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

Legends of the First Empire #6

Epic, Fantasy

Riyria Enterprises; May 5, 2020

366 pages (ebook)

4.4 / 5 ✪

GoodreadsAuthor Website

Beware: Spoilers for the previous Legends of the First Empire through Age of Death!

“You’re taller than I remember.”
“I grew up.”
He made a disapproving sound in his throat. “You should try to avoid that in the future.”
“Well, I’m dead, so that shouldn’t be too difficult.”

The epic conclusion to the Legends of the First Empire does not disappoint! While I was torn on the first three (I threw TWO at the wall, and took a month to read the third), the next two absolutely wowed me. The third does a great job of concluding the overarching story of the war between the Rhunes and the Fhrey, and the establishment of the First Empire. Just keep in mind that it’s called the Legends of the First Empire for a reason; the events within occurred so long ago (3000 years, I think) that they’ve become, well, legends. Though I certainly knew what to expect in general (it IS a prequel to Riyria, obviously, so it can’t be too much of a surprise for any veterans of those books), Empyre does provide a few twists and turns, along with some events that actually took me by surprise. It’s like the legend of King Arthur or Robin Hood that often changes in each telling. The broad strokes may be the same—but legends in the making can be quite different than how they turn out on the page.

With over half our cast still dead, the living fight so that those gone may yet have a world to return to. But the war has taken its toll. Dissent and hopelessness are on the rise on both sides of the conflict. Currently on the losing side, the Fhrey have paid an unbelievable price to gain the upper hand. But even as humanity prepares to retreat, the price proves too high for some in the Fhrey, and a desperate gamble is taken. A gamble that relies on two artists, a certain prince, and a mission that was doomed from the start. But with Brin and the other yet to escape the afterlife, all hope may’ve well and truly died (ha).

But there’s a twist. Tressa—as it will surprise no one—has been lying. And when the objective of their quest changes yet again, our heroes may yet have a hope of completing their mission. All they have to do is find their way back to life.

I tried to keep the blurb as vague as possible here. Being a six-book series (or “hexalogy”), there’s no telling where anyone will be now. And be it book four, book two, done for some months, not yet begun, not yet interested in beginning, or anywhere in-between—I don’t want to exclude anyone. That being said, there are definitely some spoilers, so if you’ve read this far… you’ve already noticed a few.

Having read the Riyria, I knew generally what to expect, though Sullivan does point out that these are LEGENDS. Like the stories of King Arthur, Beowulf, or Robin Hood. Something that has well before faded from memory and become legend. To this end, I’ve seen a few reviewers complaining that it’s different than what Riyria led them to believe. There’s bound to be some change in the story just from each telling. Sullivan does justify this further within, but I’ll leave it here. But as a side note, there are others that expected each character to have their own proper ending. This doesn’t happen. And in general, it didn’t bother me. The story wraps up the war and the establishment of the First Empire nicely. While I would’ve liked an afterward to glimpse just what what everyone got up to post-hexalogy—it really isn’t necessary. The conclusion is satisfying how it is. And that’s enough.

The main thing that annoyed me in Empyre was that Brin is credited with inventing writing. Technically it’s said before now, but Empyre refers to it a lot. Seeing as how she copied the writing from some ancient tablets she found in the Agave (in Age of Swords)—she didn’t invent it. Honestly, this probably wouldn’t’ve annoyed me so much, but Sullivan again tries to justify that it’s HER invention, even saying repeatedly (even after we find out who MADE the tablets from the Agave) that Brin had invented them. Even after the writing is noticed on the Horn of Gylindora, which predates Brin by millennia, the author still attempts to give her credit through a conversation with the Fhrey the Horn belonged to, in the land of the dead.

“To most, it looks like a battered ram’s horn. But it has markings on it.”
“Writing?”
The Fhrey nodded. “No one knows that—not yet. Right now, everyone thinks they’re just decorative markings. Some might even speculate they’re magic runes like the Orinfar. But in fact, they are words—words you can read.”
“How is that possible?”
“Because you invented the language they’re written in.”

So… his argument here is what—time travel? I don’t understand how—or why—Sullivan keeps trying to justify this. It doesn’t make any sense! Brin’s a badass anyway, she doesn’t need this extra bit. Rediscovering a lost writing system is just as impressive as inventing a new one, at least in my opinion. This is just another invention (e.g. the bow, wheels, pockets, etc) he tries to claim over the course of the series, a trend which I (very) quickly tired of.

