Monday, July 23, 2012

Review - Theft of Swords - Michael J. Sullivan

Publisher: Orbit (1st Edition)
Genre: Fantasy

Book Description:
Publication Date: November 23, 2011

THEY KILLED THE KING. THEY PINNED IT ON TWO MEN. THEY CHOSE POORLY.  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 in order to keep a secret too terrible for the world to know? 

There is a new author that has found a spot on a special bookcase in my office (or at least will as soon as I order a printed edition – one I hope comes signed); a series of four shelves that hold my all-time favorites.  Such authors that have made this shelf are J.K. Rowling, Garth Nix, Cinda Chima Williams, Christopher Paolini, Rick Riordan, Stephen King, Ursula K. Leguin, Piers Anthony, Charlaine Harris, Jane Austen, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, R.T. Kaelin, Anthony Ryan and D.J. MacHale.   His name is Michael J. Sullivan, and I absolutely fell in love with his Riyria series. Well, more to the truth, I fell in love with the two protagonists, Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn.   These two make me think of a young Garth and Hub from the movie Second Hand Lions – they both argue about everything, but when working together surmount impossible odds.

 It didn’t take but perhaps a half of a chapter before I was absolutely hooked.  The chemistry between Hadrian and Royce was illustrated so elaborately and simply, I couldn’t help but instantly draw a clear picture of them in my mind.  I was plucked out of my mundane twenty-first century existence and dropped right into the center of a middle-age fantasy saga.  Yet, Sullivan didn’t go to the King or Jordan extremes with dumping me into the center of several paragraphs of description.  He kept it active, yet colored the scenes in beautifully, allowing my mind to smooth out the edges, which in my opinion is the mark of a true literary artist.

 The story starts with two thieves, doing what they do best – thievery.  Well, actually the story starts off with two thieves on their way to do thievery when they are ambushed by a band of common thieves.  The brilliance of dialogue and character development were poured out by the barrel full in this opening scene, as Hadrian and Royce not only argued with one another while being held-up by arrow and knife-point, but then proceeded to chastise their assailants in the proper procedures of highway robbery, to the point that not only did their accosters stop their attempt to rob them, but aided them on their way, more particularly when they found out the two people  they were trying to rob were the infamous Riyria.

Needless to say, the thieves were successful in their midnight raid, brought back their spoils and divided their profits to all in their little network.  Here we get to meet some minor characters, some that play bigger parts later in the story.

With a job well done, and their storehouse filled, and a decision made to live easy for the upcoming winter, an unexpected and urgent job plops into their laps.  Going against their own set of thief rules (beware of things that sound too good to be true and don’t thoroughly examine the job), they accept a job to steal a sword in order to save a man from dying in a duel for simply ‘looking’ at another’s man wife. This dueler was a man of renowned reputation for being an excellent swordsman, and placed much value and superstition onto a particular sword.  With the offer of a hundred gold coins before and after the theft, the boys found they couldn’t resist, even if they disagreed through the whole consideration.  Once they’ve accepted the job, everything from this point forward goes haywire:  they are set up and accused of killing the king, are imprisoned to face horrible torture and beheading as decreed by the crown prince, yet aided by the princess to kidnap the prince (to save his life), escape with him, and journey to a secret prison to release a five-hundred year old wizard.  What is amazing about this whole journey is that Hadrian and Royce treat each of these exciting adventures as if it were just another day and another job.  Throughout the whole adventure, their comic relief comes at just the right moments.  The story on the whole is not too heavy, too dark and too on edge, but quite balanced with a little of it all. I didn’t want to stop reading.  I wanted to lock myself away and close the door to the world around me, and become completely immersed in this fantasy world.

 The rest of the story includes a couple of great battles, a little magic, a lot of religious persecution, a contest, an evil serpent, a sword, a tower, a conspiracy and a people who not only need, but can’t survive without Hadrian and Royce’s involvement, aided by the elusive wizard Esrahaddon. 

 I loved every minute of this story.  I have my own speculations of what is to come, but I won’t share them here.  In fact, I’m so excited about reading the next installment I’m going to end this review.  I highly recommend this book and this author.  This makes the third writer I’ve met recently that has really impressed me, and their stories have moved me. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

1 comment: