Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles—until they are hired to pilfer a famed sword. What appears to be just a simple job finds them framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a tiny kingdom.
Can a self-serving thief and an idealistic swordsman survive long enough to unravel the first part of an ancient mystery that has toppled kings and destroyed empires in order to keep a secret too terrible for the world to know?
And so begins the first tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.
Introduction: I have known about this series for a time now because of Fantasy Book Critic i.e.Liviu’s excellent reviews of the books, and had been planning on reading the books. So when the author’s publicist sent us a review copy, Theft of Swords jumped to the top of my reading list. Theft of Swords published by Orbit Books is actually an omnibus consisting of two novels (The Crown Conspiracy &Avempartha) previously published separately by indie publisher,Aspirations Media Inc. The books are written to work as standalone volumes but have an overall broader storyline which losely joins them together to form a series called The Riyria Revelations.
Analysis: Theft of Swords is traditional fantasy in the sense that it uses many of the familiar tropes such character archetypes i.e. elves, dwarves, goblins and men; a medieval era type setting etc. But the author tries enough new things so that the plot remains fresh and engaging. First the pacing of the novel is very unlike most fantasy novels I’ve read. Events move so quickly in the first half of the novel that at first I found myself a little disconcerted, being used to lots of details relating to world building and character development. The first part doesn’t even try to do any of these things it just introduces the characters: Hadrian and Royce (who are likable from the very start) and a few others and the roller coaster ride of adventure and action begins.
Hadrian and Royce collectively called Riyria are hired on a job to steal a sword from the Royal Palace, the King is murdered and the thieves framed. So begins an adventure that takes them across the kingdom and into an ancient Prison maintained by the Church wherein lies captive the only sorcerer known to be living and considered to be extremely dangerous. This sorcerer known as Esrahaddon is also a very intriguing character but his role is larger in Avempartha than in The Crown Conspiracy. This fast paced action adventure driven storyline makes the first part a page turner and very enjoyable but it does have its setbacks. For one the world and the characters suffer from depth issues and the rich history alluded to is not explored. But to be just one must also consider the small page count of ‘The Crown Conspiracy’. The author probably intended to focus on the action and adventure in the first novel and leave the details for the second.
The second novel allayed my fears by doing exactly this. The starting act of the novel reveals some bombastic information about Royce’s character and throughout the novel much of the World’s history is revealed through a number of interesting POVs including Esrahaddon’s. The villainous dwarf Magnus and his obsession with Royce’s dagger is a fine addition. The church troubled by Esrahaddon’s escape escalates its plans for finding the Emperor. Our heroes find themselves on a monster hunting expedition in the unlikeliest of places. Some very interesting facts about the elves are revealed which increases the potential of the series. The author does a very good job at adding depth to the series in this novel but what is extraordinary is that the pace remains steady and the plot flowing throughout. Because of the second book the main characters rose from interesting but almost unknown to ultimate badass. The death of one of the major characters was unexpected and shows that the author is not shy about taking harsh decisions. Mr. Sullivan slowed his pacing slightly to do all this but the result was an overall rise in writing quality and a truly epic feeling.
Conclusion: Overall, Theft of Swords is an excellent book it is extremely fast paced and a very quick and entertaining read. The characters, world and storyline it develops are one of the best created in fantasy literature and from here on it can only get better.