Age of War by Michael J Sullivan

(10.0/10)

Book of the Year 2018 (see all)

Being able to craft a fantasy story is no easy feat: Most of us who read fantasy know this, and it is one of the things we love most about the genre – the tireless work and creativity that goes into creating the books we read.

There are a lot of authors who can craft a fantasy story which we love – that’s what Fantasy Book Review is presaged on.

But there are always going to be a few authors every generation who are able to accomplish more, and to go beyond the norm, in a way that other authors wouldn’t be capable of. Whatever the reason and whatever the evidence, there are some authors who are a cut above the rest.

Michael J Sullivan is one of those authors. In my opinion, he has been for a while. But with his The Legends of the First Empire series, I believe Sullivan is cementing himself as one of the current generation’s finest fantasy writers.

Age of War is the third book in his First Empire series which takes place approximately 3,000 years before the events of the books that first brought Michael J Sullivan to prominence - the Ryria Revelations and Chronicles, extolling the adventures of Royce and Hadrian. As such, the new series has sought to tell the beginning of the world in which we first visited.

However, what has been most impressive about The Legends of the First Empire series is that Sullivan knows that history is written by the victors and can be twisted and warped to suit the needs of said victors – or even simply misconstrued and misplaced over time. As such, while the story we read is relatively in line with the vague historical notes that were given us in the original books, some things have been changed – and in this Sullivan shows a mastery of his craft that very few can and have matched.

Looking at Age of War in particular we find that, what was supposed to be the final book of the series is now the third of six. Sullivan’s customary ‘Author’s Note’ fills us in on a few of the reasons for this, but what’s important is that it doesn’t feel like this was ham-fistedly rearranged to meet the purpose of an author’s bank balance. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I don’t know how Sullivan ever imagined he could get away with this being the final book of the series – by the time I finished, and with his Author’s Note in mind, I was baffled by the idea that he could have left the series finished.

In a way, though, Age of War does bring us the conclusion to some tales – which I won’t hint at for those who haven’t read the book yet. Some characters depart the stage in one way or another, while others are left with a lot of work to do.

One of the book’s most important scenes, in my opinion, comes in the last few chapters, where Persephone gives voice to what I imagine is a commonly-held opinion for many women. Heroism is not always something done once and never again – sometimes, heroism is boring, laborious, dangerous, and long. Persephone’s mixed grief and anger that closes the book is, hopefully, challenging for many readers – especially of the male variety. Without diminishing Michael J Sullivan’s talent, I felt reading this final scene the hand of his wife, Robin, giving it a realism that might otherwise have been absent.

Another character, who I will leave completely unnamed, provides us with another example of Sullivan’s mastery of his craft. Instead of suddenly reverting to a Deus ex machina and solving things from upon high, we are treated to a mysterious but powerful performance that, in many ways, leaves us with more questions than answers and, while it impacts the story greatly, it does so with such a lack of guile and such strong empathy and emotion that you immediately forgive the potentially heavy-handed intrusion.

In the end, Age of War serves to exemplify why Michael J Sullivan is one of the greatest living fantasy authors, a master of his craft who has excelled at both character and plot, emotion and action, fantasy and fiction. For some, Age of War might represent the walking of a very fine line between failure, but for Sullivan it seems he walks a bridge a mile wide.

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Our interview with Michael J Sullivan

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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All reviews for Michael J Sullivan's Legends of the First Empire series

Age of Myth

by Michael J Sullivan

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god f [...]

Series: Legends of the First Empire #1
Published: 2016

Score: 80

Our rating: 8.0 | positive reader reviews

15+

Age of Swords

by Michael J Sullivan

Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the co [...]

Series: Legends of the First Empire #2
Published: 2017

Score: 80

Our rating: 8.0 | positive reader reviews

15+

Age of War

by Michael J Sullivan

The alliance of humans and renegade Fhrey is fragile - and about to be tested as never before. Persephone keeps the human clans from turning on one another through her iron [...]

Series: Legends of the First Empire #3
Published: 2018

Score: 100

Our rating: 10.0 | positive reader reviews

15+

Age of Legend

by Michael J Sullivan

After years of warfare, humanity has gained the upper hand and has pushed the Fhrey to the edge of their homeland but no farther. Now comes the pivotal moment. Persephone&r [...]

Series: Legends of the First Empire #4
Published: 2019

Score: -2

Our rating: 8.0 | positive reader reviews

15+

More Michael J Sullivan reviews

Theft of Swords

by Michael J Sullivan

Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles--until they [...]

Series: The Riyria Revelations #1
Published: 2012

Score: 93

Our rating: 9.0 | 3 positive reader reviews

12+

Rise of Empire

by Michael J Sullivan

War has come to Melengar and once more Royce and Hadrian are hired to make a desperate gamble and form an alliance with the Nationalists whom are fighting the Imperialists [...]

Series: The Riyria Revelations #2
Published: 2014

Score: 72

Our rating: 7.0 | 1 positive reader reviews

12+

Heir of Novron

by Michael J Sullivan

The New Empire intends to celebrate its victory over the Nationalists with a day that will never be forgotten. On the high holiday of Wintertide, they plan to execute two t [...]

Series: The Riyria Revelations #3
Published: 0000

Score: 81

Our rating: 8.0 | 1 positive reader reviews

12+

The Crown Tower

by Michael J Sullivan

Two men who hate each other. One impossible mission. A legend in the making. Hadrian, a warrior with nothing to fight for, is paired with Royce, a thieving assassin with no [...]

Series: The Ryria Chronicles #1
Published: 0000

Score: 85

Our rating: 8.5 | 0 positive reader reviews

12+

The Rose and the Thorn

by Michael J Sullivan

A dear friend is brutally beaten. Two thieves want answers. Riyria is born. One year earlier, two thieves were saved from certain death by the compassion of a stranger. Una [...]

Series: The Ryria Chronicles #2
Published: 0000

Score: 86

Our rating: 8.5 | 1 positive reader reviews

12+

The Death of Dulgath

by Michael J Sullivan

Three times they tried to kill her. Then a professional was hired. So was Riyria. When the last member of the oldest noble family in Avryn is targeted for assassination, Ri [...]

Series: The Ryria Chronicles #3
Published: 2015

Score: 90

Our rating: 9.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

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The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter

by Michael J Sullivan

A daughter vanishes. Two rogues are paid a fortune to find her. It isn't enough. When Gabriel Winter's daughter mysteriously disappears and is presumed dead, the we [...]

Series: The Ryria Chronicles #4
Published: 2017

Score: 80

Our rating: 8.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

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