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VINE VOICEon 13 November 2011
Theft of Swords is the first of three omnibus editions of Sullivan's Riyria Revelations. After considerable indie success, Orbit books bought the rights to give the series the full big-publisher treatment. I'd heard of the Riyria Revelations before, as they kept appearing in my Amazon recommendations. I bought the first book for my Kindle, but promptly forgot about it, much to my shame. Now that I've read this first pair of novels, I can tell you that Sullivan has a new fan for life.

The Crown Conspiracy, the first novel in the omnibus, is great fun from the get-go, as we are thrown right into some action, getting to know Hadrian and Royce extremely quickly. How can you not like a pair of rogues who advise the band of highwaymen trying to rob them on how better to have done it? The opening scenes are indicative of what is to come: the banter between our two main characters is superb and very natural. Hadrian and Royce feel like they have a proper, real friendship immediately. This makes reading of their adventures and exploits an absolute pleasure.

In The Crown Conspiracy, Hadrian and Royce get sucked into a greater plot concerning the succession to the throne of one of the Elan kingdoms - they are hired to steal a favourite sword of a master duellist, but in the process are framed for the murder of a king. There is plenty of misdirection, as we are kept guessing about who is at the heart of the conspiracy - other members of the royal family? The Nephron Church? The mysterious outlaw Esrahaddon? As our heroes delve further into the mystery, they discover the various forces arrayed against them will spare no expense to keep the truth hidden.

The second half of this omnibus, the novel Avempartha, has a slightly more serious tone, with fewer moments that made me laugh, but it is no less interesting, engaging and entertaining. It's a great quest adventure, as Hadrian and Royce are hired by a provincial girl to help protect their village from a mysterious beast that has been terrorising and eating the villagers. In the pursuit of this job, our two heroes are sent to steal yet another sword, under advisement from a surprise returning character from the first book. Clearly, no good can come from jobs involving a theft of swords...

Sullivan has a gift for characterisation, and he does a superb job of giving each of his characters distinct sensibilities, personalities and voices - even though the novel is not presented in a first-person narrative, when we follow a character, we get a good sense of their personalities in the way observations and description are written. For example, when a high-born lady meets with Hadrian and Royce, the ruder aspects of life in this world do not escape comment. Sometimes this effect is delivered with a single of observation; at other times, Sullivan even manages it with a single expertly-placed word.

He also has a good eye for portraying people, crowds, and the `mob' (to borrow Terry Pratchett's word) - it reminded me of Pratchett or Monty Python at their least nutty and most subtle. The novel has a delightful, sympathetic absurdity (see Myron, the monk librarian with an eidetic memory, who is perhaps one of the best comic characters I've ever read - so very endearing and amusing). As I mention above, this is more apparent in the first novel than the second.

There were so many passages of dialogue and observation that I wanted to quote here, to give you a taste of what to expect in these two novels, but I think that would have ultimately ruined a new reader's experience of discovering this story and the characters that populate it for themselves. Myron is the source of many of them. We liked Myron a lot, it should be stated.

"The smallest of the children fascinated Myron, and he watched them in amazement. They were like short drunk people, loud and unusually dirty..."

There are a few moments of fortuitous coincidence that help the plot move along (I couldn't help but mutter "Huh, that was handy" a couple of times), but we do move on so well and briskly that we don't really give a monkey's, as we're just having so much fun, and we really need to know what happens next. In Avempartha, the scenes where Arista, the Princess of Melengar and ambassador to the kingdom Hadrian and Royce find themselves in, tend to feel slower, dropping the momentum of the novel a little. This was a little disappointing, as the whole of The Crown Conspiracy was superbly streamlined.

Over the course of these two novels, Sullivan lays down a lot of groundwork for the larger story. We get more and more details about our heroes and the politics of this world - from the characters of the individual kingdoms, to the corrupt Imperialist politics of the Church. Some of this won't really come as too much of a surprise, as the reader will see hints of certain events and revelations that could be easily predicted. We meet a lot of characters who will clearly feature prominently throughout the six novels that make up the series. At the same time, Sullivan isn't afraid of killing off characters if the story requires it (Chapter 12 of Avempartha was quite distressing).

Anyone interested in lighter-hearted, but not frivolous fantasy should definitely read Sullivan's novels. The prose is superbly fluid, the dialogue is realistic, the plotting and narrative tight and expertly crafted. It will grab hold and pull you along, utterly willing.

With a classic and fun feel, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it to all fans of fantasy. True, the second half isn't quite as good as the truly excellent first novel, but it's still very strong and promises more goodness to come.

I can't wait to get my hands on the second omnibus, Rise of Empire.

For fans of: Fritz Leiber, Ari Marmell, Scott Lynch, Will King, Nathan Long, Terry Pratchett
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Omnibus edition of "The Crown Conspiracy" and "Avempartha" the first two stories in the author's Riyria Revelations series. Lots of mixed reviews for this and I can see why. It has an old fashioned style to it and tries for the fun aspect rather than the brutal aspect. You have to accept t for a light and fun read but if you try to over analyse it in any way you will become frustrated.

