Reviews: The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan & Flash Gold by Lindsay Buroker

Monday, May 9, 2011
Starting off with Riyria, this is specifically regarding the first three The Crown Conspiracy, Avempartha and Nyphron Rising, as I have yet to get my grabby hands on the last three. I read the three I own within successive three days. I was hooked from the first book and my addiction grew with each new entry in the series. Let's get started:

Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Genre: fantasy
Series: The Riyria Revelations #1
Published: October 2008
Pages: 296
Rating: 3.5/5

This is a terrific beginning to a sure-to-be very entertaining series. Sullivan starts off very well in his first published novel with the first of the Riyria Revelations. Conceived as a series of standalone books with a larger story linking characters and themes, each novel has its own plot, climax and resolution that are contained within the same novel.
A gang of likable rogues, most notably led by Royce Melborn and his buddy-cop-esque comrade Hadrian Blackwater (bonus points for using the name Hadrian!) are working in the city of Medford, using the nobility to fleece out targets; they are successful, entrepreneurial thieves. Both are dangerous, sarcastic and interesting characters. Royce is the more malevolent, withdrawn character of the two and has a rather mysterious, mostly unexplained dark past. He is sarcastic and caustic, giving the very real impression very little in life matters to him. Unlike him, his friend Hadrian is talkative, more open and easygoing and better with people in general. Hadrian supplies most of the light banter throughout the book and a lot of the humor as well. . Alric is the unwitting, untried Crown Prince of Melengar that gets caught up in the tangled web around the two thieves. Over the course of the events in the book, Alric matures a great deal and his character went from a selfish childish boy to an honorable man.
In terms of female characters, the options seem to be rather limited: Gwen, the clever and kind prostitute with a heart of gold, and Arista, the Princess of Melengar, a determined intelligent young woman. Gwen makes scant appearances in the novel but it is made clear she's much more than her profession. She's also clearly one of the few 'real' ties that Royce has with other people. Arista is more in the spotlight, being of the royal family and acting regent of her kingdom. She's capable, smart and daring enough to be the only one to search out the dangerous, inscrutable Esrahaddon. She doesn't rely on her position as princess to lead a vapid or shallow life, in fact, she's the first female to attend Sheridan University, studying magic. She's daring and slightly unconventional from normal 'fantasy' ideas of a princess, which is enjoyable and refreshing.
It's a fairly light fantasy series, as opposed to the darker, grittier (I'm really tired of that word as applied to fantasy books but yet can't think of a better) trend. It's very fluid and easy to read. The pacing is excellent; the exploits and adventures move the plot forward marvelously and without adding unnecessary action. The focus is clearly on the characters, the betrayals, alliances, secret meetings, rather than on world-building or giant armies marching into calamitous battle.
A very nice beginning to a fresh and vivid new series from a very promising author.

Title: Avempartha
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Genre: fantasy
Series: The Riyria Revelations #2
Published: April 2009
Pages: 331
Rating: 4/5

Avempartha is the second in this series of standalone novels called the Riyria Revelations, and picks up two years after the infamous escapades of Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater in Essendon castle. The first book was primarily about a simple sword heist that was not-so-simple at all and all the fall out from said sword-theft/assassination. The second book centers more on the machinations of the Church and whatever measures it deems it has to take to find the Heir and crown him as Emperor once more.
Avempartha is a fine sequel to The Crown Conspiracy, building on the knowledge of the world we have from the previous book to create an intricate, delicate and creative world. More backstory on the history of the world, the Empire, the devious Nyphron Church, the elves and dwarfs are all expanded upon from the first book, creating a credible and believable basis for a world-wide tension among all the races.
No longer in Alric's realm, we find our heroes in Colnora, a moderately sized city and the urban center of Avryn, where they are stunned to learn someone has been asking for them... by name. Investigating this anomaly, Royce and Hadrian find themselves enmeshed with a force even they cannot defeat alone. New employers are encountered, new foes to fight and of course, more intrigue to entangle me in these books. My personal favorites, the charming and funny Pickerings, also make an appearance in the novel with two scions of the House, Mauvin and Fanen, joining our intrepid rogues in an unprecedented showdown.
The Art, as magic is called in this universe, is expanded upon greatly from the information in the first book. We learn more about what used to be possible, how Art functioned and was needed in the days of the Empire to its sad decline to the state it is in during the novels. Esrahaddon, as inscrutable as ever, appears as a harbinger of evil? good? One is never certain what his end game is, who he is using and most of all, what he knows. Esra is by far the most dynamic character in the series thus far, though Hadrian is another personal favorite of mine.
Arista is another main character in this novel as Melengar's foreign diplomat and official Ambassador, but her brother Alric does not appear. Arista continues to grow into a flawed, intelligent and above all, believable character. At times frustrating, at times determined and likable, Arista continues to grow and change as a character. She challenges her brother and wants more from life than to be a wife and mother and will do whatever is necessary to achieve her aims. Royce and Hadrian and clearly the heart of the series. Their interactions and dialogues show clearly they are old friends that can count on each other, and in the end that's one of the things that keeps me coming back to this series, the relationship between Riyria.

The rest of the series after Avempartha is: Nyphron Rising (review to follow later in the week), The Emerald Storm, Wintertide and the forthcoming Perceliquipis. They're all fairly inexpensive on ereaders. The first four were under $5 each and the rest not much more that $6-$8.

Additionally, if you have a Nook, you should definitely search for Linday Buroker's Ice Cracker II. Or I even did it for you and all you have to do is click that link! Or even this one! Mine was free for the Nook on and though I've yet to read it yet, I was very impressed with Buroker's short steampunk novella Flash Gold.

Title: Flash Gold
Author: Lindsay Buroker
Genre: steampunk, novella
Series: N/A
Published: April 2011
Pages: 75 pages
Rating: 3.5/5

 My review of said novella:
A short, vastly entertaining steampunk short story with a sled dog race, betrayal, alchemy and contraptions unheard of.  With just enough action between enemies and interaction between our two lead characters, this story was a quick, pleasurable and engaging read.
Kali was just the right amount of feisty -- not enough to be obnoxious but no pushover -- clever, and believably self-reliant. Kali is smart and determined to win her race and get out of Moose Hollow forever.
The best part of the story is the chemistry, dialogue, and interaction between Kali and the cryptic Cedar, and the fluid, humorous narrative which moves along quickly. The action and tension build rapidly and keep your interest throughout. One of the main reasons I love steampunk (and at a larger view, fantasy) is because the author can be completely, uniquely creative and inventive and that's just what Buroker did here. Her Yukon is recognizable, but undeniably her own. This was a highly enjoyable novella that I would love to see expanded upon or succeeded by a follow-up. I would have rated this a 5-star book, but I just simply wanted more to the story; I need to know what Cedar's real name is! I want to know what Kali does with the rest of her father's legacy!'

I'm taking a break from Riyria (and A Song of Ice and Fire) and indulging in China Mieville's Embassytown now that its arrived. 


  1. Jessie, thanks for the nice review of Flash Gold and for giving my stories a try! :)

  2. Hey Jessie,
    I just wanted to drop by and thank you for such wonderful reviews of my first two books. I'm really glad you enjoyed them so much and I'm looking forward to your other review - You make me sound so good ;-)

    Thanks again, its always nice to find someone writing such complimentary things about your writing and for those people to take time out of their busy schedules to help spread the word. I really appreciate it.


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