As usual, the language is common, relaxed, not trying to reinvent anything, nor replicate that of olde. Therefore it’s quite easy to read, and quickly. I’ve always loved how well Sullivan blends action, excitement, and humor, which paves the way for quite a few memorable quotes.

“You can’t fight all of them,” Maya told him.
“Of course I can. I’m a Galantian. I’m not guaranteeing I’ll win, but I’ll try.”
“All by yourself?”
“What’re you talking about? You’ll help. And I have the Great Rain with me, and he’s got that sweet new sword.”
Rain looked like he might be sick.

The worldbuilding is as impressive as ever—particularly so considering we’re on the sixth book of the third series set on Elan (the SIXTEENTH book overall). While the First Empire is a prequel series, much of the land is undeveloped, but still memorable, though Sullivan doesn’t take quite as much pains as previous books to paint us a lovely word-picture. Of Elan, at least. The underworld, however, was easy to picture, and even sent my imagination running through its description. The characters—as usual—are amazing. Tesh, Brin, Moya, Gifford, Roan, Rain, Tekchin, Nyphron, Persephone, Suri, Mawyndulë, Imaly and even more have been fleshed out by this point. Any one of these characters probably could’ve carried the story on their own, but instead all of them meld together to create a truly epic narrative. There are even a few surprise appearances within that help the tale along. Not that it needs any help, mind.

TL;DR

An epic conclusion befitting of an epic series: Age of Empyre tells the story it sets out to and more, concluding the Legends of the First Empire in a blaze of action, adventure, and flair. While it may not appear exactly as you imagined it from the Riyria days, this hexalogy bears the title “Legends” for a reason. The plot alone provides more than enough justification to read this one—with so many threads converging at this point, it’s an epic conclusion to be sure! Meanwhile the worldbuilding and characters continue to wow, with each detail better than the last. A few hiccups remain—the group ending didn’t really appeal to me the way a personal one would’ve; and one of the story’s key points seriously tries to pitch time-travel as a justification. But, as with the latter half of the hexalogy, the pros well outweigh the cons. Plus, let’s face it—if you’ve gotten this far into Legends of the First Empire—are you really going to skip the final book? Really? Yeah, uh huh.

On Tap 5/30

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Up Next

• Age of Empyre – by Michael J. Sullivan

The sixth and final book in the Legends of the First Empire series, now we find out what two consecutive cliffhangers have set in motion. And whether or not Suri is the Heir of Novron. Or… right?

It’s been a scifi heavy month for me. Which is a wee bit odd, as I think it’s fantasy month everywhere else. But sometimes that’s how things go.

Obviously the world’s still not in its best place, but that seems the norm nowadays, sadly. Hopefully we get it together here soon. Otherwise, my little corner of nowhere’s been pretty quiet. Still sick, but it ain’t COVID, so that’s good. But it’s been stirring up lately with my allergies and my anxiety and reflux and everything, so it’s been tough to figure what I have, exactly. But it’ll get better. Anyway what’s everyone else reading? Anything I need to get to? Let me know!

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

Legends of the First Empire #1

Epic, Fantasy

Del Rey; June 28, 2016

387 pages (HC)

4.0 / 5 ✪

Since the dawn of time, humans have worshipped the Fhrey as gods, never before crossing the Bern or North Branch Rivers into the green lands beyond, which their gods inhabit. In fact, none have dared cross these bounds, instead staying on the barren stretch of land north of the Broken Lands which constitutes Rhulyn. Not, at least, until recently.

Raithe currently wishes he’d not broken this particular tradition. After just crossing to a small islet at the junction of the two rivers, a god appeared, killed his father, and prepared to kill Raithe himself. Except that he killed it first. A god. Dead. By his hand. It was quite perplexing, to be honest.

From here, Raithe and Malcolm—a human servant, formerly of the Fhrey—turn south, fleeing the old gods wrath. Meanwhile, Persephone, wife to the Chief of Dal Rhen for the last 20 years, has just been widowed. And with her husband following their son into the afterlife, she awaits the passing of the mantle that will fade her into obscurity. And yet, it’s hard to just let it happen. So when the mystic girl Suri comes bringing portents of their impending doom, Persephone takes it upon herself to keep them safe. The Fhrey are on the warpath, and no Rhune is safe from them. But just when the light is fading and all hope is lost—enter Raithe: the God-Killer.

Confronted by a impending storm that threatens to wipe out their people, Raithe, Malcolm, Suri and Persephone must band together to somehow salvage humanity. They are joined in this endeavor by several unlikely characters, allies, and not-exactly-enemies. Can they keep humanity alive? Or will the birth of legends be the end of the Age of Myth?

