Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Theft of Swords (Riyria Revelations)
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As publishing moves away from some of the more traditional routes, you hear more and more about people self-publishing and then getting picked up by a major company.  Such is the case with Michael Sullivan, whose Riyria Revelations series has now found a home at Orbit.  These books prove that there are some really good writers out there who just need a bit of luck to show the world how wonderful they are.

(Description nicked from B&

“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?

And so begins the first tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.”

This volume contains two of Sullivan’s original novels: The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha.  The author has said that the first novel is a bit on the shallow side, because he was attempting to add layers of complexity to the series as he went along.  He also wrote the entire series before publishing any of it, and so he was able to build in those layers as he went.  I do have to agree that The Crown Conspiracy is a little on the fluffy end of the spectrum, but I still found it to be enjoyable.  Avempartha delves a bit deeper into the machinations of his world’s power players and does exceed the first novel.

I really liked Royce and Hadrian.  I described them to my husband as what would happen if the current incarnations of Holmes and Watson were on the team from TNT’s Leverage.The pair interacts in a believable way, with all the bickering and comradeship that you’d expect from longtime friends.  Readers get to know these two slowly, as they progress from simple thieves and con artists to taking a hand in events that will shape an empire.

I was impressed with Sullivan’s pacing and plot.  While each of the novels that I’ve read thus far follows a typical progression for an action-oriented story, there are plenty of twists and turns along the way.  The author knows when to ramp up the action, when to provide bits of information, and how long to build up to a major event.  It was like following a trail through the forest and seeing markers letting me know just a bit of what’s up ahead.  I kept reading as Sullivan led me from one event to the next, and I got very engrossed in the tale as a result.

One other thing that I appreciated is Sullivan’s decision to not include graphic language, violence or sex.  While I do enjoy some of the grittier sci-fi and fantasy novels out there, I found these books to be a refreshing change.  The author didn’t skimp on action, and he didn’t skimp on people dying or being in peril.  He did, however, refrain from shock value and in-your-face descriptions.  This is a series that I would have no hesitation with recommending to a younger reader, and anything that gets kids reading gets my vote.

Sullivan may not be well-known in the fantasy market, but I predict that will start changing rather quickly.  Theft of Swords has action, politics, heroes, villains, battles and magic, all wrapped up in a package with two unforgettable main characters.  Thankfully, there are two more omnibus editions to go, because I’m not ready to leave this series yet!

Also by this author: The Crown Tower, Heir of Novron, Rise of Empire, The Rose and the Thorn

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on January 7, 2012.

Series: Riyria Revelations
ISBN: 9780316187749
Publisher: Orbit
Page Count: 704
Publication Date: November 23, 2011
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley
Author Website
Read an excerpt