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November 5th, 2011, 08:32 AM #1
Theft of Swords - The First Riyria Omnibus
The time is almost here for the release of Theft of Swords! I just finished the book last night and I liked it a lot.
Good layering of plot and backstory throughout, I have to say.
I'll be interested (as I'm sure Michael and Robin will be) to see what people who read the Ridan versions have to say about these new editions.
Review to come soon...
November 7th, 2011, 07:25 AM #2
Theft of Swords actually is ALREADY available in the UK - I guess I didn't realize it had an earlier release date until I saw people on facebook and sending me emails that they just picked it up. That is very exciteing.
Anyway...can't wait to read the review Rob. Please let me know when it goes up.
November 7th, 2011, 12:27 PM #3
Michael, you'll be the first to know when the review is live! I think you'll like what I have to say.
I will say this book might have earned a spot in my personal Omnibus Hall of Fame (© PeterWilliam)
November 7th, 2011, 01:16 PM #4
Once I've finished grad school (i.e. March 1), I'll get more play-online time. One of the things I am considering is a year-end popular vote, or merely appointment by, of course, myself for the omnibus award. All are eligible, however once awarded, that particular omnibus goes out of future runnings. It shall be called.....what else would I call it?.....Omnibus Prime.
November 8th, 2011, 11:36 PM #5
November 8th, 2011, 11:38 PM #6
November 9th, 2011, 11:01 AM #7
November 10th, 2011, 03:43 PM #8
November 20th, 2011, 10:06 AM #9
Riyria Revelations #1: Theft of Swords
Hadrian and Royce are partners in crime, a mercenary and thief who make a living working for the various nobles who rule over the lands of Avryn but spend most of their time feuding with one another. One particular job ends with Hadrian and Royce being arrested and charged with regicide. Determined to prove their innocence and take revenge on those who framed them, they set out on a quest that could change the fate of Avryn and the whole world.
Michael J. Sullivan's Riyria Revelations series is already a proven success, with both small press and self-published editions of the books selling well. Orbit have picked up the series and recast the original six books as three omnibuses, bringing them to a wider audience. Whilst this laudably rewards the author's success, it also raises the stakes: standing out from the crowd in self-publishing is one thing, but how does Sullivan's work stack up compared to the current fantasy heavyweights?
The answer is...okay, actually. Sullivan's ambition with this series was to create a series that in a way beat against the current trend for adult, edgy, violent and explicit fantasy novels in favour of something more straightforward or 'classic'. Something that evoked the spirit of say Eddings or Brooks without being as dire. Sullivan lists Harry Potter as an inspiration, particularly the way it welded together accessibility and a classic structure with darker elements (such as major character deaths), and that's certainly a reasonable ambition.
Theft of Swords (which combines the first two novels in the series, The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha) is a fast-paced, straightforward read with a fast-moving plot and easy-to-read writing. Sullivan's risk in aping the simpler form of fantasy fiction is that he might skirt towards blandness, and this is certainly a problem in the book. He has a fairly blank prose style which is effortless to read, but also somewhat forgettable. His skills with characterisation are somewhat stronger, but still not as great as might be wished. Particularly odd is that his central characters of Hadrian and Royce are not very well-developed at all, and many of the secondary characters are more interesting and better-drawn. The central duo do get a bit more fleshed out towards the end of the second half of the book and we also get a possible reason for why Sullivan had to hold back on certain revelations about them, but it is a bit of a challenge to read a book where the two heroes are so (apparently) shallow.
Other issues can be found in the worldbuilding, particularly the existence of apparently substantial kingdoms with walled cities in them that are only about 20 miles wide. Sullivan aims for some consistency here - a couple of hundred soldiers forms a large army in this world, presumably because populations are correspondingly tiny - but it's still a bit odd. On the racial front, things are fairly traditional: dwarves are geniuses for stonecarving whilst elves are long-lived, pointy-eared types. The only dwarf we meet is a grubby villain, whilst the elves are (in this first book anyway) kept firmly off-screen and are the enemies of humanity, but these are minor (and not particularly unprecedented) twists to the established formula. Naturally, the main storyline also revolves around prophecies, chosen ones whose arrival will signify the end of the world and so on, and it won't take a genius to guess who the chosen one is going to be.
The principle problem with the book is its very predictability. At first, reading an epic fantasy without blood spraying over people's faces every five seconds or two mandatory graphic (and usually badly-written) sex scenes per book is a refreshing change of pace, and feels like a valid direction to take at this time. However, the book's embracing of classic tropes without doing much (or, at times, anything) to subvert or challenge them eventually gets dull. Brandon Sanderson, for example, is also writing classic epic fantasy but remembers to put in plenty of interesting twists: a post-magic-apocalypse setting, a Wild West angle and, of course, lots of original magic systems. These flourishes are absent from Sullivan's debut work.
