Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: The Riyria Revelations by Michael Sullivan

Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire, and Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan
Series: the Riyria Revelations
Release Date: 2012
Publisher: Orbit
Received: Library/Bought
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf


From Goodreads:

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 thieves who end up running for their lives when they're framed for the death 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.

The Riyria Revelations is a multi-book fantasy series released as six novels (now out of print) and the current trilogy version containing two books in each volume. Instead of a string of sequels the entire series was conceived as a single epic tale divided into individual episodes. All were written before the first was released so that plot elements are intertwined, yet each is self-contained with it's own conflict and resolution.

The Riyria Revelations and The Riyria Chronicles are two separate, but related series, and you can start reading with either Theft of Swords (publication order) or The Crown Tower (chronological order).


Let's be honest here

I initially picked up this series because I thought the guy on the cover looked hot. Yes, that IS how I select my books. Mostly.

His smaller companion on the right wasn't too bad either, but, really, it was that rugged man on the left with, count them, three swords that caught my eye.

Oh, and it was also billed as an epic fantasy series that promised battles, thieves, court intrigue, mercenaries, assassinations, questing, conspiracy and all that good stuff. So that caught my attention, too. 

Did it live up?

Did it ever! My gosh, this is one of those Leave Me Babbling books where it's just too good to not insert squees between mostly-incoherent gushing. 

This is definitely the type of series that gets better as it goes along. I finished the first book (which ends pretty well as a standalone) and a tiny part of me considered moving on to something else because, while I totally loved it, the characters felt a tiny bit...distant? Not entirely alive?

They were great, but, you know me, I'm a character girl and these characters were maybe 90% of the way there.

But I didn't wait and I don't recommend doing anything silly like waiting. Pick up the next book in the series as soon as you finish the first (added convenience, they're sold as omnibus editions! So the next book is already in your hands!). I did that, and I'm so glad I did that because the characters totally grew on me.

Also, all those things about the plot that I thought were plain old surface level fantasy fare turned out to be twisty turny stuff that took on a whole new level of meaning once I started connecting all the dots later on. 

Oh Hadrian

And that guy on the cover? He totally lived up! Talk about swoon fest. It wasn't the type of swooning where he had sizzling romantic scenes ('cause, honestly, his ultimate love declaration scene was kinda embarrassing—totally cute, but also totally embarrassing. BUT, yay for slow burn romance!). No, I swooned because of the type of man he is, which is a MANLY man. Not alpha man, but more like knight paragon kinda man.

There's even this scene in, oh, book five? Four? Six? Something like that, where he's pretending to be a knight and the real knights sneer at him because he's all common and stuff but it's Hadrian who actually embodies all the qualities of nobleness, steadfastness, honor, virtue, kindness, humility, etc. and the "real" knights are just big meanies.

It's all very heavy handed, but it's also SO TRUE that I didn't mind because by that point I was already donning my Hadrian cheerleading outfit and breaking out the pom poms every chance I got.

Ok fine, do you prefer the rogue wounded bad boy with a hidden tenderness?

Well lucky you, that's the little guy on the cover. Don't worry, he's not little in, erm, real life? Book life? Whatever, the cover is totally miscast, because Royce is a badass assassin who does BAD things to even badder people and doesn't bat an eye.

BUT, he has a not-so-secret relationship that makes him melt into a puddle of total besotted mush. Also, he's allowed himself to stop being so closed off and let Hadrian in as his best pal.

So you know what that means, right? LOTS of brothers-in-arms bonding! I LOVE brothers-in-arms bonding. It's fantastic. They do all sorts of cool things like pulling off amazing thefts that no one else could do or fighting in battles or engaging in secret missions and quests and bantering all the while because they have a kind of platonic man version of the hate-turned-love relationship going on that adds about a bizillion points to everything.

Did I say quests and battles?

YES! Also, court conflict and intrigue, assassinations (and not just by Royce's hand), mysteries, deposing kings, sieges, explosions, magic, duels, scary creatures, ship voyages, jungle battles, charming street urchins, villainous political factions, pretender queens, romances, kick butt women (TOTAL kick butt women!), double crosses, misdirection, and ALL sorts of other fabulous stuff.

It's pretty much an explosion of everything I want, all packaged in three, ok, BIG books (but all with swoony covers).