It’s a generally good series debut. Michael J. Sullivan, author of Riyria fame, weaves an expansive story set early in his world of Elan; the humble roots of what will become a legend. Of course, the world-building is amazing. This tantalizing tale begins the Legends of the First Empire, a six book epic that will lay the foundation of the world we’ve all come to love from the Riyria Revelations and Chronicles. After his planned six books, I can only imagine how thorough the lore will be. In fact, having now read five of them, I can tell you that the Age of Myth is just the tip of the iceberg, lore-wise. And the story that Sullivan tells in it is just the first in an epic legend. While I wasn’t thrilled with the first half of the six book series, I did find it helpful to read all five leading up to the release of the sixth. And where I found the first three lacking (mostly the first two, though), the last two were both incredible!

The POVs in AoM were pretty solid. Raithe, Persephone, Suri all take turns with the narrative, of course, and are joined by Brin, lorekeeper of Dal Rhen; and two Fhrey Mawyndulë, prince to the fane, and Arion, the Miralyith—wizardess—assigned as his tutor. A few more join these, all of which are generally likable, at least as POVs go.

While the story starts off strong and carries along nicely for the first half or so, uneven pacing bogs it down somewhat in the later stages. Additionally, though I certainly enjoyed my time with it, Age of Myth just didn’t bring the depth that I’m accustomed to in a Sullivan novel. It was like Crown Conspiracy all over again—well, not that bad, actually. Just a bit less thrilling, a bit less relatable, and a bit less realistic than usual. The whole thing was a solid release, though not perfect. And leading into Age of Swords… well, it could’ve gone better. The character development specifically—which, yes, I realize is difficult in the first book of any series—was weak, practically nonexistent but for Raithe and Arion, who adapted a bit over its course.

TL;DR

All in all, I expected more from Age of Myth than it delivered. I mean, it’s still a solid four-star read. Has interesting characters, an entertaining plot, and builds upon the expansive lore only hinted at in the Riyria books. But I’ve a high opinion of Michael J. Sullivan’s authorial skills. The book lags a bit in places. And while every POV is generally good, none wowed me. While Age of Myth was quite the read—it wasn’t perfect. But I’d certainly recommend it. Both the book and the following series. The first of a planned six books, Age of Myth begins the Legends of the First Empire, a series which becomes more and more amazing as it goes on. And so reading the first one—which shouldn’t prove much of a challenge—is key.

Legends of the First Empire continues with the Age of Swords—Book 2—and follows on with Age of War, Age of Legend and Age of Death. Age of Empyre—out later this year—concludes the series, so you’ve got a little to catch up, but shouldn’t waste anymore time. Get on it!

Pile of Bones – by Michael J. Sullivan (Brief)

Legends of the First Empire Novella, Prequel

Novella, Fantasy, Epic

Audible Exclusive; January 7, 2020

67 min (audio)

3 / 5 ✪

Pile of Bones is an interesting interlude in the Legends of the First Empire series, actually set before the events of Age of Myth, back when Suri and Minna were just two sisters roving the forest under the semi-watchful eye of Tura. The short involves a chamber filled with bones, a raow, and the story behind Suri’s distaste for enclosed spaces. While the lore for the raow was interesting, and the glimpses of Minna and Suri together again was kinda heartwarming—the real reason to read this prequel is certainly to learn more about Suri’s dislike of tight spaces. Over the course of the roughly 45 minutes spent in the forests of Elan, I learned, I laughed, I loved—but there was nothing earth-shattering here—and I gained a deeper appreciation of Suri’s aversion to claustrophobia. As I read this between the events of Age of Legend and Age of Death, this gave me insight into her actions over the course of both books.

Time Gerard Reynolds is a pretty good narrator. If you’ve not heard him before, he does all the Riyria stuff. So, if you liked him—good news, you can listen to the entire series now! If you didn’t like him—yeaaah, maybe don’t listen to any of Sullivan’s books.

TL;DR

Honestly, if you didn’t read that, I don’t know what to tell you. While Pile of Bones won’t add much to your understanding of Elan or the overarching story of the Legends of the First Empire, it is a decent bit of backstory. It’s about an hour read—free, too. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in the series or new to it. Also, anyone who’s just finished Books 4 or 5. Or even anyone who is new to audio and is questioning whether or not they want to delve deeper into it as a way to read more.

