In all honesty, I'd never even heard of this series before I stumbled across it in the library. It was a last second grab as I headed to the check-out machines - the title caught my eye when I wandered past the fantasy shelf. I seriously owe a hell of a lot to serendipity though, because this is one of THE BEST fantasy books I have ever read.
Plot summary - 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
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.
I can't believe these books were originally self-published - if the more traditional publishers turned Michael J. Sullivan down, they need their heads looking at. This book contains the first two books in the Riyria Revelations series, The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha, so it's fairly weighty but definitely don't let that put you off - I could barely put the damn thing down.
This is fantasy at its very, very best. I have a secret love for assassins and thieves anyway (in a novelised sparkly form, obviously), but the characters here just bounce off each other so perfectly even the most apathetic of readers can't help but fall in love. Royce is the mysterious thief - small but deadly, he is capable of getting into lockboxes and dungeons even the most skilled outsider could never manage. He's a little gruff, which contrasts nicely with the smiling wonder that is Hadrian.
Okay, so I'm not one of those readers who gets obsessed with fictional characters. I don't care particularly about Peeta or Gale, and I never doodled 'Mrs Hanna Cullen' on my school books. I've only ever had one book crush (*cough* Remus Lupin *cough*)... until now. Because oh my God, Hadrian Blackwater. I don't know why, but he'd definitely make the top of my list, even if it didn't consist of only two names. Hadrian is the ideal contrast to Royce - charming and caring, he's the deadly warrior that cannot be bested.
Like in many well-crafted fantasy novels, it's the character interaction that really makes it. The plot isn't dragged down by unecessary dialogue in the slightest, but the conversation that is present is perfect. Hadrian and Royce banter amusingly, argue and complain but there's an underlying atmosphere of friendship and closeness that is impossible to overlook.
Not only are the characters awesome, the plot itself really stands out among others of its genre. Yes, there are the usual magic, swords and mythical beasts but it's interwoven a little more subtly than I'm used to - certain plot revelations you just don't see coming. It's very clever in parts and uses wonderful imagery to paint the landscapes of Elan.
I'd already reserved the next two volumes of the series before I'd finished this one. While it doesn't exactly end on a cliffhanger, there are some questions that I just need to be answered! There is the over-reaching story arc of our heroes trying to overthrow the corrupt Church, but there's more than enough secondary characters and sub-plots to really hook you in to each individual book.
Quite obviously, I adored this book and it has instantly gone onto my list of the best fantasy novelists. If you're looking for wonderful adult fantasy with great characters and a fast-moving plot, you can't go far wrong with Theft of Swords.