Theft of Swords, Riyria Revelations 1, by Michael J. Sullivan
Theft of Swords is one of a handful of books that I’ve been meaning to cross off my “to read list” for some time now, and when I finally got to reading it I could tell from early on that it would become a firm favourite. The two central characters, Royce and Hadrian, are of the lovable rogue type that I can’t recall anyone pulling off better than Sullivan has here. From the outset, the banter between the two tells of a deep understanding of each other, and a friendship born and cherished despite their obvious differences.
Technically, I could review Theft of Swords as two independent stories, as it’s an omnibus issue, but that would mean having to choose a favourite and, although I think deep down I know which would win the day, both have their own high scoring merits. Even between these two first stories in the lives of Royce and Hadrian, there’s little clues about the past lives of our heroes, some of which are revealed in full by the time we turn the final page of the book, some that will keep us guessing.
One thing I really like about this pairing is that they obviously have a rich history together by the time we first meet them, and it’s always nice when we are introduced to characters who are already talked of as legends, without having to walk through those daring deeds that make them so (though saying that, I’m definitely looking forward to reading the story of how they became legends in the newly released The Crown Tower). It’s almost as if we pick up this volume already at home with the members of Riyria, rather than reading about them for the first time, and I don’t think anything is lost by this as it’s all so well done.
Throughout the two stories that make up Theft of Swords, I felt that Sullivan was doing a very good job of subtle worldbuilding. Nothing is just thrown into the reader’s face, but behind the scenes there’s a world with over a thousand years of history mapped out to the point where it works remarkably well. Story-wise, there’s two quite different tales which give us political intrigue on one hand and indestructible monsters on the other, both intertwined with the meddlings of certain factions and the curveball that is Riyria.
The supporting cast are as well written and developed as every other element of the book, so no real surprise there. Outside of Royce and Hadrian, there’s some really likeable characters and some nice little touches too. One event leads to the introduction of a character with no “real world” experience to speak of, and where I think many authors would use this as a good place to show us some features of this new fictional world, Sullivan takes the refreshing approach of showing the character’s excitement at such simple things as seeing a horse up close for the first time.
Overall, I really enjoyed both parts of Theft of Swords, and although I’m not moving straight on to them, I picked up the next two volumes before I’d finished this one, so if all else fails, at least I know I’ve got some more Royce and Hadrian to go back to after my next book. It was recommended that I read Theft of Swords in between two other books (The Blade Itself and Prince of Thorns) because those two were quite dark and Theft of Swords would provide some good light reading in between. While I can’t say anything about Prince of Thorns yet, I can certainly say Theft of Swords was really easy to read and to get into, and was definitely a lot lighter than The Blade Itself. More than that, Theft of Swords is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve had the pleasure to read, and there’s more where that came from, so I’m really pleased to have finally picked up a copy and turned that first page.
Overall: A treat worth waiting for. The tagline sounds like it’s from a blockbuster movie, but it’s from a blockbuster read instead.
Dominish rating: 93%