon power. "Keyes entertains both with details of everyday life and with the conversations of people who may not have met but should have," commented a writer in Publishers Weekly.
The Briar King inaugurates a new series for Keyes, the "Kingdoms of Throne and Bone." The kingdom of Crothenay and the world of Everon are populated by fantasy beings who were transported there from the world of humans. As the novel opens, the Sefry, who have lived in the King's Forest for centuries, flee for their lives in anticipation of the awakening of the Briar King. Human sacrifices at ancient sites of power, as well as the appearance of a fearsome creature, the greffyn, suggest the rumors of the awakening are true. Should the Briar King return, however, legends have foretold the violent and bloody end of the world. A novice monk discovers manuscripts of unholy curses connected with the Briar King's return, while the king's court is in disarray, plagued by murder and betrayal. The Briar King can be stopped only if a queen of the Dare clan sits on the throne of Crothenay at his awakening. Only two women fit this description: Dare queen Murielle and her youngest daughter, Anne. Queen Murielle quickly finds herself in mortal danger from the evil forces that work to revive the Briar King. "Keyes takes all the genre's conventions and, while never overstepping their boundaries, breathes new life into them," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. "Keyes mixes cultures, religions, institutions and languages with rare skill," concluded a Publishers Weekly contributor.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 1996, Sally Estes, review of The Waterborn, p. 1324; March 1, 1997, Sally Estes, review of The Blackgod, p. 1068; May 15, 1998, Roland Green, review of Newton's Cannon, p. 1601; April 15, 1999, Roland Green, review of A Calculus of Angels, p. 1518; May 1, 2000, Roland Green, review of Empire of Unreason, p. 1655; April 15, 2001, Roland Green, review of Shadows of God, p. 1540; December 1, 2002, Paula Luedtke, review of The Briar King, p. 652.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1998, review of Newton's Cannon, p. 537; November 1, 2002, review of The Briar King, p. 1578.
Library Journal, April 15, 1997, Susan Hamburger, review of The Blackgod, p. 123; May 15, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of Newton's Cannon, p. 118; April 15, 1999, Jackie Cassada, review of A Calculus of Angels, p. 148; May 15, 2000, review of Empire of Unreason, p. 129; June 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of Shadows of God, p. 106.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April, 1997, Michelle West, review of The Waterborn, p. 130; March, 1999, Robert K.J. Killheffer, review of Newton's Cannon, p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, June 10, 1996, review of The Waterborn, p. 90; March 24, 1997, review of The Blackgod, p. 63; April 13, 1998, review of Newton's Cannon, p. 57; March 22, 1999, review of A Calculus of Angels, p. 74; May 1, 2000, review of Empire of Unreason, p. 54; May 14, 2001, review of Shadows of God, p. 57; November 25, 2002, review of The Briar King, p. 47.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1997, Sandra M. Lee, review of The Waterborn, p. 252.
Starkville High School Mississippi Writers and Musicians Project Web site, http://www.shs.starkville.k12.ms.us/mswm/MSWritersAndMusicians/ (October 5, 2005), Ashley Rice, interview with J. Gregory Keyes; Ashley Rice, "Biography of Gregory Keys."