Though I gave the first of Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations volumes - Theft of Swords - a review back in November, I never did get around to sharing my thoughts on the second installment, Rise of Empire. In fact, I haven’t really gotten around to review much in the past... two months. This changes today. Lucky you. As I was saying: I never got around to saying anything about Rise of Empire. For the purposes of discussing the final volume of Sullivan’s initially self-published, old-school fantasy epic, let me just say it was a solid follow up to its predecessor. With Heir of Novron, Sullivan brings the ever-enticing tale of Royce and Hadrian to an end with two final adventures that blow the four that came before out of the water. Everyone loves and epic ending to, well, and epic fantasy - Sullivan proves how well he can deliver just such an ending.
The New Empire intends to mark its victory over the Nationalists with a bloody celebration. On the high holiday of Wintertide, the Witch of Melangar will be burned and the Heir of Novron executed. One that same day the empress faces a forced marriage, with a fatal accident soon to follow. The New Empire is confident in the totality of its triumph but there’s just one problem - Royce and Hadrian have finally found the true Heir of Novron.
Sullivan has always been outspoken about having no greater intention than to write fantasy that fans of the genre would love to read. Not the most lyrical, unique brand of novels, but ones which would present the reader with heroes they could come to admire, and adventures to capture their imagination. Theft of Swords undeniably unfolded in this tone, and Rise of Empire similarly, but not until Heir of Novron is this sentiment better felt. As they head into the concluding events of their story, Royce and Hadrian are more endearing than ever, and there are yet many mysteries to uncover.
The first of the novels contained within Heir of Novron, Wintertide, is of the two the most similar to the four that came before. The endgame is yet only afoot, and some elements still need to be maneuvered into place before the reader can get the payoff. Sullivan capably makes this happen, but he is also careful not to dedicate the entirety of Wintertide to simply setting up the coming conclusion in Percepliquis - this novel has its own story to tell. And an entertaining story it is. Half of our favorite thieving outfit finds himself in a troublesome stiuation, while the other faces a continued battle with ghosts of his past. With several characters coming into their own in Wintertide, Sullivan continues to display a welcome attention for characterization.
As we move into the second part of this volume, Percepliquis, Sullivan ramps the action. Much like The Emerald Storm (second part of Rise of Empire), this is a quest story true to form. It’s hard to discuss here the exact circumstances that lead to Royce, Hadrian & Co. embarking on this journey, but since the title sort of gives it away let me just ask: what could be more epic than a bunch of merry heroes ranging underground to seek out the long lost capital of the greatest Empire ever known? Needless to say, Percepliquis is pure fantasy bliss. Sullivan marries together strong undertones of nostalgia, sacrifice, valor and companionship as our protagonists brave ever greater threats amongst the ruins of a crumbled society and attempt to decipher the mysteries surrounding its downfall.
And meanwhile, there’s still the fate of their entire world to be decided. In the very last stages of his epic, Sullivan goes from strength to strength with always another twist or revelation just around the corner. Sure, a few are predictable, but for the most part, he will likely keep you on the edge of your seat. A single day was too long a period for me to finish it - I was compelled to finish it in less time than that, in mere hours. Having so ably made us care for his characters, Sullivan delivers unto us the culmination of their tale with a sense of loss, certainly, but more than anything else with a sense of contentment
Fans of the first two volumes, then, will be comforted to know the Riyria Revelations come to a close in fine fashion. Sullivan will have kept a few twists up his sleeve to the very end, while we as readers will have been enthralled by the extraordinary deeds of Royce and Hadrian. I heartily recommend Heir of Novron and its predecessors to fans of classic epic fantasy tales. Proponents of the ‘dark & gritty’ school of fantasy, however, beware. As this volume is the last in the series, there are no plans to continue the story of Riyria beyond this point, though Sullivan reportedly has a prequel in the works. Heir of Novron was published by Orbit in both the UK and US this January.
Michael J. Sullivan's Website: http://www.riyria.blogspot.com/
Buy Heir of Novron: