Left me spellbound from the moment I got past the first chapter
In reading Michael J. Sullivan’s latest book, Age of Myth, the first book in a new series called The Legends of the First Empire – a series set in the same world as Sullivan’s Riyria series – I learned two lessons:
Let me explain. I received my review copy of this book from Michael himself some time ago, but it arrived at a time when I wasn’t in the healthiest of places. I did read the opening chapter, but for some reason I came away thinking that this was going to be another book about a 16-year old saviour of the world. This is where my aforementioned two lessons come into play. Not only is the character I was reading about not 16 years old (or even under 20), but he is only one of five characters from whom we experience this story.
I’ve no idea how I misread that first chapter, but I did, and as such I lost my faith in Michael J. Sullivan.
Age of Myth bears the hallmark storytelling genius that we have all come to love of Michael’s work. It’s fast-paced, intimate, and beautifully cultivated – by which I mean, the reader is never left in one viewpoint for too long, or for too short a time. The book flows at such a pace that you end up reading a third or a half of the book at once, without even really realising you’ve lost three hours of your day.
The Legends of the First Empire series takes place some 3,000 years in advance of the previous books Sullivan has published. This is the author’s effort to tell a very different story, with different characters in a very different world. There is legitimate naivety between the species – verging on outright ignorance in most cases. We are witnessing the birth of humanity – or at least it’s first, tottering steps into maturity. I don’t have the world’s best memory for names and places, but I’m fairly certain I’m reading of people and places and events that are myth to people in Royce and Hadrian’s day. I’m already excited to go re-read the original Riyria Revelations books.
More immediately, however, Age of Myth tells the story of how humanity first stands on its own two legs. From a certain point of view, the Fhrey are right – the humans are little more than animals. The internecine squabbles that make up the Rhune people (humans) are only hinted at, but they cast an unsavoury mirror. On the other hand, however, there is much more than meets the eye to this race of people – a fact the Fhrey are soon to learn.
The characters from this story are, unsurprisingly, wonderful to read, and beautifully fleshed out. Flawed, naïve, ignorant and arrogant, dangerous and villainous, they cover the gamut of human (and Fhrey) personalities. I particularly loved Suri – though I’m smitten by any character that gets to have a wolf as their best friend. The interrelationships between everybody flex and bow as the story dictates, and there is no stringent border to who can befriend whom.
I was a little disappointed by the final chapter-twist/cliff-hanger, because it seemed to run counter to everything that we had already read. Of course, that is the point of such a last-minute twist, and I don’t have any context for why the twist exists. But I was nevertheless a little put-off by how the book finished – I didn’t need a reason to desire the next book. I didn’t need the author to bait the hook like that, and not everything needs to be duplicitous – though I understand that is the done thing these days.
Nevertheless, with a small, subjective minor-hiccup to smother the ending, Age of Myth left me spellbound from the moment I got past the first chapter having actually read the bloody words on the page. (I’m not going to quickly forgive myself for that one.) I missed out on reading a great book for a couple of months while it sat on my shelf. Michael J. Sullivan satisfies my desire for intimate, character-driven stories, and regularly manages to keep me reading well into the wee-hours of the morning.
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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