Bookbanter Column: Get Lost in a Good Fantasy Series, Part 2: The Riyria Revelations (July 20, 2012)

Some years ago, author Michael J. Sullivan began writing a fantasy for his daughter: a story that she would enjoy hearing, but also one that he would enjoy reading.

It eventually turned into a six-book epic fantasy series that was published through an independent press.

What was perhaps most unique about the Riyria Revelations was that Sullivan had all six books completely plotted and planned to serve as individual, stand-alone novels, but also linked together into a long series.

The series slowly but surely gained momentum and a following, as more readers and fans were discovered, and the books received more ratings and reviews on the likes of Good Reads and Amazon, and Sullivan received more and more interview requests, including with yours truly.

His popularity and success grew to such a point that after the release of the fifth book in the series, Sullivan finally got that big publishing contract with Orbit Books, who released the series in three volumes late last year and early this year, with two books in each volume.

This is the story of two thieves who change and grow and develop through each of the six books, as readers become so attached to them that by the end they feel like family. It is also the story of what heritage and history means, and that the past is never truly gone, but also that sometimes these things don’t have to matter as much as people think they do, and it’s important to enjoy life however you can.

Theft of Swords: 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.

Rise of Empire: In Nyphron Rising, things take a turn for the worse as war comes sweeping through to Melengar and its people have little hope and respect for their recent, young king.  Princess Arista has been running around playing diplomat and trying to secure allies for Melengar, with nothing to show for it.  Meanwhile the enemy Nyphron Empire continues to grow in strength and numbers.  Arista has one more trick up her sleeve, and with the help of her good friends, Royce and Hadrian, goes on this last journey far south in a last effort to secure an ally, but also to unravel a mystery of Hadrian’s past.  Surprising results are revealed about our unknown thief that ties into the whole story of the Riyria Revelations.  The wizard Esrahaddon continues to be up to no good, while we learn more of the enigmatic man known as Degan Gaunt.

Sullivan does a great job with Nyphron Rising, after setting necessary groundwork and story and setting with the first two books, he opens it up on an epic scale, traveling his invented world, and educating readers on how future events are going to affect everyone across Elan, and why the forgotten history is important.  Royce and Hadrian continue to be the entertaining and interesting characters that they are, while Arista opens up her emotional side.

With the events of Nyphron Rising now at a close, the elusive duo, Royce and Hadrian aren’t sure what do to next.  Royce has plans to retire and relax, settle down with his lady love and enjoy the rest of his days, while Hadrian has dark shadows of his past and heritage to confront and accept, while deciding he is on a mission to find the lost heir of Novron.  It takes Royce all of three seconds and little convincing to decide that Hadrian won’t last long without him, and together the two set out, following the clues that lead them to the mighty trading vessel, the Emerald Storm.  They know nothing of seamanship and what to do aboard such a large vessel, but knowing one of the crewmen, they’re able to get added to the crew and begin the journey through the mysterious and interesting lands of Elan.  Naturally, there is lots of adventure on the high seas, not to mention some strange guests on the Emerald Storm, as well as the enigmatic cargo.  Meanwhile an important subplot is furthered along with the princess, who is bored with her station, looking to make her life more interesting, and gets some answers.

Heir of Novron: In Wintertide, on this year’s holiday of the same name, a special celebration has been planned.  The New Empire wants to make a big deal of its victory over the Nationalists, and has some important public executions planned: the villainous Degan Gaunt and the Witch of Melengar.  The only problem is that Royce and Hadrian are in town and they happen to be good friends with both of those people and have plans of springing them free whatever it takes.

Sullivan clearly had fun with Wintertide, playing around with Hadrian engaging in a joust, even though he doesn’t know much about the whole nobility and chivalry thing, but he sure knows how to fight.  And how having friends in the most unlikeliest of places often proves invaluable.  Fans will enjoy this penultimate chapter, with Sullivan’s strong descriptions and scenes of the winter festivities; of the sounds, sights and smells.  It’s an enjoyable, thrilling tale before the final showdown.

In Percepliquis, the beginning of the end has begun: the elves of old have crossed the Nidwalden River in large numbers and are coming to take over; they threaten the entire continent of Elan.  The people have little hope left; they know they don’t stand a chance against these powerful elves.  And it all comes down to Novron’s heir, who must make a stand, and the only way he can do that is by finding the sacred horn.  It will involve an arduous quest, with a strong group of warriors who also possess intellect.  They will have to travel deep beneath the ground, in search of the ancient, ruined city of Percepliquis, following an old diary that may not even be true.  Fortunately, Royce and Hadrian are coming along for the ride, so if these intrepid few have any chance of finding the horn and saving the people of Elan, only these two will be able to make it happen.

In the longest volume yet, Sullivan has outdone himself here with lots going on: multiple storylines, lots of action, lots of conflict between friends and enemies, important details from the previous books brought to light, travels through various terrains, and an ultimate duel.  With the thrill of a top-rate action movie, combined with the epic grandeur of Tolkien’s Return of the King, this is a final showdown you won’t be able to stop reading, let alone put down.  Who will live; who will die?  In this grand finale, anything can happen . .. you won’t want to miss it.

Originally published on Forces of Geek.

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