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Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Rise of Empire" by Michael Sullivan (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu and Cindy Hannikman)

Official Michael Sullivan Website
Order Rise of Empire HERE
Read FBC Review of Nyphron Rising
Read FBC Review of The Emerald Storm
Read FBC Review of Wintertide
Read FBC Review of The Viscount and the Witch
Read FBC Review of Theft of Swords HERE

INTRODUCTION: While we have reviewed the two books that form this omnibus close to their original small press publication, I am re-posting the reviews below. The official (US) publication date of the novel is December 14 but the book is available in stores today as I've just seen it in our local B&N here in Ann Arbor, while Amazon also lists it as available.

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Original 2010 Review of Nyphron Rising:

INTRODUCTION: In the space of a short year and a half, Michael Sullivan has moved from a small press debut author that featured in one of my first "Indie Spotlight Reviews" to a "name" in the fantasy field who sold-out his first novel and is getting both critical acclaim and fan appreciation.

So much so, that when I was doing my "2009 Remarkable Small Press Reads", I never even thought of including his superb novels there despite that they technically qualified. Instead in my end-of-the-year rankings, Avempartha went head to head against the "big names" and made both my Top 2009 Books list and Cindy's Top 2009 Book list, while The Crown Conspiracy made Mihir's Top 2009 Reads too. If you have not done so, read the series to date in order to see why, while Nyphron Rising is another great addition to it.

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: "Nyphron Rising" stands at about 350 pages divided into 17 named chapters that mainly follow our four main POV's: Royce, Hadrian, Arista and Thrace aka Modina. The novel starts with two detailed maps of the world and ends with a line that will only heighten the interest for what's next. While The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha were mostly standalone adventure, though they started putting in place the elements of the "big-picture", "Nyphron Rising" gets into the heart of the main story of the series, starting three main threads that presumably will converge later on.

After the more adventure-like first two installments, the series moves firmly into epic territory here and while the building block nature of the novel means that it will be fully appreciated only together with at least the next installment "The Emerald Storm", "Nyphron Rising" moves the series toward the top-line of current fantasy offerings.

ANALYSIS/Cindy: Something about Michael Sullivan's writing has intrigued me from the start. I have been captivated with this series ever since the first two books came out. Nyphron Rising was something I was looking forward to for a while. I had really high expectations for this book, however it's a bit "out of the box" from the other two novels in this series.

Michael Sullivan is a masterful storyteller. The world and action that he has build up in his series is amazing. What's even more amazing is that it was done without having to make the book 600+ pages. Like all great storytellers at some point there has to be a step back from all the action and quest hopping to focus on a major key element in a series: the characters. Nyphron Rising is that book in the series that steps back and develops characterization in favor of a bunch of action sequences.

At first glance it might appear a bit odd that a middle novel would focus upon going back and looking at where the main characters come from and look further into the background that was hinted at within the first two novels, but it oddly fits with the series. If the series focused on non stop action there would be a lack of characterization. if characterization was focused on there would be a lack of action. It seems appropriate that after two up front novels there would be a calmer setting to the third book.

I look at Nyphron Rising almost like a bridge to the other novels to come in this series. It's a bit more toned down as far as action but very important to the series. It builds up the characters, yet at the same time starts paving the way for the future novels. While at first glance it might not seem important without it the series wouldn't hold up as well as it does without this type of novel.

Sullivan does an excellent job of fleshing out the characters from the information readers were presented with in the first two novels, yet is able to move the story along without it appearing the plot is growing stale. In a way this approach has made me even more attracted to this series as I can truly say this has all the elements to make it an epic fantasy series.

Although the Riyria Revelations is built up as a group of stand alone novels with common threads. It really is best to have read the first two novels as I don't feel a reader can fully appreciate what is going on or the build up for some of the plots. There are thread lines that have just started and are not resolved so in my eyes it's at the point where it could no longer be a stand alone.

Since the bar was set so high with the first two books it might appear as though Nyphron Rising doesn't match up to the previous two books, but that isn't the case at all. It just takes a different approach then the previous novels. This novel is still just as much of a page turner and attention grabbing as the other two. The events in this book have set me up to wait anxiously for the next book. I can't wait to see what happens and where Michael Sullivan will take his readers.

