Sunday, January 31, 2010

Review - "The Crown Conspiracy" by Michael J. Sullivan

Occasional SFF reviewer Lisa Hurley is back with an excellent review of The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan, the first book in the Riyria Revelations medieval fantasy series. The Riyria Revelations is a six-book fantasy series conceived as a single epic tale divided into individual episodes. All were written before the first was released so that plot elements are intertwined, yet each is self-contained and can be read independently. With this series you will not be held hostage to read the next one--you will simply want to. The second book: Avempartha was released in April 2009, the third: Nyphron Rising in November 2009, and the fourth book: The Emerald Storm will be available in April 2010.

There's no ancient evil to defeat, no orphan destined for greatness, just two guys in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles until they become the unwitting scapegoats in a plot to murder the king. Sentenced to death, they have only one way out…and so begins this epic tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.
As the first book in a larger series, I was expecting The Crown Conspiracy to be a bit sluggish, packed full of lengthy exposition and tedious descriptions of the physical appearance of the characters. (Maybe I've been reading a little too much Robert Jordon.) However, this book was anything but sluggish.

Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn are two unlikely heroes, whose day to day method of business is doing dirty work for the nobles of Melengar, and occasionally ripping them off in the process. They are thrown into the wrong situation at the worst of possible times, and end up on a journey with the prince of Melengar, a monk with an excellent memory, and the task of staying alive. Most of the characters are easy to like (or to loathe), and the reader is swiftly invested in the fate of Hadrian and Royce, making the ingenious plot twists seem very suspenseful.

The story begins with a wonderful first line, something I love a book to have.
Archibald Ballentyne held the world in his hands, convieniently contained within fifteen stolen letters.
It continues to develop at a good pace, and the plot is layered and intriguing, really engaging the reader to put the pieces together and figure out what's really going on. Sullivan's real talents lie in character development and dialogue, the latter of which was really delightful. Royce and Hadrian have a great repartee, and the monk, Myron, has some memorable lines of his own. On seeing a woman for only the second time in his life and just recovering from the discovery that horses come in more than one color:
"Oh my, I don't even think of horses when I look at her!" 
I often chuckled at Myron's reactions to the everyday world he was never a part of, having lived in single monastery his whole life.

The author holds back a bit regarding the backgrounds of some of the other characters - namely Royce and Hadrian. We know Royce is a thief, and quite mysterious most of the time, when he isn't teasing Hadrian or performing a great feat of thievery. We know Hadrian is a mercenary who follows a certain code of honor, which is important, because Royce sometimes needs someone to remind him to be honorable. There are hints throughout the book that there is a lot more to these two characters than we have seen, and I'm excited to see how they develop in the books to come.

Overall this book is a great start to a series, and certainly a wonderful piece of writing. There is an element of fantasy, but it manages to stay grounded very much in reality, even with the occasional presence of a dwarf, elf, or wizard. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a bit of medieval fantasy, mystery, and action. I will certainly be itching to read the next installment!


Read an excerpt.

Ridan Publishing
Published: October 2008
Format: Paperback
Pages: 310
ISBN #: 9780979621135

The Riyiria Revelations Series:
  1. The Crown Conspiracy (2008)
  2. Avempartha (2009)
  3. Nyphron Rising (2009)
  4. The Emerald Storm (April 2010)
  5. Wintertide (October 2010)
  6. Percepliquis (2011)


  1. Hi Lisa and Doug!

    I love that first line, it's a real grabber. I'm going to look for this series, maybe Amazon or the library, but it's definitely going on the TBB list. Sounds great!! Thanks for sharing!

    Dottie :)

  2. I am so glad you enjoyed this book. I have really enjoyed both book 1 and 2. (I have the reviews up on my blog.) I am currently at this moment reading book 3 - Nyphron Rising. I am loving it as well. I just have to say any suspicions you have of the two will be answered in the books to come and more questions given to make you think on them and others more.

    I love how these books really are stories in them selves, and there is an underlieing thread that works all the books together into a bigger picture.

    Hope you enjoy them all!

  3. Thank you for the review. This will be a nice change of pace for me, I'm getting burned out on vampires. I will totally be picking this up when I sneak of to the bookstore this weekend.

  4. Great Review - thanks for posting. I'm happy to announce that Michael has sold out of his first printing. The bad news of course is it will be difficult to get this book for awhile...but you can order signed copies direct from the author from this page:

    (And they will still be first editions)

    As soon as the second printing is available I will post and let you know.

  5. Hi Dottie, I love a story about scoundrels. I think these characters qualify.

    Melissa I hope to read them myself once Lisa is done.

    Tiah like they say sometimes a change is as good as a break. It's nice to switch up on genres sometimes, but then I love SFF too.

    Susan I appreciate the update. Signed copies are always a treat and worth the effort.

  6. I've been checking out all the different reviews for this book, and all of them seem to have only good things to say. I think I'll be buying it soon.

    Great review!

  7. Simcha I had seen many of the same reviews so when Michael Sullivan offered the book for review it was an easy YES!

  8. The second edition is now live on Amazon (it will take some time to propogate through other channels) the "old version" is showing out of stock but if you use this link you'll get to the second printing version:


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