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Book Review - Theft of Swords

Posted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:55 am
by Luthien
Yesterday I finished up book 1 of the Riyria ("rye-ear-a") Revelations series, by Michael J Sullivan, Theft of Swords.

I'm still not completely sure why I picked the book up, though it seemed to have an interesting enough premise according to the brief blurb I read. Essentially: two thieves are framed for the murder of a king and end up running for their lives.

Cool! I'm in. Unfortunately...that's not really what the book is about. That had a lot of potential for nifty action and thievery style adventure, but the actual book is very different. It breaks down around two parts:

Part 1: Thieves are hired to steal the sword of the king, end up framed for his murder, and have to go on an adventure with the prince to stop the conspiracy behind it all.

Part 2: Aforementioned thieves are again hired to steal a sword of a different sort, in order to defeat an ancient evil and save a small village on the edge of the known world.

It reads almost as two distinct books that were glued together when someone realized that each one wasn't quite long enough to stand on its own in the traditional publishing format. That being said, it's a fairly lengthy book, coming in at over 700 pages. (Which is why I actually picked it up. A long book with two sequels? Worth a shot.)

There are some pros and cons to this book and Sullivan's writing though, let's explore.

Really interesting main characters. Royce and Hadrian are cool, clearly not your ordinary thieves.
Original world. It's not original as in "Innovative" but rather it's Sullivan's own design and not a contemporary fantasy or such.
Magic, elves, swords, horses, ancient prisons and monsters, etc. Lots of elements that go into a successful fantasy book!
Some fun action sequences. Including commoner vs. noble!

Royce and Hadrian aren't really the main characters. There are several POVs throughout, and they all get more or less equal time. They are just the coolest.
Weak character development. You never really get to learn too much about the characters, their motivations, etc. You only see the result of those motivations.
Info dumping. Sullivan tells rather than shows certain things like the religion, world history, etc. He just info dumps on you to try and get you up to speed. It comes across as ham-fisted and clumsy.
Promises promises promises. Sullivan makes an awesome character who is really good at swinging a sword. Constantly hints that he's actually awesome (instead of really good) at it, but then never cuts loose. As a result....
Very little action. There are some good sequences of it, but even those often times leave the reader wanting more, and certain people really seem to phone it in during those as well.

I've been trying to figure out what to pick up next, and I was thinking about grabbing book two: Rise of Empire. After looking over what I just wrote, however, I think I may take a break and read something else first. Sullivan does some interesting things with overall plot and such, but a lot of the little pieces that I want to see throughout are just missing. It's easy in many ways to miss the forest for the trees, but it is also possible to miss the trees for the forest, which is definitely what happens in this book a lot of the time. The overall political climate and such is developed, and you get a good sense of the history of things (because it's thrust upon you info dump style), but the action sequences and the character development just weren't what I'd like out of such a potentially rich and deep novel.

Overall: 6/10, B-
Verdict: pick up cheap, library loan, etc.