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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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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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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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VINE VOICEon 15 January 2012
Let's start off with a brief look at the book. A thief and a mercenary who have been a great team for years are tricked into a situation where they are accused of assassinating a king.From then on we have action, magic, politics and adventure. The three main characters are the thief and mercenary as already mentioned and a princess. These are the ones that the story follows.

AS the story progresses we learn more about each of these people and their backgrounds. Unlike the current trend the thief and mercenary are in fact honorable men, they are not sadistic or perverted but true heroes in the traditional mould. The Princess is a pretty strong character to start with and becomes tougher and better as the story unfolds.

The magic is quite mild, the politics are vital but not too complicated and we are not subjected to too much of that, it is more background and a reason for the story, the action is fast and exciting. The author also has the sense to give us periods of quite breathing space between the action which of course enhances the whole thing.

The way the books are put together is very interesting. Each volume of the Trilogy has two books in it and these are stand alone stories and yet each follows on from the previous one, thus covering major incidents in one long story.

While I am supposed to be reviewing the first book, I am half way through the second and the third is on its way.I read a lot of fantasy, a high percentage of the modern stuff goes straight to the Charity shops. This one is the best fantasy that I have read in many along year.
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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 12 April 2016
This was an absolute joy to read. Theft of Swords contains books one (The Crown Conspiracy) and two (Avempartha) of a six book series (The Riyria Revelations) and in addition there's a prequel trilogy (The Riyria Chronicles) but the author recommends that you read the six book series first.

The main protagonists are Royce and Hadrain; an expert thief and warrior respectively and they are a dynamic duo for hire operating independently from local Guilds and are known for being the best at what they do. And it's during one of these jobs that everything goes wrong and the full story kicks into gear.

They deal with Knights, Princesses, Kings, Dwarfs, Monks, Wizards, Towers along the way and end up in more crazy adventures as the story progresses.

There's nothing ground breaking here - deliberately so - Michael J Sullivan has created a series using traditional fantasy tropes and he makes no apologies for it. None are needed because he has created an amazing world that I cannot wait to jump back into. The world building, characters and story arc are all excellent but I have to single out the prose and dialogue for stellar praise. The back and forth between the characters is a joy; funny, realistic and organic. The prose is unfussy and clean; helping to push the story along well. The pacing is perfect.

Another triumph is the fact that the author has created a story arc that (so far) will stretch for two entire series but at the same time each novel is a story that has a beginning, middle and end; that is such a great skill and gives the reader the enjoyment of a resolution and conclusion each time whilst also teasing us with what is to come. There will be a sentence or throw away comment that is important later; I love that. Who are the good guys and who can be trusted and how will it all link together....? I don't know but I can't wait to find out.

10/10
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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 10 December 2012
I purchased this book on the strength of several of the customer reviews on Amazon. I am sure some people genuinely enjoyed the book - though I cannot imagine how. Perhaps I've been spoilt by the collected works of Abercrombie, Martin and Rothfuss, but I found this book to be tedious and singularly unrewarding. The story itself is a farce. It takes a number of unexpected twists, mostly because - as a reader - you cannot possibly have imagined the characters making such arbitrary decisions or performing acts of such utter, out-of-the-blue stupidity.

Two thieves are hired to steal a sword, framed for killing a king, released by the princess on the grounds that they kidnap her brother (who would be the new king) and take him to an ancient prison for an audience with the powerful wizard being detained there. Along the way they meet a boring monk whose only purpose seems to be to conveniently know ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING THAT EVER WAS[!]. They release the wizard from aeons of captivity and escape the bowels of this formidable prison in about 6 pages. The wizard rewards them for releasing him with the name of the King's real killer (not all that great a feat, the culprit's guilt is so painfully signposted anyone reading the book could have told them about 4 chapters ago) and the prince/thieves rush back to deal with the regicidal maniac. This is admittedly only the first half of the book, there is a second (seemingly unrelated) story, which I did not read as what I had already seen was enough to sour me on this author forever.

Many times I threw the book down, lamenting the loss of my money and swearing I would never pick it up again. Yet out of some sick fascination, I would return to it again and again, just to challenge my own belief that it could not possibly get any worse! Yet it always did. Ultimately, I threw it in the bin and watched the refuse men take it away, before I could rest easy.

In conclusion then, I did not enjoy this book. I thought it was the worst book I've (partially) read in some time. Maybe you will enjoy it more than I did, but there are much better works of fantasy out there, you should read those first and return to this once you have exhausted every other possibility. I imagine you would find even a menu from the local takeaway restruant more engaging and better plotted than this rubbish.
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on 20 March 2015
On the surface this is traditional fantasy: feudal world, swords and horses and wizards; there are even elves, dwarves and gods.

Still the author plays on these themes a bit – Elan is no middle-earth – and the focus is most certain squarely on human characters.

The main attraction here are the dual-leads – Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn, together the titular "Riyria".
Initially the appear a notorious thieving double-act, but the book tries hard to introduce them quickly and have as much fun as possible whenever they are around. Both supremely talented in their own ways; while Royce sneaks & suspects, Hadrian has the heart of gold and staggering sword-play ability.

I've seen reviews criticising this as "light-weight fantasy", and while certainly it doesn't fit the "grim" tag so popular in fantasy at the moment - so what? I found it a thoroughly entertaining and well produced read.

Highly recommended. This omnibus edition, being two distinct stories with a interweaving thread, also represents very good value for any book.

Given the way it ends, I will most certainly be going on to the next book in the series.
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