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

Legends of the First Empire #5

Fantasy, Epic, Sword & Sorcery

Riyria Enterprises LLC; February 4, 2020

420 pages (ebook)

5 / 5 ✪

Author WebsiteGoodreads

Beware spoilers for the previous four Legends of the First Empire books, especially Age of Legend!

Age of Death is the 5th and penultimate book in the Legends of the First Empire series by Riyria author Michael J. Sullivan, and the 16th book I’ve read by him overall. While initially I had my doubts about this series, I loved Age of Legend to a degree I hadn’t felt since Winter’s Daughter in 2017. So would Age of Death live up to my ridiculously high standards? Well, if you read the header I guess you know that it did!

Fresh from the events of Age of Legend (which ended in a spectacular cliffhanger that I just loved), the fellowship of eight that had set out to save Suri reached the Swamps of Ith and made contact with the Tetlin Witch within. Here, seven of those carried on with their mission into the afterlife while Tesh watched helplessly from the shore. As Brin slowly sunk to her death, she heard Tesh’s anguished cry—before darkness consumed her.

And the Age of Death began.

Brin found herself floating in a river. All around: darkness. She had no feeling in her body, and her thoughts rambled endlessly. After an indeterminable amount of time, a light appeared in the distance. Upon reaching this light, she came upon a shore and discovered the rest of the fellowship.

And so we enter the realm of the dead—Rel.

Death is just the beginning. This, the denizens of Elan know well. But it turns out, this is only half the story. And yet, the story is incomplete. The realms are out of sync—the order that should exist has been broken—and the dead that have arrived in Rel now remain trapped there instead of continuing on to the next world. Having arrived here, however, the fellowship has little option but to push onward. As such, they make their way deeper into Rel, passing beings from a time long past, and even some from a time forgotten. But what will they find at its end? Will there be a way to continue their quest, or does their journey end here, always having been fated to be a one-way trip?

In the land of the living, the war remains at a standstill. The Rhunes have pushed the Fhrey to the Nidwalden, but no further. The Fhrey, with the help of Avempartha, hold them here. But soon the Fane will uncover the secret of dragons, and then the tides of war shall change.

While Nyphron exhausts every military option he can think of, Persephone confides her misgivings to the Gilarabrywn. But after those fateful words weeks before, Raithe has not spoken again. The Gilarabrywn remains motionless. But still she hopes. Meanwhile, Suri adapts to her imprisonment. The Fane has yet to break her, kill her, or otherwise extract any secrets from her. But it is only a matter of time. But not all is as it seems on Elan. Neither force is as united as its leader believes and in these cracks, sedition grows. But will it sprout in time to save Suri and stop the war? Or will the land once again fall into chaos?

* *

“It’s just that…” Roan focused on Tressa, as if speaking to her alone. “Well, didn’t you say that the key could open any lock in Phyre? Not just doors, right? And we are locked in.”

“Only in a matter of speaking,” Rain said. “And you can’t insert a key into a manner of speaking.”

So, I LOVED this book.

But first, my two issues with it. One—the book continues from a cliffhanger that I had to wait on for some months. Two—the book ENDS in a cliffhanger that I have to wait on for a few more. Michael J. Damned Sullivan and his stupid cliffhangers! I swear, if his books weren’t so good I wouldn’t put up with this nonsense! But… they are, so I do.

The story of Age of Death was probably my favorite part of it, but there are no end of things to like. The blend of adventure and mystery from the fellowship’s quest, the suspense surrounding both armies with Suri’s fate hanging over it all combines to create a thrilling, addictive read that I couldn’t put down. After waiting a couple months to start this book, I finished it in 3 days. As usual, I wanted to wait so that the cliffhanger I knew was coming wouldn’t have it fester for too long. I bet y’all know how well that’s working out.

Once, I felt Sullivan cheapened invention and progress. Much of that is the reason I’ve just recently come around to Roan. While there’s still a bit of carryover from the past books, Age of Death is pretty much past all of this. The world-building continues to impress, and progress continues to um, “progress”, but without all the ridiculousness. After 15+ books set in Elan, I suppose the world should be pretty much flesh and blood by now. Well—it is. A triumph of design and execution, on par with all but the heavy hitters like Malazan or the Wheel of Time. Nothing for me to complain about here.

