Saturday, 31 March 2012

Review: Rise of Empire (The Riyria Revelations 2) by Michael J. Sullivan

As in Theft of Swords, this instalment is actually two books, namely Nyphron Rising and Emerald Storm.

It’s hard to go into detail of the plots without huge spoilers for Theft of Swords, so I’ll be a bit hazy on them.

I was unsure about whether to immediately get Rise of Empire or try something else, but decided on getting it based on the gripping sample I downloaded. The characters involved were largely new and what I read (the start of Nyphron Rising) was too enthralling to put off for later.

Significant political upheaval is going on in the world, as the balance between the political factions (royalists, imperialists/the church and the democrats) changes dramatically and sparks off open warfare. Whilst Hadrian and Royce are as engaging as ever, the story does introduce a number of new, significant and interesting characters (Amilia and Merrick Marius). Arista, who has hired the Riyria pair, attempts to bolster Melengar’s position with an alliance, though conspiracy and deceit hinder her efforts somewhat.

The second story continues this theme, which sees Hadrian and Royce sailing across the seas to the east. This allows the author to flesh out some more of the lore and add a whole new slew of interesting sailing characters. Meanwhile, Arista hunts for Degan Gaunt, the captured democratic leader.

Rise of Empire features an increasing sense of danger, both in terms of the world itself and for the individual characters within it, which I like. The additional characters really do add something, and there’s a nice mix of the splendidly noble, the wickedly vile and ordinary people just trying to get by. I did criticise Mr. Sullivan for, in the first story, info-dumping a bit at the start, but in Emerald Storm there’s a much more natural unfolding of the world as Hadrian and Royce travel to lands yet unseen by the reader.

The ending could be a little more climatic, but as the author says in an interview at the end of Theft of Swords he wrote the series not as 6 separate stories but as a single story sliced up into six portions. This also makes sense in terms of how well integrated the plots and characters of the various books are. There are twists and turns and returning characters but they don’t jar or feel out of place or, Heaven forbid, like deus ex machina.

So, I’ll probably be buying Heir of Novron (the third and final part of The Riyria Revelations) shortly.


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