Age of Legend – by Michael J. Sullivan (Review)

Legends of the First Empire #4

Fantasy, Epic

Grim Oak Press; July 9, 2019

361 pages (ebook)

4.5 / 5 ✪

I was kindly furnished with a copy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to both Grim Oak Press, Michael J. Sullivan, and NetGalley for the review copy! All opinions are my own. Sorry it took so long.

I read Age of Myth for the 2nd time this spring, and though I did like it I was somewhat underwhelmed. Pretty much the way I’d felt upon reading it for the first time. Reading the Age of Swords soon after strengthened this feeling. While I’d enjoyed the first book, the second annoyed more than thrilled me. I mean, it still had the action, the adventure, the discovery… but there was something missing. Kinda how the Crown Conspiracy or the Rose and Thorn compares to the other Riryia books. They’re good, just kinda bland when compared to Sullivan’s other stuff. Then I read the Age of War.

The week I spent on it consisted of five days to reach the 200 page mark. The last day and a half were spent on the remainder. And once finished, I threw the book against the wall. So, I guess I can’t say I wasn’t invested in it. I hated the ending—loathed it—but while that didn’t ruin the entire story before it, it did make me put off reading the next one for a bit.

Until just recently.

Age of Legend is the 4th of 6 books in the Legends of the First Empire series. It follows the events of Age of War in three parts. The first takes place directly after the AoW, the second following a year later. Both the 1st and 2nd parts are abbreviated, totaling a quarter of the text combined. Part three—set five years after AoW—is where the real meat of the story is, though #1 and #2 help set up the telling of it. Personally, I found the first and second parts a bit dry, but also rather dark. It begins a good blend of darkness and despair, hope and love, that honestly a bit surprised me. I’ve known Michael J. Sullivan to write the latter pair, with maybe a sprinkling of the former. This is a fairly equal balance.

Fresh off the battle featured in AoW, by AoL the war is on in full. And it is a grind. Longer than either side anticipated, and a great deal bloodier. I was actually surprised at how thickly Sullivan laid the feeling of war on—familiarizing the reader with blood, death and hopelessness early on, so that they could possibly grasp the events following many years of it. Early on, Persephone, Suri and Brin star. Later on in the tale, Seph’s role fades only to be replaced by others—including one I hadn’t expected. And kinda forgot about. Brin and Suri dominate this book, but share time with regulars like Tesh, Gifford, Moya and others. Along with some new faces.

The war between ‘men and Fhrey has reached a standstill. While the humans have managed to push the elves back to their homeland, they cannot reach any farther. And while the elves have managed to stop the ‘men at the river, they cannot push the humans back. Both sides are searching for an upper hand. And some few within are still hoping for peace. But one faction may yet get what they desire—only, which one?

The latter half of the tale features desperation, a betrayal, and an overwhelming dread, followed by an unlikely savior—well, two, really—along with more than a few startling revelations. Even better, while the ending annoyed me, it didn’t make me throw this book at a wall. Which was great, considering I was reading an ebook. Also, it was for a completely different reason. The same reason, in fact, that made the lull between Wintertide and Persepolis intolerable: a cliffhanger. Had I read this several months before, I would’ve been more angry. But with Age of Death on hand, I find myself oddly forgiving of the behavior. Mostly.

In fact, the entirety of my problems with this book include the slow, dry start and the cliffhanger at the end. And nothing in-between. Frankly, I LOVED AoL, and am finally invested in this series after Book 4.

The character development and arcs are impressive, as both Fhrey and Humans feature equally. Suri’s story was easily my favorite, but I won’t sell anyone else’s short. Worldbuilding continues to be a strong element of Sullivan’s books, but it’s the characters themselves that steal the show. I’m even getting to the point where I can stand Roan, now that she’s let off on cheapening human ingenuity. And while both Brin and Suri go through a lot, a few other characters impressed me with their depth. There was one especially lovely part further on in the story, built to accommodate just me, I’m assuming. As I’m really trying to avoid spoilers here, let me just say that it was quite heartwarming and leave it at that.

The adventure is back in AoL; something that, while Sullivan tried in AoM and AoS, I feel like he failed to deliver on. A merry little quest, doomed with failure before its very start. Years before, in fact. It is this harrowing quest that ends with a cliffhanger, this Fellowship upon which everything rests. Wait, no. Not the fate of Middle Earth, but close.

Ish.

TL;DR

Age of Legend is an impressive read. A little bit dark, a little sweet, with an adventure thrown in—all of it beneath the dark cloud of war. Coming out of AoS and AoW, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue reading the series. And now, I honestly can’t wait to see where it goes from here. While the worldbuilding and storytelling is strong, the characters are where AoL shine. The growth and development of Suri, Tressa, Tesh and Brin all had me interested, such that I really didn’t end up dreading anyone’s chapters. A bit dry at first, the pace quickly sped up, leading to the patented Sullivan cliffhanger. Luckily, with Age of Death now out, there’s no waiting on the conclusion. If you read this on its release, however… it would’ve been quite a pain. Though set during wartime, AoL provides a nice balance of action and diplomacy to get you to its latter half, where the adventure abounds. If you decided to stop after the first three books, maybe check AoL out. If you’ve yet to start it and want to know if it’s worth it in full… eh, dunno. Let me read Age of Death and I’ll get back to you.

Age of Death released via Kickstarter in October. The official release is on February 4th, 2020. Age of Empyre, the final entry in the series, is set for another Kickstarter sometime in January 2020.

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