The books feature a couple of thieves, and the banter and dialogue between them is quite fun, but their characters are not really fleshed out until the second of the two books here. The first book is about a frame for the murder of a King, the kidnapping of his heir and a religious conspiracy. In the second they take a job not realising it is part of a much bigger and darker picture and lots of re-appearances from characters in the first book.

So, for lightweight fantasy fun, it's not bad. It's certainly no Rothfuss or Abercrombie but it is a step up from Terry Brooks. I am kind of tempted to get the next one.....
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I love a good fantasy that gives me something that not only invokes memories but also brings a new fantasy world and sneakiness to the fore. What this book by Michael J Sullivan does is bring together elements of Lieber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser with the detailed and political machinations of Martin alongside the authors own style that really works well with the plotline.

The principle cast members are fun to be around, have great depth and flavour and when added to a plot that has the pace of a galloping horse, leaves the reader hanging on to find out what's going to happen next which when you add to this an epic subplot that will take some time to work through it will leave our heroes will have one hell of an arc to sort through as for them an armies worth of the brown stuff has just hit the fan. Cracking.

Finally just to help others avoid any confusion, this series released by Orbit is an amalgam of the previous released books and will work out like this:

* Theft of Swords: The Crown Conspiracy & Avempartha
* Rise of Empire: Nyphron Rising & The Emerald Storm
* Heir of Novron: Wintertide and Percepliquis
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on 21 February 2012
This book was originally self-published in two parts, entitled 'The Crown Conspiracy' and 'Avempartha'.
Its now also available in print in single and omnibus editions.

This series is one of the best things Ive read for a while. The entire series of 6 books (3 in omnibus format) are now available in print and ebook formats. Ive read them all over a week and a half and each one is better than the last. This story is a very humorous road trip reminiscent of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. The series does its best to subvert most standard fantasy themes - no noble elves and dwarves here, nor pitiful goblins. The standard building blocks are all present, slightly altered giving the series a definite feel of standing out from the crowd. The world building is masterfully done - each brick has been carefully hand crafted - not drawn wholesale from the stock of traditional fantasy building blocks. The resulting edifice is unique while still encompassing all the expectations of traditional heroic fantasy.

Though its fair to say that Hadrian and Royce are the main characters - they are not the only heroes. The author has not missed the fact that you dont have to be big, or clever to be a hero. The recurring supporting cast - many of whom appear across the entire series and whom see their own backgrounds develop - some happily, some with tragedy - are particularly well written. Every book reveals more and more about each of the characters. Often what seems a throwaway comment was found to be significant in later volumes. TWhat sometimes irks a little is the dearth of background on Hadrian and Royce. Having read the entire series - it is worth waiting for. Later books expand significantly on their prior history. The construction of the main story arc over all six books is magnificently realised and has obviously been lovingly polished and revised to perfection over many years. There is no middle book syndrome here. All the books have self contained storylines which build on and contribute to the series as a whole. The careful release of backstory to advance the main arc is raised to a high art.

In the first book Royce and Hadrian are framed for killing the King and ending up kidnapping the Prince to clear their name. To clear their name they have to breaking in to an inescapable prison and solve who is behind the death of the king. Cue wizards, princes, princesses and dwarves. The initial story reminds me of Fritz liebers Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser.

The second story deals the duo again babysitting a member of the royal family whilst becoming engaged with a prophecy about a lost heir an unkillable beast, an unnapproachable fortress. Cue wizards, princes, princesses ,dwarves, magic swords , dragons, scheming clergy and an entire village caught in the middle.

One of the best new fantasy discoveries of recent years. Biggest bonus the whole series is already in print. IMHO this series is the new Magician. 6 solid books is something to be very proud of.
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on 14 February 2012
A lot of people today talk about modern fantasy writers and compare them immediately to others. Inspiration must be gather from somewhere and personally if I liked a book then a writer who I might also like has probably read and liked a similar book.
Without mentioning any names for me this was a return to a world which I thought modern writers would not be able to return to. While the story occasionally switches character which I tend to find annoying in most books I actually enjoy in this one because of how interesting and well developed the characters are. I remember one character who must have been in only about 7 pages in total through the first volume and yet felt like I knew him personally.

I shall leave you read some of the amazingly in depth reviews from my peers here which I will not insult them by repeating. It is as they say your own mind to choose whether or not to buy this series, but I would strongly nudge you in the direction of yes if, like me, you want a book that keeps you reading until the sun rises the next morning
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on 18 November 2014
Below here I state my opinion of the entire series - the Riyria Revelations - rather than just this individual book.

The last couple of decades every high fantasy author has been trying so hard to be non-traditional in what they write that the genre has become skewed towards weirdness too much and now something like this brilliant work by Michael J. Sullivan is suddenly very different from what everyone writes these days... So, while some readers may discard it as "too traditional", "typical" or even "cliché", it actually isn't at all, in the light of those trends!

