Author – Michael J Sullivan
Pages – 649
A fun and action packed traditional fantasy with themes of brotherhood, humour and power-plays which was perfect to jump in for the ride without having to think too hard.
The Riyria books are a series I’ve been eyeing up for a while after a number of recommendations. When I say eyeing up, it doesn’t have much to do with the covers – which I actually really dislike! They don’t represent the events of the books (at least with this first book) and the characters don’t even match their descriptions. Aswell as that I just dislike the designs anyway.
I’m sure you’re not here for a review on the cover, but I just wanted to put that out there. It’ll be staying in my digital collection, put it that way.
Onto the actual book, then.
Theft of Swords has a very traditionally epic fantasy feel that will be very comfortable for many readers, a book in which you can acclimatise to the world quite easily. It is actually two books; books 1 and 2 of the Riyria Revelations – The Crown Conspiracy at 296 pages, followed by Avempartha at 331 pages, in one volume. It makes sense that they are combined since they follow on seamlessly, whilst the Crown Conspiracy wraps up nicely if you did want to take a break between the two books.
Our two main characters are Hadrian and Royce – two expert thieves. I feel like they have enough of a conscience and set of underlying morals to endear them to the reader, without being so nice and clean cut that you can’t take them seriously.
In a manner of speaking, Hadrian is the good cop to Royce’s bad cop and they tend to balance one another out and stop one another making poor judgements, though it’s clear Hadrian is the more domineering or at least more of a leader of the pair – he’s the positive, optimistic one whilst Royce is darker and more shadowy.
Hadrian is also a master swordsman who famously carries three swords and knows how to use them. Royce is probably the better thief. Whilst I’m not sure they’re the best fantasy pair ever as some say (or at least the marketing does) they do have a bond that you can get behind and a chemistry on the page. The care they have for one another is believable and there are some witty exchanges, especially when they deal with other characters.
What I especially liked about the book is you feel like you’re on an adventure with these two, and you don’t have to follow loads of different plot threads and character arcs or to be honest, a massive amount of complication.
The two books are basically two different jobs they’ve taken on – the first of which they are actually set up whilst the second feels much more like a quest from an RPG, but in a way that reveals a lot more of the world these books take place in and the history running through them.
There is enough intrigue and mystery to keep you invested and political manoeuverings of other characters play a big role in the plot – it’s just our two main characters aren’t really interested in politics, which the book is better for.
I can make a favourable comparison to the Witcher series in some respects, in that this is a feudal sort of medieval society with some scattered villages and hamlets trying to survive, encountering problems and perpetuating regional myths and stereotypes. The hatred of Elves for example is something that runs through the book amongst suspicious and xenophobic peoples who only trust their own kind. There are Elves and Dwarves (or should I say, Dwarf) but it doesn’t at first appear to be high fantasy, though we are later introduced to a mythical creature and a dangerous wizard who’s been locked up for hundreds of years, looking to escape. Magic just isn’t particularly common or publicised with the average person being very suspicious and willing to execute people for being a magic user.
Overall, this was a really fun, easy read (I’ll count it as one book even though it’s two) with swordfights, brotherhood, some solid world building developing and some interesting characters, some of which are obviously being set up to be bigger players in the next books. I really enjoyed it!
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 unraveling an ancient mystery before it’s too late.