Book Review: Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Series: The Riyria Revelations #1-2
Publisher: Hachette Digital
Published: October 6th 2011
Source: Personal Copy
Read: December 26, 2021 – January 3, 2022 (on Kindle)
Rating: 4 of 5 stars (I really liked it)
Hadrian could see little in the darkness, but he could hear them–the snapping of twigs, the crush of leaves, and the brush of grass.
THEY KILLED THE KING. THEY PINNED IT ON TWO MEN. THEY CHOSE POORLY.
There’s no ancient evil to defeat or orphan destined for greatness, just unlikely heroes and classic adventure. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, are two enterprising rogues who end up running for their lives when they’re framed for the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy that goes beyond the overthrow of a tiny kingdom, their only hope is unravelling an ancient mystery before it’s too late.
“You think he’s still alive?” Royce asked, nodding his head toward Alric.
“Sure,” Hadrian replied without bothering to look. “He’s probably sleeping. Why do you ask?”
“I was just pondering something. Do you think a person could smother in a wet potato bag?”
Hadrian lifted his head and looked over at the motionless prince. “I really hadn’t thought about it until now.”
After a blast of Urban Fantasy and Sci-Fi before that, getting back to something of a more typical Fantasy bent was like coming home.
Sullivan’s Theft of Swords was like coming home on a cold winter day, where the hearth is lit and your favourite animal companion is waiting (impatiently) for you to take a seat so it can jump up beside you.
It has all the classical elements of an older age of fantasy. Elves, Dwarves, Goblins and yes–even Wizards. Stepping it away from being a Lord of the Rings or Magician re-run is the fact that despite all that? It’s a fairly low magic world. … Middling magic world? Somewhere in that arena at least. The story also focuses closely on a pair of thieves — Hadrian and Royce.
Coming into the story, they already have an extensive history together, comfortable together in the way only longtime friendships can forge.
Royce at times can project a rather cold air towards others.
Royce nodded. “Invest in crossbows. Next time stay hidden and just put a couple bolts into each of your target’s chests. All this talking is just stupid.”
“Royce!” Hadrian admonished.
“What? You’re always saying I should be nicer to people. I’m trying to be helpful.”
And while I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say it is just a facade, you can certainly tell at times there is more to it.
I wish a couple of things here — for one, I wish I hadn’t put this series to the side for so long — and for another; I wish I had jumped on writing this review sooner after finishing reading it. I’m now well into the second volume (Rise of Empire), in fact, I’m well into the second book in that volume (meaning 4 books along in the series as a whole, out of 6 in this particular run).
The first wish is easy enough to explain. I’m really enjoying Sullivan’s writing and know already he will be an author I’m going to simply devour everything he has deemed worthy of putting to print.
The second wish is that I have much more knowledge of both where the wider events of the story are headed and how the characters are developing and it has become difficult to separate this knowledge back to what I knew only from the first volume.
What I can tell you though is that the characters and world are very well developed. There is enough around the periphery that it has a very real sense of ‘place’ which I greatly appreciate.
In any case… Where was I? Oh yes, Hadrian! Where Royce is the more lithe, agile one of the two, Hadrian brings the beef. A weapons expert in the near-constant company of his three swords. (Two might’ve been enough for Geralt, but not this guy!) Despite this, he brings the more obvious ‘heart’ to the proceedings and has a way with people that is legitimately touching at times.
As alluded to, each volume of these books contains what was originally two books. As I understand things, Michael J. Sullivan originally indie-published his works before success there led to a publisher picking up and re-releasing his work. I couldn’t tell you whether further edits or adjustments were made between the original indie releases and these published volumes but I suspect with this volume coming out in 2011, anything you picked up now would be these final editions.
Each individual book does an admirable job of closing off its own story while leading into the very next and continuing the overall narrative forward. I have a lot to catch up on here, as after these volumes there are a set of prequel works — covering Hadrian and Royce’s earlier partnership and another series going way back in time to some of the events of legend in the ‘modern’ Riyria world took place. Fortunately, Sullivan himself has posted a guide to recommended reading order. :)
If you’re a fan of more classic fantasy with a dash of the modern applied — you’ll feel right at home with these books, and they’re an easy recommendation to make.