I am putting massive spoilers throughout this post, ones that will ruin the entire series if you don't stop reading. If you continue, you only have yourself to blame.
I just finished all three Orbit volumes, and I quite enjoyed the series. I was definitely entertained throughout.
Royce's identity was hidden in plain sight quite well, as I was unsure of the true identity of the heir until halfway through the final volume. Although, looking back on it, it seems pretty clear that enough information was provided by the midpoint of Rise of Empire that Royce was the only real choice.
I really appreciate the theme of the series: That love, redemption, and forgiveness are the greatest gifts, and are what make life worth living. I can't argue with this, and I heartily approve of the way this was played out. Very well done.
Being a fan of naval fiction (Hornblower, anyone?) I enjoyed the The Emerald Storm plot line especially.
Non-pretentious, this series is simply an entertaining epic fantasy. It doesn't strive to be anything else, and it succeeds.
My biggest criticism is that the "heroes are captured, and there's no way out" and "a member of the party has been bribed to become a traitor" plot points were used time and again. Our heroes surrender and are thrown into a dungeon in all three books. Sometimes multiple times within a book. Hadrian, while being captured, only once(!) seriously considers fighting it out: While in Saldur's office he thinks about killing everyone. Clearly from his bravura performance in Heir, he would have had no trouble succeeding and escaping. And in the second and third book, there isn't a party that doesn't have a traitor in it. I know there are only so many plots an author can utilize, but it seemed to me that these were overused. I think it would have been better to have more death defying near brushes with detention, rather than having Riyria continuously being thrown in prison and then being broken out. Or mix up the traitor bit: don't let all of the traitors be invariably successful. Also, some of the "traitors" should have motivations that conflict with those of the heroes, rather than being simply treacherous, whether through bibery or due to their own character.
A few questions:
If Royce had blown the horn in the tomb and waited a day, he would have been king, with no challenge possible, right?
If the horn had not been found: After humanity would have been pushed to the brink of extinction, the elves would have most likely devolved into internecine warring, as they had before the horn was created, correct?
How did Mawyndule/Venlin convince nearly all the Cenzar and Teshlor to betray the imperial line? These were people who knew the truth about the horn and what that line meant for humanity, and who had been training and devoting their entire lives to protect it for posterity. How was he able to convince all of them to go against everything they believed in and commit the basest of treason, or is this a tale for another time?
Was Mawyndule lying when he said he had been promised absolution for murdering his father? I ask this, because he pretty much lied whenever he spoke. If he wasn't, wasn't the council truly responsible for his father's death, and shouldn't they have forfeited their afterlife as well?
In closing, thank you Mr. Sullivan for an entertaining read, I enjoyed it very much.