The Crown Tower by Michael J Sullivan (The Ryria Chronicles #1)

I’m not the greatest at reading books if they are not recently published. Oftentimes they will sit on my shelves for years at a time, before I finally get to them – regardless of whether I’ve read the author before or not.

Towards the end of 2013 I ploughed through all three of Michael J Sullivan’s ‘The Riyria Revelations’ series. Each rated relatively highly, but again, just like my recent experience with Brian McClellan’s ‘The Crimson Campaign’, I didn’t remember any of the negative things I had commented on in my reviews – only that I loved the story.

With a slight lull in what I wanted to read the last week, I finally picked up ‘The Riyria Chronicles’ books – ‘The Crown Tower’ and ‘The Rose and the Thorn’, prequels to the Riyria Revelation series.

Many authors writing prequels to their own work will get wrapped up in servicing all the fans who have read their work, working in hints and outright stage-plays referring back to the original stories. In the end, it reads like the Star Wars prequels watch – like a series of nods to the audience strung together with a makeshift plot.

Not so, Michael J Sullivan. In fact, in reading The Riyria Revelations, I am dead-set about to jump back into the original trilogy, because this man can write!!

Like maybe the best prequels should be, they tell a story I didn’t need them to tell. (If you needed a prequel for your series, then you probably should have made that your first book.) I didn’t even know I needed a prequel for Royce and Hadrian, the two mercenary-thieves who make up the dynamic duo of Riyria, a dangerous assassin/thief and a soldier with a preternatural ability with the blade.

But, regardless, there had been mention of their escapades with the Crown Tower throughout the original trilogy, and getting a chance to see into that particular caper was absolutely fantastic!

Hadrian is exactly the naïve and simplistic country boy-turned fighter you figured he would have been before meeting Royce, who in turn is exactly the deadly loner you expected him to have been before he met Hadrian. Watching Michael J Sullivan bring these two together, however, is a work of pure art. There is no stretching, no convenient plot twisting by the author to make things happen that don’t fit – this story deserved to be told because it was told so well!

It’s fast-paced, at times funny, at times violent, and the two lead characters (as well as a few supporting ones) are so immediately fascinating that it’s somewhat hard to believe this is fiction. Add to that Sullivan’s absolute mastery of the writing craft (there are some lines which are so brilliantly phrased that it leaves me at once astonished and laughing out loud) and volume one of the Riyria Chonicles is an absolute must for anyone who reads fantasy.

As Sullivan says in his introduction, you don’t need to have read the original trilogy – and I don’t know which way I would recommend; original trilogy first or prequels – I guess it’ll be up to you. But do me a favour, and pick them up now!

9/10 An absolute must for anyone who reads fantasy.

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