The Rose and the Thorn by Michael J. Sullivan

“For more than a year Royce Melborn has tried to forget Gwen DeLancy, the woman who saved him and his partner Hadrian Blackwater from certain death. Unable to get her out of his mind, the two thieves return to Medford but receive a very different reception — Gwen refuses to see them. The victim of abuse by a powerful noble, she suspects that Royce will ignore any danger in his desire for revenge. By turning the thieves away, Gwen hopes to once more protect them. What she doesn’t realize is what the two are capable of — but she’s about to find out.”

I’ve raved about how much I love Sullivan’s books before, so you can consider the geeking and fangasming as a given at this point. When I saw that these two newest books about Royce and Hadrian were up for early review, I darn near fell over myself getting to the keyboard to place my requests for them. And I was not disappointed. In fact, I liked this one more than The Crown Tower. In that book, longtime readers have some idea of what’s going to happen in the story, and the novel itself is mostly a matter of details. The Rose and the Thorn covers events that were only hinted at before or were completely unknown.

The plot of this novel is, I think, key to the overall storyline that Sullivan has created, because it shows the forming of relationships that become central to the tale later on. Readers will see how Royce and Hadrian met Albert Winslow and came to work with him, as well as exploring the earliest stirrings of Royce and Gwen’s romance. Another story that I was pleasantly surprised to see included here was the background on an event central to Princess Arista, something that will have far-reaching consequences.

This novel works equally well for those new to this world as well as those already familiar from reading The Riyria Revelations. In fact, the author does such a good job of slipping in details from the previous book that, while reading The Crown Tower first certainly helps, it’s not necessary. I actually ended up reading these two books in reverse order and my enjoyment of them—and my understanding of what was going on—wasn’t significantly impacted. This might be a bit truer if you’ve read the original series, but only a little bit.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting reacquainted with much-loved characters like Arista and her family, as well as Albert and some of the other nobles. I also took a guilty pleasure in watching Royce at his worst as he slips into the persona of “Duster”, a ruthless assassin with no conscience—something not often seen in the original series. Beyond cheering him on for dealing with some nasty characters, I liked seeing what kind of person he was early in his friendship with Hadrian, because it gives some context for how far he’s come when we see him a decade or so down the line.

Above all, I love the fresh, clean sense of adventure in Sullivan’s series. While there is some violence, it’s never gratuitous, and there’s barely any cursing and nothing more than a kiss. These stories are filled with action, adventure, plot twists, outstanding characters and some wonderful worldbuilding. I could easily recommend this to anybody of about middle school age on up, because it manages to entertain without sliding into the kind of dark and edgy fantasy that’s popular nowadays.

Royce and Hadrian are this generation’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, albeit rather less roguish and more inclined to do the right thing than otherwise. Sullivan’s characters are easy to like, easy to cheer on, and easy to get invested in. Truth be told, I love these guys. The Rose and the Thorn is another great story from an author that deserves to be read by every fan of fantasy and adventure.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from

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