Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan

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Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A swashbuckling, fantasy romp that has the ability to drag the reader in and leave them wanting more.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 664 Date: November 2011
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356501062

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Theft of Swords is the first of three volumes in The Riyria Revelations. (Riyria is elfish... elven... elf-speak for two. No, I didn’t realise that either.) Michael J Sullivan originally wrote the Revelations as six novels. After a struggle, they were finally published by an independent publishing company. The company promptly went bust, leaving the international publisher, Orbit, to step in with an offer which included doubling up the books into three 700 page tomes. (The second volume, Rise of Empire, also came out in 2011, leaving Heir of Novron for January 2012.)

The central characters, Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater are the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of fantasy. Royce is a dour thief and Hadrian an agile, soft-hearted mercenary, both of whom can be hired if the price is right or if their curiosity is piqued sufficiently. Both books in this volume begin with the same simple intention – to steal a sword from a tower. Different swords and different towers but they both go horribly wrong. Now this is where it gets difficult. I don’t want to give away spoilers so there won’t be much in the way of plot explanation in this review. Let’s just say that they’re framed for a royal murder and become more deeply embroiled in the far reaching consequences as the volume goes on, collecting companions en route.

Their companions are the mixed bag you would expect. There’s Alric the spoilt and unco-operative prince who blames them for the death of his father, but Royce and Hadrian need to take him along anyway. The feisty Princess Arista refuses to fit into the stereotype designed by those around her. Then there’s Myron the monk who went into a monastery at the age of 4 and knows nothing of the outside world to such an extent that he’s never seen a horse close up, nor a woman at all. There’s also a wizard. Yes, every band of fantasy companions needs a wizard, and Esrahaddon is from the mysterious/grumpy/sarcastic mould. He’s a tad different from other wizards though. Esrahaddon finds some magic a trifle difficult due to the fact that he’s handless. When the reader first comes across him it’s uncertain whether he’s good or evil, so my lips are sealed.

Theft of Swords screams 'movie' on every page. Michael J Sullivan is very good at writing moments that will stay with you. I was deeply touched (yes, I cried) when Myron had to leave his childhood friend and more tears were shed at the unexpected deaths in Avempartha, the second book in the volume. It’s also a book infused with a lot of fun. Royce and Hadrian are perfect foils and Myron’s reaction when he sees his first beautiful woman up close is priceless. The third thing that Michael J excels in is action. When they encountered the monster (not telling you any more about that either), I found myself turning the pages in time with the increasing speed of my heartbeats.

If I have to make a couple of minor criticisms firstly I found the first 120 pages tough going for some reason. (Perhaps a little simplistically written?) However it was well worth the perseverance. Secondly, although most of Mr Sullivan’s twists are unexpected and the intrigue mounts upon intrigue, towards the end of Avempartha, a future plot line is hinted at heavily and repeatedly. (Ever shouted Ok – I get it already! at a book?)

So, in the end, was it worth the 700 pages? One review I read stated It’s not Tolkien! Agreed, it’s not. However, Tolkien is the Dickens of fantasy and sometimes the last thing you want to do after a hard day is to snuggle down with a glass of wine and a copy of Bleak House, no matter how well crafted it may be. If you want an easy read that takes you into a world of fun, adventure and absorption with heroes who will make your swash buckle, then give Tolkien a miss for a night or two and reach for 'Theft of Swords'.

Thank you, Orbit, for supplying with a review copy.

If you liked Theft of Swords, try Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera) by Jim Butcher.

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Buy Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan at


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