Thursday, April 17, 2014


This week we are going to have a look at a series and a standalone novel by SFF author Michael J. Sullivan. We hosted a contest to win a book of your choosing by Mr. Sullivan earlier in the week and I am going to extend the end of the contest another week! This means you have until Monday April 27, 2014 to e-mail me with your information.

Formalities aside, let's get to the action...

The Riyria Revelations is a series of three novels published by Orbit Books. Originally, however, the series was self-published by Sullivan and consisted of six volumes. This three-volume version is the way to go. The story lends itself to being broken up this way. But what of the story? What are you getting yourself into when you turn to the first page of Theft of Swords?

If you are a fan of classic sword & sorcery fantasy like Fritz Leiber filled with adventure and characters you will want to follow around for an entire series, The Riyria Revelations is for you. If you'd like, you can leave now. That's basically all you need to know. The Riyria Revelations is very entertaining, Sullivan is very talented and has a real knack for this kind of writing, the whole series is solid. This is a classic secondary world fantasy, the kind that is less common nowadays, and Sullivan pays enough respect to the tradition while still adding his unique voice to the mix.

The series features the characters Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater. The story is quickly set in motion with the two main characters being charged with killing the king. It is up to Melborn and Blackwater to prove themselves innocent and get down to the bottom of what is really going. The set-up is simple and the plot gets moving right away. Sullivan provides many twists and turns and it is much like a well-written television show in novel form.

Just as you would want from this sort of series, the plot gets thicker in volume two. There is more of what you enjoyed from the first one -- the same witty banter between the "heroes", the same adventure and action, the same wonder and danger -- and the story twists and turns further, more puzzle pieces are revealed. Sullivan's style is very straightforward and the pages practically turn themselves. If you enjoyed the first volume, happiness with volume two is almost guaranteed.

Now I know what you're thinking: these things always run out of steam. A novelist has a great idea but at some point he overextends himself and the once great series outstays its welcome. Well, you can place those fears aside for The Riyria Revelations. As could be hoped, volume three is perhaps the strongest of all three. The grand narrative leads to an epic conclusion. Things remain fresh and fun and Sullivan never misses a beat.

So what's wrong? What should give you, dear reader, pause regarding The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan?

In short, nothing. Also, everything. It all depends on where you're coming from. As I said before, if you like the writing of Fritz Leiber or Robert E. Howard or even someone like David Eddings, you'll be happy with this. It's fun, it's adventurous, it's exciting, it's full of a classic familiar yet new fantasy world for you to get lost in.

That said, if your kind of fantasy is the unique, challenging type of those like Mark Lawrence, you should not expect more of that here. This is not a criticism of Michael J. Sullivan or his series because to consider it such would be like condemning Star Wars because it is not like the Alien series. The Riyria Revelations knows what it is and you'd be hard pressed to find a set of books written in the past fifteen years that does it better. Similarly, Sullivan's own style is very straightforward and designed to keep the pages turning and the story moving at a breakneck pace. There are no, or at least very few, artistic flourishes like you would find with a Rothfuss or a Lawrence. Again, not that kind of book. This is not to say that Michael Sullivan is not a brilliant writer or capable of provoking deep thought. Later this week we will have a look at a novel by him that does just that. However, with The Riyria Revelations, be advised about what you're getting. If it's your thing, you are going to love every minute.

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