Book Review – Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Blurb:

They killed the king. They pinned it on two men. They chose poorly.

There’s no ancient evil to defeat or orphan destined for greatness, just unlikely heroes and classic adventure. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, are running for their lives when they’re framed for the death of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy that goes beyond the overthrow of a tiny kingdom, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery before it’s too late.

When author Michael J. Sullivan self-published the first books of his Riyria Revelations, they rapidly became ebook bestsellers. Now, Orbit is pleased to present the complete series for the first time in bookstores everywhere.

First of all the fact that this book was originally self-published worried me. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with self-publishing, it’s just that published books have gone through some sort of vetting and editing process. I’ve read some pretty bad books that were professionally published (so it obviously isn’t a guarantee of quality) but a much higher proportion of the self-published books that I’ve read have been bad. In any case, apart from some clumsiness near the beginning, this is a good book.

This is where “secondly” comes in. Secondly, this isn’t actually one book but two half-length books published together. There’s no missing this fact – there’s a definite arc to the two books and no attempt has been made to retrofit them into one story. It’s good to go into it knowing this because otherwise at 49% you might be thinking “gosh, they’ve got everything just about wrapped up, what are they going to do for the rest of the story?” but in retrospect I think it’s fine. Both stories are detailed enough to be satisfying – it just feels like you’re getting a bonus story.

Having said that, I think the second story would have been annoying to read on its own because it refers to the events of the first story quite a bit and assumes you know what’s going on. Obviously in this context that’s not a problem since by the time you start the second story you will have just finished reading the first one.

From a technical point of view the only real complaint I have about the book is that the names of people and places don’t seem to follow any sort of logic. Usually in a world like this one with well defined geography and history there’s a consistency to related locations and people groups. So you can tell at a glance “ah, this is an elf” or “this must be near this other place”. The complaint I have is that in this book that’s not really the case – names just seem to have been picked at random, some completely made up, some with Welsh-looking spelling and some completely ordinary all mixed together.

The author does pull some punches in that the main characters are supposed to have a darkness to them, but they never actually do anything less than righteous, so it feels a bit like lip service and a pulled punch. There are some satisfying twists and revelations though, especially in the second story.

I will be reading the rest of the series and looking into other books written by this author.

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