I chose The Crown Conspiracy, the first book in Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations, as the February 2013 discussion book for the Tome Raiders (the library’s sci fi/fantasy group). Originally self-published as ebooks, the six books in the series are now available as three volumes containing two books each. I enjoyed the first book so much I immediately plunged in to Avempartha, the second book in the series and in the first volume, Theft of Swords.
At least so far, the Riyria Revelations is not a deep fantasy with moral issues to wrestle with. It is a rollicking good time. It’s really a buddy series – think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which inspired the author. The recent Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law also come to mind. The two main characters are the type who are still exchanging wisecracks even as they face what seems to be certain death.
Royce Melborn is a thief. Orphaned as a child, he has a shady past but also excellent hearing and eyesight. His partner Hadrian Blackwater is the son of a blacksmith but one of the best swordsmen in the land. Together they make up Riyria, available for hire as thieves to help the upper class get out of (or get others into) romantic and other intrigue
We meet them in a forest, being held up by a band of inept ruffians. After calmly convincing the would-be thieves of Who They Are, Royce gives them some helpful advice: “drop a tree across the road next time…This is just pathetic. And cover your faces for Maribor’s sake.”
They are known throughout the lands for their daring and seemingly impossible feats of thievery. They once stole something extremely valuable and returned it the next night. In The Crown Conspiracy, they are tricked into taking a job that is a set up. It leaves them in prison and about to be tortured and killed for murdering a king. Fortunately, with some well-timed assistance, they escape and set out to clear their names.
The first book is largely introduction. We learn about the lands and the various races in it. We meet a mysterious wizard who has been imprisoned for 1000 years in a place where time stands still. (He also had his hands cut off, an intriguing limitation to future magic from this character.) An immature young price matures at the hands of his captor-protectors, Royce and Hadrian. A monk who has spent his entire life in an abbey sees his first horse – and his first woman. It’s a good time but not particularly deep.
The second book, Avempartha, does a great job building on the first. There is more to Royce and Hadrian than meets the eye. Each has secrets, some they themselves may not even know. The Art (magic) comes into play more significantly. I found the elves very interesting. In the first book we understand that those with elven blood are slaves, and I thought of them as being like J.K. Rowling’s elves. However, it turns out they are more like Tolkien’s elves, long lived and with extraordinary gifts. A thousand years ago they were defeated in a war with men and driven across an impassable river. Those with elven blood living in the world of men hide if they can, or are treated as vermin if they can’t.
The camaraderie in these first two books in the series reminded me of the best of R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt series. There are many aspects similar to other fantasy works, but that actually makes it easy to plunge right into the story without having to keep track of too many new things. If you are looking for a fun epic fantasy series, I definitely recommend the Riyria Revelations. I’m off to get my hands on the next volume in the series.