Theft of Swords (***) is an easy, relaxing read but also one that lacks depth or originality. It's fun enough to warrant reading on (and the series rep has it improving massively as it continues), but I do wonder if publishing these stories as 650-page omnibuses rather than their original 320-page, bite-sized chunks was a mistake. A fun popcorn read, but ultimately not much more. The omnibus is available now in the UK and USA.
November 22nd, 2011, 11:05 AM #10
Thanks Werthead for taking the time to read the books and write a review. I think that you've done a good job accurately portraying the flavor of the first two books.
I did want to take a moment to provide some insight to my motivations when writing this series. You mentioned:
The truth is that I had no intention of publishing these books. So my only ambition was to write something that I wanted to read. My audience was small, just a few friends and family, and so while I did write using classical tropes and avoiding graphic violence and sex, that was only because this is the kind of book that suits my taste, not some commentary on the market as a whole.
The fact that I wasn’t writing for publication is important as it explains why my stories start off so simply. My focus has always been on the last book…to make it the crowning achievement…and to get there by making each book better than the one before. This, by definition, makes the first book the weakest.
So when you observe that the books seem to lack depth, originally, and are very predictable, my response is…you’re absolutely correct…given what you know at this point. But just like Inigo Montoya in The Prince Bride I know something you do not…I’m not left handed. There is actually more at work then you can know from where you are standing now. I liken it to The Sixth Sense, which for me seemed like just a simple little movie until the big reveal. Then upon re-watching, I noticed all kinds of things that were there, but without context, did not register.
Of course, when the books got picked up, it might have made sense to rewrite them, moving some of the depth (both in character and world building) sooner. After all, from a marketing perspective, the first book needs to be the strongest in order to ensure the maximum number of people stay for the next one, right? Well I didn’t do that, mainly because I’m more interested in telling the story “my” way then making a ton of money (sorry Orbit but I think we’ll still do all right). My thought is enough people will see it through to the end and their journey will be all that much better because it started out small and blossomed into something truly amazing. My hope is they’ll convince others to “hang in there” and in the end everyone will be rewarded.
There’s no doubt that this is a risk, and there are some who will conclude that I lack skill, or talent, or both based on what they read before quitting. For those that leave the ballgame in the 7th inning to avoid the traffic – I understand. None of the reviews will mean much to me until the final book. The good news is that comes January 31 so only another few weeks of waiting. If after reading that, if people want to proclaim me “lacking” then I’ll accept that…after all they made their decision with 100% of the information.
I hope this post doesn’t come off as defensive. I’m really just trying to explain more what I was shooting for and why the books are the way they are. I can’t be on each readers shoulders explaining this, but since the post is here in my forum and I obviously participate, I thought it would be good to provide some further clarification.
Last edited by sullivan_riyria; November 22nd, 2011 at 11:09 AM.
November 22nd, 2011, 11:45 AM #11
November 22nd, 2011, 08:25 PM #12
November 22nd, 2011, 08:29 PM #13
No problem Michael. It hit many of the right buttons for me, looking forward to the next books!
October 1st, 2013, 07:05 AM #14
- Join Date
- Oct 2005
- Fleet, Hampshire, England
enjoying this book - can't seem to find the right thread to say that in though!
November 4th, 2013, 05:12 AM #15
I'm reading Theft of Swords (the first novel in the first omnibus), and I have some mixed feelings, although I'm enjoying it. Certainly I feel no temptation to give up and stop reading. However, there are some real flaws here. Let's see... For context, I did a quick search and found some positive reviews and a particularly vitriolic negative one:
Going back to my own impressions:
One thing that bothers me is these chats the characters sometimes have that go like this: "Hey, let's explain to each other this thing both of us already know just so that the reader will get the information." It's not like it's happening all the time, but when it does it's a particularly annoying way to do info-dumps. For example, look at that explanation about the six gods... come on, those guys should already know that!
The characterization is thin. You get a feeling of who the characters are because they are archetypal to a large extent, and they are pleasant enough to share the adventure with, but there's little to make them truly come to life.
Also, there's a roleplaying-game-like quality in the way the characters interact with each other. It's like they stick together because they are all playing characters, and therefore that's what they are supposed to do. For example, look at the way Myron joins the group. Actually, my problem is not so much how he joins the group, but how he immediately and unquestioningly gets accepted into the dynamics of the group and everyone accepts him as the group's unofficial "wikipedia".
The story and character motivations are rather simplistic, although maybe that's a feature of the story rather than a bug.
Having said all that, let's go with the positive: this story is fun! I want to keep reading and find out what happens, and that's not a small thing. It's what fantasy stories are supposed to achieve, in my opinion.
Nowadays, epic fantasy is full of grittiness and dark realism, and I love those stories as much as anyone, but there's also a place for light, fun stories, and this one goes back to basics and tells an appealing tale. There's a reason the "classic" approach is classic, and the reason is that it works. Here, the author seems to be having fun telling this story, and this reader is also having fun reading it. It takes me back to the sense of fun I had when reading epic fantasy as a kid or teenager, and that's a good thing.
I have found the author's comments in this thread interesting, and I look forward to seeing how this series evolve...