Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan

(9.0/10) Fun fantasy full of wonderful characters, deadly conspiracies, and intricate action sequences.

Michael J. Sullivan is one of the most talked about authors around the fantasy community at the moment. His independently published six book series, The Riyria Revelations, has sold a bucket load of ebooks, and these big sales lead to a lucrative offer from Orbit.  The first two volumes, The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha, have been combined into an omnibus edition called Theft of Swords that introduces us to the world of Melengar and two thieves who somehow manage to become entangled in every wrong place at all the wrong times. Theft of Swords is a excellent addition to the fantasy genre, one that tells a fun and modern story with a traditional Tolkien styled setting, and one that you should not hesitate in adding to your library.

Theft of Swords begins with the assassination of a king, setting in motion a number of events that leads to the blame being laid squarely on our two heroes, Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, who were only in the area to steal a sword. While the two thieves battle to stay alive, making friends in high places and breaking into and out of some very secure locations, the church is making a play to unite Melengar under one banner, which would see them rule the world in the name of a long dead empire. As opposed to most multi-book series, the two volumes in Theft of Swords are very much two self contained stories with a distinct beginning, middle and end, while the overarching world domination storyline often plays second fiddle to the main story and is used more as a world building element than a plot element. These first two volumes are packed full of conspiracy and deception, Sullivan showing a rare deft touch to lead readers down the garden path with one hand while building a marvellous and complex story with the other hand. The pacing can get quite slow at times but the two stories are quite short and well placed action scenes flow so well that you end up getting pulled out of the slow scenes quite quickly. The humour balances the darker themes nicely, and the writing is very smooth, allowing you to easily become fully immersed in the story.

For such a complex story the immediate setting and world building is a little light, especially when compared to works from other popular authors like Sanderson, Weeks and Brett. There is a religion, there are some politics, and there is a rich history to the world, but Sullivan doles it out in very sparse doses, relying on the story and characters to do the majority of the grunt work. Some people may not like this, but I think it works very well for the type of story that Sullivan wants to tell and I imagine that by the time I get to Heir Of Novron I will have learned a great deal about this world without even realising it.

For all the strengths listed above, it is the characters that are the strongest part of this story. Royce is the brains of the operations, the practical realist who is short on sympathy as little has ever been afforded to him. Hadrian is the muscle of the operations and a foil for Royce in almost every way, being far more optimistic and much more sympathetic to the plight of others. As team Riyria they make a very formidable duo capable of breaking into the most secure strongholds and stealing just about anything. But there is far more to each of them than meets the eye, and not only is it evident to me as a reader, but it is also evident to the support characters who interact with them. Sullivan places his own spin on the traditional fantasy roles, with characters like Ezrahaddon the wizard and Arista the princess both departing significantly from what their traditional role says they should be. The dialogue and interactions between all these characters is snappy, witty, and feels very natural.

Theft of Swords is a fun fantasy full of wonderful characters, deadly conspiracies, and intricate action sequences. There isn't a great deal of original material, and you can easily describe this series as Scott Lynch meets J.R.R. Tolkien, but the way Sullivan puts all the material together and the way that he gets his characters to interact with that material makes this book feel fresh despite the familiarity. If you are a looking to start a new series that has already been completed, look no further than Theft of Swords and The Riyria Revelations.

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3 positive reader review(s) for Theft of Swords

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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Theft of Swords reader reviews

from USA

I first started this book and put it down within a few pages because I didn't like the overly detailed description of a stable yard and the environs. Silly, I know, but I did return to it and was rewarded by a very fun book to read. I tend to prefer character driven books as opposed to place driven books, as long as the plot works. This plot not only works well, but you can actually see where certain points might lead in the future, even though they may be barely addressed, the author gives you enough to see a glimmer of possibilities. All in all, I enjoyed this without reservation, and was able to suspend disbelief easily in order to temporarily inhabit this world.

from Canada

Absolutely fantastic!!!!!! One of my favorite series of all time!

from Austria

It is very good and it is exceptional and fantastic and amazing and beautiful and godly.

from Cambridge, UK

This is an enjoyable read. Aside from minor complaints about travelling sequences and repetative explanations of deep history my only significanct problem with the book is the lack of attention to the relationship between the two central characters. I like Royce and Hadrian well enough (Hadrian more than Royce, but I guess that is the point) Hadrian is the good natured big man who is pretty sharp most of the time, and Royce is the badass with a clearly dodgey past. All the scenes when they are on their own work really well. It is only when they act together that it doesn't feel quite right. They are supposed to be this near legendary (amongst thieves) partnership, but I just could not get a feel for how they related to each other. They are just two cool people doing stuff together. At no point in the book did I get the impression that they needed each other or could do things together that they could not do alone. This is a pretty big problem for a book of this nature and thus loses it three stars (the fourth is for the descriptive scenes which were pretty boring) So this review sounds fairly negative but that is just because I was focusing on what was wrong with the book and not what it did right. Sullivan has done something I really didn't think was possible which is write a powerful and mysterious wizard character that did not annoy me every time he was on screen. Not to mention the plot slowly ambling along in the background which is really sinister even if it is unsubtle at times. So yes I would recommend this book. It is not without flaws but for a series to read whilst waiting for the next big book in another series to come out (Mr Sanderson I am looking at you!) it is a gem.

8.6/10 from 5 reviews

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All reviews for Michael J Sullivan's The Riyria Revelations series

Theft of Swords

The Riyria Revelations #1 written 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 [...]

Published: 2012

Our rating: 9.0 | positive reader reviews

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Rise of Empire

The Riyria Revelations #2 written 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 [...]

Published: 2014

Our rating: 7.0 | positive reader reviews

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Heir of Novron

The Riyria Revelations #3 written 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 [...]

Published: 0000

Our rating: 8.0 | positive reader reviews

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More Michael J Sullivan reviews

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 | 0 positive reader reviews

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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 | 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 | 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 | 0 positive reader reviews

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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

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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

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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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