Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: "Heir of Novron" by Michael J. Sullivan

When I began “Heir of Novron” ($14.99, Orbit), the final volume of Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations more than a month ago, I expected to have a review up in about a week. Life, though, often intervenes. Let it be known that the delay is no fault of the author, who has delivered another rousing adventure tale to end this enjoyable series.

Treachery is the name of the game in the first book, “Wintertide.” Princess Arista of Melengar travels to Aquesta, the seat of the new empire, in an attempt to free the Nationalist leader Degan Gaunt, also believed to be the legendary Heir of Novron, from his imprisonment and impending execution. Instead, she ends up as part of the entertainment at the upcoming Wintertide celebration, to be executed as the Witch of Melengar alongside Gaunt. The empress Modina, really a village girl named Thrace that church officials have set up as a puppet leader, is also to be married to a top church official. An accident is sure to follow the brief wedding. But the empress is more aware than they think and may have some surprises up her sleeve.

In the second book, “Percepliquis,” Sullivan’s rogue heroes Royce and Hadrian have to lead a quest into the ancient city of the title to retrieve a horn that only the Heir of Novron can blow to stop an invasion by an ancient enemy that is ravaging the countryside killing and destroying everything in their paths. Along the way, everything that we and our heroes think we know about their world might just get turned upside down. 

Sullivan ends the tale of his hero thieves Royce and Hadrian the same way he began it, with a rousing adventure tale. The tone by the end of the story is a bit darker than where the story started, but the action and fun are still the same.

It’s a little unfair at this point, though, to say that it’s the tale of Royce and Hadrian, because you’ve grown to love so many of the characters surrounding the two rogues. I became fond of even relatively minor characters, like the gang of street rats that Hadrian makes part of their band.

It’s also interesting, at the end of the series, to look back and see the way that it was built. Yes, there are a few surprises in this final volume, just as there were a few in the second volume. But looking back, you can see that Sullivan provided you with most everything that you needed to know to figure it out on your own, too. Clues to almost everything were sprinkled throughout the story, and in the end, it’s almost as fun to think about them all as it was to read the tale in the first place.

Yes, this is a classic fantasy tale, complete with magic, quests, elves, dwarves, kings, queens, thieves, knights, dragons and humble folk who turn out to be more than they appear. For some, those classic archetypes might be a turn off, but those people are missing an outstanding story. Sullivan doesn’t attempt to reinvent the genre or turn the archetypes on their heads, but what he does is create the kind of breathless adventure that reminds me why I fell in love with fantasy all those years ago. And that makes me love these books all the more.

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