Rise of Empire by Michael J Sullivan
|Rise of Empire by Michael J Sullivan|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: The action-packed second volume in The Riyria Revelations, Rise of Empire follows our heroes as they try to save the tiny kingdom of Melengar against the bloody onslaught of the Empire, hoping to solve a mystery or two on the way.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 756||Date: December 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
Rise of Empire, the second volume in The Riyria Revelations, starts a year after Theft of Swords finished. The Imperialist forces are encamped across the river from Melengar, biding their time before they rout and capture Alric’s kingdom. However, it’s ok as Princess Arista has a plan. She will send Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn to enlist the help of the nationalists. Oh, and Arista wants to go too... and Hadrian is getting fed up with an adventurer’s life and wants to retire... and Gwen, Royce’s girlfriend, has had a premonition of death surrounding the enterprise... so what could possibly go wrong?
Before I continue I promise no spoilers from Rise of Empire but there will be some for those who have yet to read Theft of Swords so don’t say you haven’t been warned.
There isn’t so much comedy in this second volume, matching the mood as the Imperialist forces spread like a dark cloud, led by Regent (formerly Bishop) Saldur. Notionally the Empress Modina is head of the growing empire. However, Saldur never planned to relinquish any power or control, keeping Modina in less than regal conditions. This is made even more poignant by the realisation that Modina was once Thrace, the peasant girl who watched her father torn to pieces by the Avempartha at the end of the Riyria’s first volume. Modina is now in deep depression and shock, reliving her horrific memories, seemingly unaware of her deprived surroundings and cruel treatment.
During the first book of this volume, Nyphron Rising, Hadrian and Royce return to their home villages which Sullivan uses as a device to fill in some of mysteries from their pasts. In Hintindar Hadrian has to face some unfinished business and regrets from his boyhood. Whilst in Ratibor the pair learn more about Hadrian’s destiny. (Yes, for those wondering at the end of the last book how long it would take Royce to tell Hadrian, the answer is not very!)
In the second book The Emerald Storm the fearless Riyria pose as seasoned sailors and continue their mission through tempest, stormy treachery and continuous seasickness.
The xenophobia that lay in the background of the first volume is developed and affects the plot as the reader is given more detail as to the treatment and fate of the elves. Comparisons with the Jewish holocaust are difficult to overlook.
Michael J Sullivan’s gift for writing action also continues to impress. The Battle of Ratibor is graphically described. I could almost hear a pin drop in that moment when Arista picks up... I know – no spoilers.
Sullivan is a bit of a tease. A twist will appear to be predictable, but, as it gets closer, it’ll be turned on its head a number of times. As a demonstration, before you finish reading the first chapter of the second volume, guess who Arista’s final love interest will be at the end of the third. I was positive then but, having read all Rise of Empire, am totally uncertain now.
Before I gush you all to death, there are some criticisms. Saldur is a bit two dimensional in an Alan-Rickman-as-Sheriff-of-Nottingham way. It doesn’t get in the way of the story but it would be good to backtrack on some of his past as the author did for Royce and Hadrian. Also I missed Magnus the deliciously grumpy dwarf and Myron the Monk. Both are mentioned in passing but I would have liked them to have been on the mission. Perhaps Michael J is saving material for a spin off series.
This book may be tenser but the momentum is still there. Some loose ends are explained but a lot more are unravelled. Why was Royce sent to Amtaz prison in a previous life? The Riyria Revelations is apparently set in the 30th century. Will this become relevant? Is whom we think the Heir of Novron to be, really the Heir of Novron? Then, talk about hanging, the book leads to a crescendo ending with multiple cliff-hangers as practically all the second volume heroes face different terminal dangers. I have to wait a few weeks before the next volume comes out but if you’re reading this later in the year, my suggestion would be to have Heir of Novron ready. Then you can leap into it with a single bound once you’ve journeyed through Rise of Empire.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If you like this, try The Neon Court by Kate Griffin It's a different side of the fantasy genre, but still one that incorporates twists and humour.
You can read more book reviews or buy Rise of Empire by Michael J Sullivan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Rise of Empire by Michael J Sullivan at Amazon.com.
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