There is something about Michael J Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations series that charms. I could say it is the story’s simplicity. I could say it is his decision not to kowtow to the fantasy tradition of world building. I could say it is the lack of real darkness in the novels. But I’d probably decide it is the characters.

Michael J Sullivan Riyria Revelations

Hadrian and Royce are thieves. Before Royce met Hadrian, he would have belonged in Brent Week’s Shadow trilogy. He began his life as urchin and became an assassin who didn’t think too much of morals. Killing people was what he did. Before Hadrian met Royce, he belonged in Conan the Barbarian, or possibly a story that chronicles a hero who has too many dreams and not enough realism. I’m struggling to think of one right now.

Interestingly, we are introduced to the pair after they have been working together for years. Their differences have gradually rubbed each others’ corners off. Hadrian is no longer so idealistic. Royce is no longer as bloodthirsty and cold. In most other fantasy novels, we would meet Hadrian and Royce when they were young and travel with them on their journey to this point. But Sullivan begins at the end.

To me, this makes the series a chronicle of a unique relationship: a dream team that works well together because of years of practice. It almost feels like a Marvel comic. There is something comforting and filled with childhood glee in Sullivan’s old fashioned take of heroes who always manage to get themselves out of whatever ridiculous scrape they find themselves in.

This atmosphere lasts until the fourth and fifth book in the series when the overarching plot, which had been quietly chugging along in the background shifts into a new gear. The end begins. The relationship of our dynamic duo is irrevocably changed.

The beginning of the end, which at first had been a graceful 747 planned-landing-type finish, quickly becomes a crash and burn scenario in book six (Percepliquis). This book, the last in the series, has a mournful tone. One of the duo has had such a terrible thing happen to him that he is no longer really himself. Unsurprisingly, given the duo is only half what it was, the change reduces enjoyment of the story. However, the stakes are higher – the end of humanity of course – so we are still hooked until the last page.

I contemplated the change in the atmosphere of the series after I laid down the last novel. If the relationship between the main characters had remained the same, would that have made it boring? Would I really have liked the adventures of Hadrian and Royce to have continued ad nauseam into book 50? The answer was not clear cut. I would have liked to have seen elements of the relationship saved. But I know the characters had to develop in order for the story to have a proper beginning middle and end. So, I guess I’ll just tip off my hat to Sullivan for entertaining me, and let all of you decide for yourselves.

I’m giving the novels a 3.5 out of 5.

Note: When started reading this series it was a self-published (to be) six novel series. After encountering success with books one to five, Sullivan was picked up by Orbit and the series was published as three not six novels. The Orbit books are the Theft of Swords (The Crown Conspiracy & Avempartha), Rise of Empire (Nyphron Rising & The Emerald Storm) and Heir of Novron (Wintertide & Percepliquis). The origins of Royce’s and Hadrian’s relationship are also to be revealed in two new books, the first of which is coming out in August this year.  

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