Book of the Year 2020 (see all)
I’m going to be honest with you all: I read Age of Death and Age of Empyre – the final two books in Michael J Sullivan’s ‘The Legends of the First Empire’ series – back to back, and am reviewing both books having read both books. However, considering that Sullivan published both books so closely together, and intentionally wrote the pair of books with such a vital and heart-wrenching cliff-hanger, I suspect you will grant me the benefit of the doubt on this one.
Much of what I said about Age of Death remains true for Age of Empyre, only more so. So much so, in fact, that I specifically had to rate Age of Death at 9.5 simply so I was in a position to once again rate a Michael J Sullivan book as 10/10.
The emotional depth and mythological scale of Sullivan’s writing is ratcheted up a notch with Age of Empyre, but what is most captivating and emotionally touching is the story of Brin – first and foremost – and the way that the author pulls the curtain back, so to speak, on her character as portrayed through the series, and we are granted an opportunity to see what makes her so special.
There was something truly impressive – unique, almost, in a way that rarely happens anymore – when we followed Brin through the middle portion of the book, quite literally running for her life, and the life of all. Such a beautiful and captivating visual representation of her inherent “good-ness” was brilliantly executed and represented with every step Brin took.
Not to be left out of the picture, however, three separate locations within the story provided similar, if somewhat less impressive depictions of “good-ness” and inner quality. Suri’s story was beautifully told – and the twist could have looked like authorial contrivance if it was not accomplished so perfectly and compellingly (not to mention, hitting on all the right sentimental chords).
The loss and gain of her experience with the elves is not concluded, as such, again showing how adept Sullivan is at writing his characters – for no one who ever goes through big life events ever comes out immediately changed and with everything wrapped up in a nice bow.
I was also impressed with Roan and Gifford’s story, but I do favour Moya and Tekchin’s character arc, if for no other reason than I relate better to them.
The story told through Age of Empyre was executed to within an inch of perfection, in my opinion, and yielded to conclusions – one for the immediate story of the book, and one for the larger series and which served to set the series on the path to ‘The Riyria Revelations’. There is also more to come, with a new series launching in 2021 which will pick up at some point within the lifespan of some of the characters we met during Legends, and some of the loose threads that will be picked up there can be seen flapping easily in the breeze as you close the final pages of Age of Empyre.
Though not as lengthy as my previous review, I cannot praise Michael J Sullivan and his ‘The Legends of the First Empire’ series more. Age of Empyre is its high point, a towering accomplishment atop the already impressive series. Sullivan writes with a beautiful moral compass and brings his characters to life in a way very few authors will ever manage in their writing life. The mythological imagination boggles the mind, but is not left untethered from reality, and builds a historical footing for what we have already seen and read thousands of years in this fictional future.
While Age of Empyre and the whole Legends series may struggle to top ‘The Riyria Revelations’ – for the simple sake that it does not have Royce and Hadrian – it is only by the barest of margins.
Review by Joshua S Hill
Michael J. Sullivan is a full time author whose self published series, The Riyria Revelations, hit the big time selling more than 70,000 copies in a very short time. Picked up by Orbit in the middle of last year just after th [...]
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