Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan – Book Review [Bane of Kings]


Bane of Kings reviews the first Omnibus in the Riyria Revelations Series, Theft of Swords, containing The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha, written by Michael J. Sullivan, and published by Orbit. The cover on the left is the UK Cover, and the one on the right is the US one.

“The Best fantasy series that I’ve read since The Night Angel Trilogy, and just as good. If you only start one fantasy series this year, make it this one. You’ll be engrossed right from page one. Sullivan is an author at the top of his game. ” ~The Founding Fields

How many traditional epic fantasy authors are there out there? Obviously, you’ve got JRR Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Brandon Sanderson, Robert E. Howard, Robert Jordan, George RR Martin…. the list could go on forever. You think people would be getting bored of hearing the phase ‘The next Tolkien’, thrown on the front cover of novels over and over again by now. That’s not to say that all of the above authors are the next Tolkien, (okay, one of them may just be Tolkien himself, but that doesn’t count), it’s just at some point in their lives, they’ve all written epic fantasy. So have thousands of other authors. So, what could there possibly be that would make epic/high fantasy fresh and new?

As it turns out, no matter how many epic fantasy novels you’ve read, there will always be one novel (or series) in that genre that you haven’t read yet that you will find enjoyable. Such is the case with Michael J. Sullivan’s first published work, Theft of Swords, originally self-published as two separate volumes (The Crown Conspiracy in 2008 and Avempartha in 2009), contained in one Omnibus for your enjoyment, that – although not the most original work out there, is a pretty damned good read.

A read so good in fact, if it was only just coming out this year, I would have gone so far as to say that Theft of Swords could have been the debut of the year…

The Crown Conspiracy is the first book in the Omnibus, and kicks off the Riyria Revelations with a bang, drawing the reader into a world that they will find easy to get used to, and characters that will soon become your new best friends.

Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater are thieves, partners in crime. They’re the “Riyria”, and they are two of the most skilled thieves around. At the beginning of the first novel, both are hired to steal a sword from a master duellist, but instead find themselves captured and framed for the murder of a king.

It is only due to the assistance from an unlikely source that they avoid being hanged, and Royce and Hadrian soon embark on an experience that looks set to change the lives of the thieves forever.

The characters are likable right from the start, which is quite an achievement. We’re introduced to Royce and Hadrian as they are giving tips to the bandits that are trying to rob them, which really does beg the question, how can that not create a smile on your lips? It’s not just Royce and Hadrian that you’ll like as well. Prince Alric, The Monk Myron, and even the wizard Esrahaddon.

A positive thing about this book is that the ending isn’t as predictable as most epic fantasy novels that I’ve read, and you will no doubt be kept guessing as to what will happen next, who could benefit most from this, and who made that happen. All the while, you will be unable to stop flicking the pages to find out what happens next…

The Crown Conspiracy has a fast pace throughout the entire novel, which will keep you hooked but leaving you a bit disappointed when you find that Avempartha’s pace is quite a bit slower.

Avempartha, the second book in the Omnibus, and is a nice return to the adventures of Royce and Hadrian. Following on from the ending of the last book, a young woman hires the aforementioned duo to help save the village from attacks by a stronger foe, in a way which reminded me oddly of my favourite Western movie, The Magnificent Seven, although it is only Hadrian who attempts to get the defenders together in order to defeat the unseen killer, for Royce, working once more with the wizard Esrahaddon, in an attempt to steal a sword from the tower Avempartha, the book’s namesake.

Yes, another story that revolves around the stealing of swords, but hey, this is called Theft of Swords after all.

Avempartha is stated by Sullivan over at the Amazon page of the book that this novel can be read alone, which brings me onto a small ‘flaw’ that could make this series even better. Rather than re-release these books as an omnibus, wouldn’t it have been better to release them individually? I’m one of those people who prefer standalone books to Omnibuses, despite the fact that they take up less room on your bookshelf and you nearly always save money when you buy an Omnibus when you buy it rather than the individual books.

Back to the second book in the series, and this time around, Sullivan proves that nobody is safe and he is not afraid to kill off major characters, which is a good thing, especially in a six-book series. Obviously, Royce and Hadrian won’t be killed off this early in the series (due to their appearance on the blurb of the next two Omnibuses), but almost all of the supporting cast could meet their deaths and some come perilously close to dying at several points in both novels.

If I had to say which book was the more serious book out of the two, I’d say Avempartha, because although it does have its amusing moments, it was hard pushed to be as humorous as The Crown Conspiracy.

Overall, both books were fascinating and I eagerly await more from Michael J. Sullivan, for he is a superb author and this has left me only wanting to get the Second Omnibus, Rise of Empire, as soon as possible! Any fan of epic fantasy should love this series, as I haven’t found a negative review on them yet – and, seeing as The Crown Conspiracy was first self published released in 2008, three years ago, this is a very good thing indeed.

Phew, that was a lot to write. Now, and on that bombshell, let’s see how well they fare with my rating scale:

Verdict for The Crown Conspiracy: 4.9/5

Verdict for Avempartha: 4.5/5

Verdict for Theft of Swords Omnibus: 4.5/5

 More Riyria Revelations: The Crown Conspiracy, Avempartha, Nyphron Rising, The Emerald Storm, Wintertide, Percepliquis


Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.


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