Anyway, the Riyria Revelations can only be considered "old-school" (i.e. - a sort of "LoTR" style) in terms of things such as the species of characters used in it - Elves, Dwarves, Men and Goblins. But, as Mr. Sullivan himself rightly says, it doesn't matter what the author calls them - what matters is how they are used by him and whether the whole thing is well written. And this one is brilliantly written, and very well thought out overall! When you read half of the first book, you might mistakenly think the story is a bit naive and simplistic. But then, after that you gradually start learning that certain people and things were not what you thought they were - truths about them get gradually revealed (hence, the title of the entire series). Some new misconceptions and lies (by characters, of course, not by the author - he never lies to you; he just lets you foolishly believe in the misconceptions and lies by characters) are mixed in at times along the way, just to throw you off the scent. And then you get to the really big and shocking revelations in the final book... It's like a combination of high fantasy with detective fiction.

And the writing style is always smooth and the whole thing is very easy to read, without being childish. The (very important for me) ratio of "world building and character development / number of words being used for it" is really high. And it's a really good story, with all types of characters, including "grey" ones. But, while none of the protagonists is a Marty Stu or a Mary Sue, they are still written in a way that the reader inevitably sympathizes with them. And that is a welcome and refreshing change from a lot of recent fantasy literature, where too often we have to follow the story through the eyes and twisted thoughts of villains - frankly, at some point that becomes frustrating and hard to read for me.

To sum it up - this is one of the best and most well written high fantasy series of all time, in my humble uneducated opinion.
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on 16 July 2012
For a genre so veritably bulging with new releases every year, it's really not that often that I find a new author that actually catches my interest. Whether it's the plethora of identikit fantasy worlds or the indistinct writing styles of many of the writers, it's a rare new voice that stands out. I'm pleased to report that Sullivan is one such voice.

It's hard to say just what works so well with his stories, the first two of which are collected in this omnibus. His settings and situations conjure the best of classic fantasy without ever becoming overt cliche, while his prose style and characters' speech has a vibrant, fresh modern feel to it.

His story focuses on a pair of thieves, known to the world at large as Riyria. They're your traditionally opposing partnership; Hadrian, the hulking, noble warrior, and Royce, the slight, cynical master thief. There are some slight resemblances to Lieber's famous duo, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, but Royce and Hadrian manage to be unique creations in their own right, both the best at what they do and fallible human beings at the same time.

In the first story, what should have been a simple job (aren't they all?) leads to them being framed for regicide, and embarking on a journey with the protesting new heir in tow in order to clear their names. The second revolves around them taking the request of a naive young girl to save her village from an unstoppable monster. Along the way, they encounter such beautifully drawn characters as a hilariously cloistered young monk, a monstrously devious dwarf and a wickedly scheming bishop.

Both stories rattle along with gusto, throwing great action scenes and enthralling characters at the reader with confident aplomb. There are hints of a greater saga to come, one in which these are just the opening acts, but for the moment it's just great to enjoy a really welcome new voice into the genre. I hope it's one that will be around for a looong time.
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on 19 February 2013
Finally I found an author who does not swamp you in monsters of impossible kinds, brutal scenes of torture and endless wars with even more monsters. impossible odds and war scenes that bores the life out of you. this does not mean there are wars in the waiting, dungeons, dragons and princesses in distress, a prince who needs a kick in the bud to become more human, or a magician like you never heard the like before. It is just so much more cleverly done than most fantasy on the marked, at the moment.

This is a very elegant fantasy in the old tradition, and at its best. It is very well written, it is funny, understated in a very likeable way, and there is a great dialog to follow. The characters are most intriguing and you never know where you will end up, so the very unpredictable way of the story, makes it a must read to the end - And you just want more.

I have bought the trilogy in books, but was so quickly through the first book, that I find it almost impossible to wait, and I think I will just get the second dose started on my kindle. Just go for it.
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on 11 September 2012
I have just finished reading the entire Trilogy and wanted to share how much I enjoyed it. In fact, I feel a bit bereft since turning the last page and am missing Royce and Hadrian already.

The relationship between these two buddies is the strongest aspect of the book. But there's much more to the series than that. The plot really races along and the end of each third of the trilogy is properly satisfying, unlike many trilogies that just leave you dangling between installments. I also enjoyed the main female character who was just as strong as the two heroes. Some fantasy authors can 'do men' or 'do women' well, but not many can do both.

If you like your fantasy raw and violent (baby-killing and rape galore as per G.R.R Martin) then this might be a bit tame, but I really loved the storytelling and the world the author has created and it was a delightful immersion.
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on 28 March 2012
Fantasy stories, especially trilogies or series (when are they ever anything else these days) are not hard to stumble across. In fact most book shops could probably sell nothing else and wouldn't need to rent out any spare shelf space.

This one though, the start of the Riyria Revelations collection is quite simply how it should be done if you want to avoid the two-a-penny trundling yarns about a lovable but troubled man/woman with a dark past and a sword, axe, knife, dagger, bow, throwing star, a dwarf, an elf and a castle with a ghost and a secret passageway that everyone knows about.

The story is engaging, the characters are brilliant, the humour is excellent throughout. It's good classic medieval fantasy with a smile around every corner that keeps you guessing along the way.

Best book I've read in a long time. Looking forward to the next one.
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