Monday, 11 June 2012

Theft of Swords

Title: Theft of Swords
Series: Riyria Revelations #1-#2
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Pages: 664 (paperback)
Published: November 1st 2011
Published by: Orbit

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? 

And so begins the first tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.

When author Michael J. Sullivan self-published the first books of his Riyria Revelations, they rapidly became ebook bestsellers. Now, Orbit is pleased to present the complete series for the first time in bookstores everywhere.

Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater are basically mercenaries. They'll do pretty much anything you want for money. And they're good at it too - they're renowned in the underworld for their skills. They someone tries to frame them for the murder of a King - bad idea. This sends them on the run (albeit not that far, but I'll come to that later) and trying to finish the task set by the Princess who set them free, dragging her brother - now the King - along very reluctantly for the ride. This sets of a whole mess of stuff into action.

I was really very excited about reading this book. This book contains the first of the 6 stories which make up the Riyria Revelations - The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha - but the first time I came across the series it was only the first published alone. It sounded very interesting, and I added it to my (frankly quite ridiculously long) t-read list. Several months later I came across Theft of Swords and also added this, without realising that they were in fact the same book. I can't remember quite how I came to the realisation, but I figured that any book I added twice was going to be good, and put on top the fact that the author got a publishing deal based on sales after he self-published I figured this was going to be a great read.

And whilst I wasn't exactly wrong, I wasn't exactly right either. This was a good book, don't get me wrong. It was imaginative and well written and wonderfully descriptive at times, but there were a few too many (and too obvious) info-dumps, plot holes and things that didn't make sense or that were slightly too convenient. Incredibly clever people (and creatures) doing very stupid things purely to allow for the plot. "I've got the upper hand, so rather than keeping it and ensuring you do what I want, I'll let them go as a gesture of faith." You keep the upper hand. That's what people want - don't just go giving stuff away.

There's the whole scale thing too. After reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, I'm used to amazing, epic, intricate schemes being pulled together at the last second and leaving you (or me at least) mystified for the whole rest of the book as to what on earth is going on or how everything's going to work. While the thievery side isn't really the focus at all in either of the stories in this book, I felt that the author was trying for something like this and didn't quite pull it off. Similarly, the literal scale of the world was almost amusing, which I feel awful for. I have relatively recently jumped on the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones etc. by George R. R. Martin) bandwagon and I'm used to huge distances being traversed, massive armies being gathered and it taking days, weeks to get anywhere. So when we're told that they've gathered like 40 knights and a couple hundred soldiers but that the other half of their army won't get there for all of 18 hours it just fell a little flat. I understand that this isn't really a failing of the book (and indeed the smaller scale setting is good as a foundation for the world which is then expanded on slightly in #2 and will presumably continue to be built on) but rather a reflection on my past reading and how this has impacted the way I read books.

Still, I enjoyed these books. They were funny quite a lot of the time and the characters of Royce and Harian were very interesting, and their relationship was very good. You can see how close they are, that they trust each other implicitly, but they argue and banter like friends do too. Avempartha particularly had very good pacing, and I liked the little links between the two, showing how the world has moved on in the intervening months (years? I'm a little unclear exactly how much time had passed) since The Crown Conspiracy. There are some very good secondary characters, and I'm glad to see that the author doesn't mind killing people off...always better if you're not always entirely sure that everyone's going to survive!

The set up for the next book has definitely got me intrigued, and whilst in the middle I was undecided about whether to carry on with this series or not, the end made the decision for me. Yeah, I could see the 'reveal' coming, but that doesn't make me want to know what happens as a result of it any less!

A good book with interesting characters that maybe could have been tightened up a little, but still a good read.

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