“Theft of Swords” by Michael J. Sullivan (Orbit, 2011)

Part One of Three

Theft of Swords

What began as a challenge to entertain his daughter has taken Michael J. Sullivan on an unusual but productive publishing career, through self-publishing and promotion on to publication with Orbit books.  The Riyria Revelations at first seems a familiar fantasy series, with predictable tropes, but it’s how Sullivan uses them, and its strong, unique and interesting characters, that make this series one well worth reading.  Theft of Swords collects the first two volumes of the six-book series in a nice, weighty quality paperback.

In The Crown Conspiracy our main characters are nothing but low-life thieves: Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, although they’re very good at their jobs.  The story begins with the introduction of these intrepid characters and their next heist to steal a particular item within the impenetrable confines of the king’s castle.  But as soon as they have their hands on the item, the trap is sprung, and they find themselves part of an elaborate plot.  At their feet lies the lifeless body of the king.

From here, the story kicks into high-gear, taking the reader on a wild ride.  In this world it is important to know who your friends are and who are your enemies; it is also important to keep your enemies closest.  As the story unfolds, we learn that while they may be common thieves, they are very smart people.  They also realize that the idea of being a good person is starting to rub off on them, as they no longer do anything for a fast buck.

By the end of the book, everything seems to have sorted itself out.  Royce and Hadrian are now doing very well for themselves, as well as being close friends of the king.  But clearly all is not as it should, since this is the first book in the series.

In Avempartha, our intrepid duo returns in the second installment of The Riyria Revelations to solve another mystery and fight another day.  Before Royce and Hadrian barely have time to settle after the fun had in The Crown Conspiracy, they find themselves pulled into a new problem: a young woman needs their help as her village is being attacked by an unknown nocturnal creature.

The town of Dahlgren is an idyllic place, except now it is visited each night by an ancient monster looking to terrorize and kill everyone.  Royce and Hadrian know they can’t take on this beast by themselves, at least not without some impressive magic, and call on the help of their old friend and brilliant wizard, Esrahaddon.  Hadrian does his best to protect the town and its people, fortifying it, and having everyone hide out in the fortress each night.  Meanwhile Royce and Esrahaddon journey to the ancient elven tower known as Avempartha.  There they hope to confront the beast and kill it.  But everything doesn’t go according to plan, as it never does, and Hadrian learns some very important things about himself.

Sullivan ramps up the action and story, as we learn more about the characters we’ve come to like, as well about the incredible world he has created.  At the same time more details are revealed about the growing overall story, leaving readers waiting in earnest for the next installment.

This edition also features Sullivan’s original maps and a helpful character and important persons/gods list in the front.  In the back is a detailed glossary, an in-depth interview with the author, and a teaser for the next volume, Rise of Empire, consisting of the third and fourth volumes of the series, due out in December.

Originally written on December 1, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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