And a note on that size? I WANT MORE. Seriously. These books aren't long enough. Sure, they're LONG. I consider anything over 300 pages a LONG book, and there are six books here, each well over 300 pages. And yet, I'm not satisfied.

Oh sure, everything wraps up fine, in the end. But I'm not ready to let go of these characters or this world. I think I read everything in a little over a month and  a half, and it only took that long because halfway through I realized I loved it so much I needed to start "making it last."

Otherwise, this was the kind of series where my main motivation for waking up in the morning was so I could start reading and it was only my super strict fear of lying that kept me from using a  coveted sick day to call out of work so I wouldn't have to stop reading.

I've only really mentioned Hadrian and Royce, but this is an epic fantasy, so you know there's a requisite character guide because there are so many side characters (there are also maps, obviously). And, being a more traditional epic fantasy, a lot of those side characters get narrative time so I was able to fall in love with them even more.

I'd start listing my favorites (other than the obvious) but I'd end up with basically the character guide, and that thing is PAGES long. So I'm not even going to try. I'll just say that by the end of the series, all the characters felt like real people and, months later, I'm STILL not ready to let them go.

The near-non-stop action interspersed with character growth and tense peril helped make the pages fly by, too. 

I guess EVERYTHING these days

I feel so jaded lately. I used to be super dense and never guess endings and I loved that because who needs to be a smarty pants if it ruins the surprise? But lately I've been guessing all the endings and that's just no fun.

But not with this series! I think I've now firmly cemented my status as loony book lady in my new job's library because I read this series during my lunch breaks there and I swear I tried, but I couldn't stop myself from exclaiming out loud and otherwise talking to my books.

I mean, it's just, all this STUFF happened! And I didn't see ANY of it coming! It was amazing! There were all these twists and turns and I wasn't expecting any of it! Oh my, oh my gosh, NO NO NO, YES YES YES!! and similar phrases made up my more regular outbursts.

Also, I would just periodically exclaim, "My gosh I LOVE this series!" for no reason in particular other than just the general accumulation of awesomeness that I couldn't contain in non-verbal ways anymore.

At one point a student even asked me if I was ok. Thankfully she must have been a reader herself because after I sputtered out a, "yeah, I'm fine, it's just, my book" she just nodded kind of knowingly and smiled. So she's probably totally a kindred spirit reader.

Or she thinks I'm nuts. 

Bottom line

Do you love fantasy series? Brothers in arms? Romance? Action? Peril? Mystery? Court intrigue? Quests? Intriguing characters? Double crosses? Unexpected twists? Well, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?

Michael J. Sullivan, welcome to my auto-buy list.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Stuff you need to know about reading order:

The Main Series:

Theft of Swords (books 1 & 2)
Rise of Empire (books 3 & 4)
Heir of Novron (books 5 & 6)

The Prequel Series (soon to be released. Yeah, I've pre-ordered)

The Crown Tower
The Rose and the Thorn

Do you have any questions about The Riyria Revelations that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this? 


  1. AHHHH! I am SO excited to give this series a try. You have said EVERYTHING about a book that I love and look for. Particularly (and I would put that in italics if I could) the fact that you couldn't guess what was going to happen next. That seems to happen quite often for me too, in books AND movies, and I congratulate myself on it, but at the same time wish that it wouldn't happen. Just because I read a lot doesn't mean there isn't new stuff out there.

    SO excited to get this one!!! *humph* glares at towering TBR. I'm extremely flighty when it comes to books, reading 'several' at a time. Looks like this one is just going to have to dominate that group.

    1. Yes, I think you would love it! I hope you do. It took me until reading the second book to really truly get into it, but then I was hooked.

      (btw, if you do < i > write whatever you want < / i > but with no spaces, then you can write italics!)

  2. I'm so tempted to make a naughty joke about Hadrian having three swords...but I don't actually have the skill to do so. I'd just blush and stammer and say, "WHAT?! I WAS JUST TALKING ABOUT SWORDS, GEEZ!!!!"

    I'm extremely excited about this series. How am I ever going to have time to read them? And I'm totally with you on omnibuses and brother-in-arms bromances (bromances are my new favorite thing). They're the awesomest!

