Review

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

“There’s no ancient evil to defeat or orphan destined for greatness, just unlikely heroes and classic adventure. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, are two enterprising rogues who end up running for their lives when they’re framed for the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy that goes beyond the overthrow of a tiny kingdom, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery before it’s too late.”

This volume contains two of Sullivan’s original novels: The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha.  The author has said that the first novel is a bit on the shallow side, because he was attempting to add layers of complexity to the series as he went along.  He also wrote the entire series before publishing any of it, and so he was able to build in those layers as he went.  I do have to agree that The Crown Conspiracy is a little on the fluffy end of the spectrum, but I still found it to be enjoyable.  Avempartha delves a bit deeper into the machinations of his world’s power players and does exceed the first novel.

I really liked Royce and Hadrian.  I described them to my husband as what would happen if the current incarnations of Holmes and Watson were on the team from TNT’s Leverage.The pair interacts in a believable way, with all the bickering and comradeship that you’d expect from longtime friends.  Readers get to know these two slowly, as they progress from simple thieves and con artists to taking a hand in events that will shape an empire.

I was impressed with Sullivan’s pacing and plot.  While each of the novels that I’ve read thus far follows a typical progression for an action-oriented story, there are plenty of twists and turns along the way.  The author knows when to ramp up the action, when to provide bits of information, and how long to build up to a major event.  It was like following a trail through the forest and seeing markers letting me know just a bit of what’s up ahead.  I kept reading as Sullivan led me from one event to the next, and I got very engrossed in the tale as a result.

One other thing that I appreciated is Sullivan’s decision to not include graphic language, violence or sex.  While I do enjoy some of the grittier sci-fi and fantasy novels out there, I found these books to be a refreshing change.  The author didn’t skimp on action, and he didn’t skimp on people dying or being in peril.  He did, however, refrain from shock value and in-your-face descriptions.  This is a series that I would have no hesitation with recommending to a younger reader, and anything that gets kids reading gets my vote.

Sullivan may not be well-known in the fantasy market, but I predict that will start changing rather quickly.  Theft of Swords has action, politics, heroes, villains, battles and magic, all wrapped up in a package with two unforgettable main characters.  Thankfully, there are two more omnibus editions to go, because I’m not ready to leave this series yet!

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

(Description nicked from Goodreads.com.)

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