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Thursday, November 27, 2008

INDIE SPOTLIGHT: “The Crown Conspiracy” by Michael Sullivan (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

Official Michael Sullivan Website
Order “The Crown Conspiracy
Read An Excerpt HERE

INTRODUCTION: Michael Sullivan’s debut novel, “The Crown Conspiracy”—the first in a planned six-volume epic fantasy series called The Riyria Revelations—has attracted a growing following since its recent publication by indie publisher, Aspirations Media Inc. After reading an excerpt on Mr. Sullivan's website, I decided to give the book a try and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun and page turning “The Crown Conspiracy” turned out to be…

SETTING: On the alternate Earth-like planet of Elan, the Novronian Empire of legend has sundered centuries ago into many different states. This was supposedly due to the machinations of the dastardly wizard and traitor Esrahaddon. The imperial Nyphron Church and its various loyalist nobles and knight orders have been looking for the mythical “Heir” to the Empire for almost a thousand years now. In the meantime, the kingdoms that coalesced on the Empire's territory developed Nationalist movements of their own opposed to the Imperialist goals and the monks dedicated to the god Maribor that predated Empire and Church.

One such kingdom is Melegar, and when its ruling king is murdered, the young Crown Prince Alric and his older sister Arista—who would be Queen if her brother should die—are thrust into the limelight and a brutal struggle for power that may have much greater implications for the “big picture” than whoever governs a minor kingdom.

Archibald Ballentyne is a very ambitious second-tier noble from the neighboring kingdom of Ghent—not that he harbors any particular loyalty to “his” king—and is willing to do whatever shady deals he can to advance.

Royce and Hadrian are a freelance “object/documents” acquisition and recovery team. In other words, Royce is a skilled thief with a mysterious past while Hadrian is a very good fighter who excels with the sword and bow. Using an impoverished noble as a front man, they peddle their trade to the high & mighty and anyone that can pay, outside of the Protection/Underground Guilds extant in most towns.

Lastly, Myron is a noble born “nerdish” monk of Maribor whose abbey has the misfortune of incurring the wrath of powerful enemies…

FORMAT/INFO:The Crown Conspiracy” stands at 296 pages divided over ten named parts, each subdivided into several numbered chapters. Included at the beginning of the book is a map which is also available on the author's website, as well as a table of contents. The action takes place mostly in the novel’s present-tense and is narrated in the third-person via several POVs, most notably Royce and Hadrian, with Archibald, Myron, Alric and Arista having good chunks of face time too. The ending is very good, wrapping up the main threads of the novel, but as with any opening volume in a series, the big-picture events are just now starting to impact our heroes.

October 1, 2008 marks the Paperback Publication of “The Crown Conspiracy” via
Aspirations Media Inc. Cover art is provided by the author himself, Michael Sullivan.

PLOT HINTS AND ANALYSIS:The Crown Conspiracy” starts with a caper in Archibald Ballentyne's castle and stays on a roll from there to the end. We first meet Royce and Hadrian when they frustrate one of Archibald's machinations—which they originally helped get started by stealing some letters—but what's better than getting paid again even more handsomely to restore those very same letters to their rightful owner?

Of course this kind of double-cross dealing with the high & mighty comes with a risk as Royce and Hadrian find themselves framed and imprisoned to be tortured and executed for the death of the King of Melegar, which they believed was a lucrative “mercy” job for an endangered noble. Luckily, Princess Arista—for reasons of her own which may or may not be the selfless ones she claims—helps them escape with the new King Alric in tow as a hostage/protégée.

Embarking on a journey to find the mythical wizard Esrahaddon—who supposedly still lives after almost a thousand years imprisoned in a hidden prison built by dwarves and is the only one who can help AlricRoyce, Hadrian and the new king hooks up with Myron whose knowledge of arcane rituals and ancient text is important to their quest, while Arista remains behind as Queen Regent of Melegar. Or perhaps, she plans on killing them all in secret and becoming the rightful Queen of Melegar

While Royce and Hadrian start off as stereotypical fantasy characters—a thief and a fighter—that we see in so many genre novels, as we slowly get to know them, they start to develop a distinctive identity of their own. And that is also true of the other main characters Alric, Arista and Myron who all grow with the unfolding events, while the rogue Archimbald is great fun in all of his appearances. There are several other notable characters as well, but I don’t want to give out any more spoilers…

In conclusion, “The Crown Conspiracy” is great fun and a romp end to end. It's a very fast read and I finished it in one sitting. Its characters grow on you and the series has great potential to develop since Book One only explores a relatively small part of the wonderful imagined world of Michael Sullivan, and I am really looking forward to reading Book Two, “Avempartha”, out in April 2009.

Highly recommended and another positive surprise for 2008, I hope Mr. Sullivan enjoys the success he deserves and that we get to see all of the planned volumes in The Riyria Revelations


Mihai A. said...

Very nice review, Liviu :) And I believe I would have passed this title if it weren't your review ;)

Anonymous said...

I am nearly speachless (and anyone who knows me that is a hard thing to do). I want to thank Robert and Liviu for what I think is a work of art in and of it self. I was captivated reading the review. And I'm so impressed that they have picked up on things that are exposed in more depth as the series unfolds.

I can't imagine how difficult it is to write a review that gives the right flavor of the novel and yet does not spoil things for the reader - you could not have done a better job.

I thank you so much for this exceptional review.

Robin Sullivan - Wife of author Michael Sullivan

Liviu said...

Actually I would have missed this very entertaining book too, were not for Robert bringing it to my attention.

The upside of writing reviews for pleasure is that I choose to do only the books I truly like and I am unapologetic about that.

I have an extensive list on Goodreads of books I did not like, or was only so-so about, but why waste energy doing a review about such when there are so many wonderful books out there that deserve as wide an audience as possible.

Mihai A. said...

Liviu, I understand you perfectly. Anyway, I try to limit my readings I know I will like, but sometimes I get some bad or so-so reads. Fortunately enough the majority is made by the good ones. And with the help of Robert and yours I find those I miss in the first place :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent review of an outstanding novel. I have been a huge fan of "The Crown Conspiracy" after reading an excerpt on Michael's web site.

I can hardly wait to read the next book in the series.

Dee Marie

Anonymous said...

Sounds really good, the POV of the excerpt reminds me of the Lies of Locke Lamora.

Added to the ToBuy list

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