Liviu's short take: In hindsight I realize that I failed to fully appreciate Nyphron Rising the first time because it took the series to a different place than I expected after Avempartha which now reads more like a standalone as The Crown Conspiracy was; Nyphron Rising finally starts the maneuvers at the heart of the big-picture in the series and on re-read, a lot is much clearer; while the Thrace/Modina thread is not fully formed and Royce and Hadrian have more of an exploratory/back-story role here, though of course they have an adventure or two, the one following Arista is just superb and the ending line of the novel is for the ages.

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Original 2010 Review of The Emerald Storm:

INTRODUCTION:In the space of a short year and a half, Michael Sullivan has moved from a small press debut author that featured in one of my first "Indie Spotlight Reviews" to a "name" in the fantasy field who sold-out his first novel and is getting both critical acclaim and fan appreciation. In my 2009 end-of-the-year rankings, Avempartha went head to head against the "big names" and made both my Top 2009 Books list and Cindy's Top 2009 Book list, while The Crown Conspiracy made Mihir's Top 2009 Reads too.

"Nyphron Rising" started the epic part of the series which had a lot of ground prepared in The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha which were mostly standalone adventures, but here in "The Emerald Storm" the series ramps up considerably and "Wintertide" became of of my top five titles of the second part of the year.

FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION: "The Emerald Storm" stands at about 400 pages divided into 26 named chapters that mainly follow our four main POV's: Royce, Hadrian, Arista and Thrace aka Modina, alternating between the adventures of Royce and Hadrian and the ones of Arista and Thrace. The novel starts with two detailed maps of the world and ends with a chapter that by itself shows how the series evolved to fulfill its early promise.

While "Nyphron Rising" started getting into the heart of the main story of the series, here the plot thickens, the world expands and we have action from the high seas, to the jungle, to the den of a barbarian warlord with allies in unexpected places and of course to the palace of the "Empress" where the main movers and shakers plot their takeover.

ANALYSIS: Cindy:
When setting out to write a series as Michael Sullivan has it can be quite an undertaking. The ability to keep the momentum going and not lose interest in the process can be very hard. Luckily Sullivan has done just that. In the fourth installment of the Riyria Revelations, the series is still running strong, possibly stronger now then when it first started.

When I read Crown Conspiracy I was amazed at this debut novel. Readers are now on the fourth title, and Sullivan still knows how to amaze readers with every twist and turn of the series. Every element that makes up an epic series is manifesting itself within these novels. After reading Nyphron Rising which gave everyone a bit more background and fleshed out the characters I was prepared to jump into Emerald Storm.

Emerald Storm has the gripping qualities that made me first enjoy this series. It's quick moving, action packed, but also character driven. There's a hard balance between action and character development, but Sullivan finds out to balance the two and not drag down the novel with lengthy paragraphs or time consuming character development. The main appeal to this whole series is just how natural the characters are developing, and really how each character grows as the series moves on. The bit of a darker approach to some of the aspects in the series was a nice touch. All threads that have been developing in the past 2 books are starting to really form and take shape, and that it what makes Emerald Storm so spectacular.

Every time I finish a book in this series it makes me want the next one instantly. As stated in Nyphron Rising review, the novels could be read as each individual book really doesn't properly show the whole picture without reading the series together. Emerald Storm would be a rough read if one didn't know the background, not an impossible read but it'd be a bit rough if you hadn't read the other books.

For those that are veteran readers of fantasy there is a little plot twist that will spice up a bit of the novels and makes the next novel something that readers will be waiting in anticipation for.

Michael Sullivan shows that he isn't just a one book wonder, or that his other novels were random hits. His Riyria Revelations series is taking shape very nicely, and it'll be amazing to watch where he takes the other novels after this because with each novel there is a new surprise or approach to his writing.


Liviu: "The Emerald Storm" was awesome and it finally realizes the strong potential of the Ryria series; it also made me reconsider Nyphron Rising which sets this one up and reads much more fulfilling once we can continue the story started there.

The part cliffhanger ending makes Wintertide a big asap, but "The Emerald Storm" sits well on its own and lots of things happen, while we have great, great stuff in opening more the world and exploring stranger parts of it, duels, magic, suspense and even the weaker Modina thread started getting much better; the super-twist at the end left me stunned since I really did not see it coming; also the novel is considerably darker than the rest and while it's no spoiler to know that the main characters (Royce, Arista, Hadrian) survive, the body count including secondary but interesting characters is rising.

"The Emerald Storm" is an A++ and a top fantasy of 2010.

1 comments:

Anthony Fox said...

Michael J. Sullivan is a striking talent and I'm happy to see him so productive. His work is a pleasure to read.

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