Rise of Empire by Michael J. Sullivan – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews the second omnibus in the Riyria Revelations series, Rise of Empire, written by Michael J. Sullivan, and containing the novels Nyphron Rising and The Emerald Storm. The edition that I’m reviewing right now is the UK edition, which is published by Orbit Books.
“A delightful, entertaining and page-turning read that reminds us just how enjoyable, and how good – the Riyria Revelations series is. A must-buy for all fantasy lovers.” ~The Founding Fields
I read Theft of Swords, the first Riyria Revelations novel quite some time ago, and now that I have finally devoured both Nyphron Rising and The Emerald Storm, I can tell you that I really enjoyed the time that I spent reading Rise of Empire. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I enjoyed this Omnibus as much as the first collection.
The creation of the Nyphron Empire has brought the battle to Melengar, and in order to save her kingdom, Princess Arista defies the orders of her brother, enlisting protagonists Royce and Hadrian to conduct a dangerous mission behind the lines of the enemy, and it is not long before Royce realises that the wizard Esrahaddon may be using the thieves in his own fight for power. In order to find the truth behind Esrahaddon’s games, Royce must unravel the secret that is Hadrian’s past, and what he finds there will lead both thieves on a journey to the ends of the world.
Now, where do I start with this review? I’m going to have to say that both novels are consistent in not only pace, but also in execution. This isn’t a series that will have a good book and then a bad book, as by now you can be assured that Michael J. Sullivan will have delivered quality after quality.
Characters have also changed a lot since the end of Theft of Swords, and one of the most obvious examples of these changes is in Thrace, who first appeared in Avempartha. Now renamed Modina, she is the empress who is, as one would expect – a puppet, dancing on the strings of those who wish to control the Empire. However, there’s just one problem that they need to overcome. Modina is in shock, locked in a dungeon and seemingly unable to speak, and the duty of making her talk seems to fall to an intriguing character named Amilia, who fast becomes secretary to the Empress.
The thing that’s still there, throughout both novels, is the banter between Royce and Hadrian, and the ‘real-ness’ of their friendship. Sullivan has written both characters fantastically well, and made them some of the most likeable additions to the long cast of fantasy heroes. And if you’re wondering if it’s all about the main cast, then no – it’s not, the secondary characters are flushed out, and minor characters are developed as well as the big stars.
The novel is extremely easy to read, and quite quick to get through as well, despite its length. Sullivan also seizes the chance to prove that this isn’t a series that you can skip a couple of books and still have a rough idea what is going on, and he makes both Nyphron Rising and The Emerald Storm unmissable entries to the series, and both enjoyable to read in their own right.
However, if there’s one issue that I had with Rise of Empire and that is that there are a few plot holes in this novel, such as how quickly Arista’s magic grew in strength, and I feel that if the author didn’t have the need to get characters to where they were in the story, this could have been quickly overcome. On the other hand, it didn’t detract much of the enjoyment from the story, and one small flaw will not prevent me from picking up the third and final Omnibus in the Riyria Revelations series, entitled Heir of Novron.
What bugged me in Theft of Swords is that there were a bit too many deus ex machina moments for my liking. However, Michael J. Sullivan has quickly overcome these flaws, which is good to see – and there are no moments like that in this novel.
There are also several fantastic, memorable set-pieces throughout the Omnibus that I really enjoyed reading, and they look as though the author enjoyed writing them as well, and they only add to the well-written action scenes that filter throughout the novel.
If I had to say which novel that I thought was the best out of the two, I’d go with Nyphron Rising. As much as I enjoyed The Emerald Storm, I didn’t quite feel that it matched up with its predecessor. However, that’s not to say it was a bad book, oh no – both were excellent additions to the fantasy genre, at least in my opinion, and this series is well worth the read when you have the time.
Verdict for Nyphron Rising: 4.5/5
Verdict for The Emerald Storm: 4/5
Verdict for Rise of Empire: 4.5/5
The Riyria Revelations series: The Viscount and the Witch (short story) The Crown Conspiracy, Avempartha, Nyphron Rising, The Emerald Storm, Wintertide, Percepliquis