20 January 2017

Review: Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Review: Theft of Swords by Michael J. SullivanWhen I read Michael J. Sullivan's Age of Myth last summer, I felt like I had just discovered my new favorite fantasy author. I'm not sure why it took me another six months to get back to Sullivan, but I'm sure glad I did.

First, a little background: Sullivan started out as a self-published author, but his books were picked up by Orbit and then Del Rey. Theft of Swords is the reissue of Sullivan's first two books, The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha, which were released under a single title after being professionally edited.

There are four more books in the Riyria Revelations, which were reissued in two omnibuses. A second series, the Riyria Chronicles, consists of three novels and three shorter works. Finally, the Age of Myth begins a new series, called Legends of the First Empire.

What's Theft of Swords all about? It's the story of two thieves for hire: Hadrian Blackwater, a master with the sword, and Royce Melborn, a skilled picklock and solver of problems. They have a lasting friendship and solid working relationship, and their different personalities and motivations mesh well. In both books, they are hired to steal a sword but the jobs don't go as smoothly as they hoped, and the team, who call themselves Riyria, get caught up in bigger affairs, including the doings at court and schemes of the church.

Although the books focus on Hadrian and Royce, there are a number of side plots, all of which enrich the story and kept my interest. We have politics, religion, a slippery wizard, monks and farmers, prostitutes and titled lords, and even an evil beast.

Things I liked: First and foremost, I'm a fan of Hadrian and Royce. They're smart and good at their chosen profession, but they can still get into some trouble. I love their banter and the way they easily make both friend and foe. The secondary characters are clearly rendered, and I like, for example, the determination of the scholarly monk, the growth of the king, the spunk of the peasant girl, and confidence of the dwarf.

The interplay between the story lines and the pacing and transitions between the different settings work very well. You get a feel for Hadrian and Royce's personalities in the quieter moments and are caught up in worldly concerns when knights prepare for combat or villagers fight to save their homes.

All was not perfect: Although Theft of Swords was professionally edited in retrospect, these debut novels could have used a stronger editorial hand at the start (such as some cases of too much foreshadowing, a few scenes of excessive detail). The good news is that Sullivan becomes a stronger writer by the second half of Theft of Swords and, honestly, I was enjoying Hadrian and Royce's adventures so much I didn't care about the minor shortcomings.

Audiobook notes: I listened to the unabridged audiobook of Theft of Swords (Recorded Books; 22 hr, 37 min) read by Tim Gerard Reynolds. Reynolds nailed the characters' personalities, making it easy to connect with the good guys and hate the bad ones. He amped up the action scenes and brought a nice emotional level to his performance. Plus he pronounced all those difficult words (like Avempartha). If you're an audiobook fan, don't hesitate to listen.

Recommendations: Michael J. Sullivan's Theft of Swords is great escape reading, with many common fantasy elements wrapped around two fabulous characters whom you'll be happy to have met. You'll enjoy good action, root for a terrific friendship, be intrigued by a few secrets, and even find some moments to laugh. Although magic, elves, and dwarfs appear in the books, this is epic fantasy not the wand-waving world of Harry Potter.

Published by Orbit, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780316187749
Source: bought (audiobook) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Kailana 1/20/17, 9:15 AM  

Glad you enjoyed this! I reactivated my library account hoping maybe they had his books, but nope, so I will have to rely on audio credits. So, first I want to finish the Anne Bishop series and then I think I will check him out next! I all ready plan to do his new book on audio since I enjoyed Age of Myth so much. :)

(Diane) bookchickdi 1/20/17, 11:55 AM  

I'm not a big fantasy reader, but it is a popular section at the Book Cellar.

Heather 1/21/17, 5:04 PM  

Yep. Gotta look into this! May be a good series to help me wait for the next in the Kingkiller series by Patrick Rothfuss (which I HIGHLY recommend if you haven't read. Start with The Name of the Wind. The audio is amazing.).

Daryl 1/23/17, 10:29 AM  

another to put on my TBR or listened to list .. thanks!

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