    1. hahaha I'm tempted to try to make a naughty remark back, but I lack the skill as well :( But still, you made me laugh out loud!

      I hope you enjoy the series. Bromances are my new favorite thing too! I wish there were more of them in good books.

  3. Love your enthusiasm! Not sure I have the time to invest in a big adult fantasy series but I have this one on my radar at least for when I do feel brave.

    1. It is big, but you read so fast! If you liked it then you'd be able to read it in no time :)

  4. Sold. I'm totally 100% sold. I've actually seen this book around and I totally agree that the cover was what definitely interested me. It just looks totally tough and kick-butt! My kind of fantasy! And the fact that it actually lives up to you expectations? Sign me up! And ohhhhh the brother-in-arms romances....LOVE! Gotta love a good bromance! Great review! And congrats on your recent nuptials (sorry I'm late on the uptake! :P)!

    All the best ♥
    Mackenzie @ Oh, For the Love of Books!

    1. I hope you love it! The bromance was fabulous. Their banter, the way they were always there for each other, their escapades, it was wonderful!

      And thank you for the congrats :)

  5. So I take it this is an adult book? Obviously I guess. I'm getting more and more into high fantasy. I just started Brandon Sanderson's The Rithmatist. If I end up liking it, I may go for his adult series.

  6. Yes, it's an adult series, but there's nothing "adult" about it so it's appropriate for YA readers. The two main guys are adults, but not all of the other characters are.

  7. Okay, so it's like three books in one? or what?
    I need to look into this editions because this sounds epic!
    I'm with you on the 300 pages being a long book but sometimes it's just not enough!!

    Also, my first thought when I saw this cover was "hubba hubba", really, and then I laughed so hard that I scared my dog when I started to read your review.

    So there, you're responsible for one scared little puppy (who's going on 9 years old and weights 120 pounds, but no matter).

    Anyway, Sounds great!

    1. It's three books, each being two books in one. Hm, that sounds confusing! It's a six book series in total.

      hubba hubba for sure!!! His characterization only improves on things ;)

      I'm sorry puppy! *HUGS*

  8. A fantasy series that is finished and contains SIX GOOD BOOKS that promises fantasy, thieves, assassins, court stuff, AND BROMANCE. You didn't even need to say very much for me to start looking it up on Amazon :D

    1. You will LOVE this! Seriously, go get it! :D

  9. Oh dear. I just finished rereading Sherwood Smith's Inda series, and I thought I could go back to actually accomplishing things in my life. But another series with great characters who do noble things while rocking the three-sword look . . . Avaunt you evil temptress!

    1. haha oh no, this series won't let you accomplish anything! Put life on hold, tell your family to get used to wearing dirty clothes, and make sure you have some good take out restaurants on speed dial. It's THAT kind of series.

      (also, LOVE Sherwood Smith!)

  10. Swoon fest, haha!! Woo, okay, I don't really know were to start because based off your description, this book has pretty much EVERYTHING going for it! I'm really glad I read this review, actually, because there is no way I would have picked up a book that looked like this normally. I don't know, it looks to me like a book entirely geared towards men, so I'm surprised that romance is a key feature you mention and pleased that it is in fact more gender neutral than I would have pegged it as. Well, I'm sold. Totally amazing review!!

    1. Also, I forgot to mention that I am in the process of updating my blog friend buttons in my side bar and I'm having issues with yours. I can't copy the code from the grab box for your button?

    2. Oh yeah, it's definitely gender neutral. Romance doesn't play a HUGE role, but both main characters have romantic interests. Also, I just swooned like crazy over Hadrian regardless of what he was doing. I really, really, really think you'll like this series!

      Can I tempt you with a read-along? Gina and I are reading the series together but we've taken a short break after the first omnibus book. Which....would give you enough time to read the first book and then we could all discuss the rest of the series together? Just throwing it out there :P No pressure though! I know you've got a huge amount on your plate right now.

    3. oh I know about the button :( Blogger changed the way they read code and now my button code doesn't display properly. I've been so busy at work that I haven't had time to update it. But you've motivated me! There should be workable code there now, even though it's not in a pretty scrolly box anymore. Hopefully that will work, and thank you for wanting to add my button to your site!! (Your new design looks awesome, btw!)


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