After five books, the characters continue to develop. As much as I enjoyed the Riyria Revelations, character development wasn’t a big part of it. Yes, a few of them change eventually, but in 6 books, something better. It’s amazing to see the growth and development between even a couple books of this series, as characters continue to change even in death. Granted, I wouldn’t call every change in the characters’ development “growth”, but de-growth and de-development both sounded ridiculous so I’m just going to call it an either/or term. No matter which direction said “growth” takes, it’s an entirely human change. Yes, even in the Fhrey and Belgriclungreians. And having such “growth” in one’s books, between one’s books, and especially over the course of an extended series is both realistic and refreshing.

Oh, and I’m not sure who has done the covers for this series, but they continue to be amazing and suitably epic!

TL;DR

Be forewarned: Age of Death both starts and ends with a cliffhanger. It’s also extremely addictive and you might find yourself reading late into the night when you’re already short on sleep and have work early the next day. And you might find yourself hating the book (and the author) for making you wait a few months for the next book. Don’t worry—these feelings are all completely natural. There’s a place online for you to complain. Or you could scream and throw the book at your least-favorite wall. Just maybe don’t if you have it as an ebook.

Age of Death is the penultimate entry in the Legends of the First Empire series and it’s just incredible. I was a little iffy on continuing the series early on. Sullivan tried me more than once, but he got away with it in the end. The world-building is at the top of its class. The character development is so thorough its practically overwhelming. The mystery, the adventure, the suspense that Age of Death brings are all equally reason enough to read it. Combined… this book is impressive. I know if you haven’t started the series this could feel like a long shot, but I think it’s worth the time, effort and heartache. If you have read past Age of War—you seriously need to catch up. Then you and I and the rest of the world will be anticipating Age of Empyre together.

Age of Empyre is expected out via Kickstarter sometime in the spring, or on May 5, 2020 via Grim Oak Press.

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.

Book Review: Age of War – by Michael J. Sullivan

Legends of the First Empire #3

Epic, Fantasy

Del Rey; July 3, 2018

403 pages (PB)

4 / 5 ✪

Spoilers! – Contains minor spoilers for previous Legends of the First Empire books.

Age of War was a gripping, thrilling mid-series conclusion to the Legends of the First Empire. Sullivan states in his foreword that he’d initially planned the series as a trilogy, before changing his mind. As such, many of the threads conclude in this volume. These threads include a couple of big-name deaths, an unmasking, and the end of a particular era. But the beginning of another.

I loved the Age of War… mostly.

From page 194 on, I was enrapt in an epic fight to the finish—and then I threw the book at the wall. I did, too. Only the third time I can remember doing that. Luckily it hit a chair first, and didn’t get badly damaged. Even more luckily, it wasn’t an ebook. See? This is why physical books are important.

The point is… uh. The book was really, really good until it suddenly wasn’t. It’s not the writing, plot or anything I usually object to this time, however. Just pissed at Sullivan, I am. I dislike people who kill off my favorite characters cruelly—even if they have a good reason. I’ll get over it—eventually… probably—enough to read the Age of Legend. Makes me feel better that in the afterword his wife specifically says that she implored him to rewrite the ending to (no spoilers) a far less callous conclusion. He didn’t, and SHE was pissed at him. But as I said before, HOPEFULLY he had a good reason.

Up until that point… yeah. It was really, REALLY good.

After the events of Age of Swords, Nyphron leads the combined human armies to Alon Rhist, with the intention of bolstering their position. Persephone leads her people onward, fearlessly, much to the disappointment of her closest ally, Raithe. But following a bloodless battle, the two (Nyphron and Persephone) appear as heroes. Saviors. The last, best chance for humanity. But the alliance between the Instarya Fhrey and the Rhunes is a tenuous one. And it would be further strengthened by a marriage. Between the two most powerful leaders. And all Persephone has to do is turn her back on Raithe.

Meanwhile, the war is not exactly going smoothly. The humans are untrained. The secrets of iron are still unrevealed. The Fhrey don’t kill Fhrey. Even the Miralyith, instigators of this little… genocide thing, would prefer the war to be over by now. So before the fighting can begin in earnest, the sides need to prepare. And as winter gradually turns to spring, war looms on the horizon. Threads will be sewn (weaved?). Battles will be fought. And the most important choice one woman has ever had to make might just turn out to be an afterthought.

Mawyndulë… is kind of a wild card. I’m haven’t been completely sure how he fits into everything yet—other than a way to relate the story from the Fhrey point of view—a trend that continues through Book #3. I will say that he’s been more entertaining in the last two books, something I hope will continue through the end of #6.

There are a lot of competing subjects for best thing, but I’d say that the characters win. Specifically, the character development. My throwing the book at the wall, despite what it says about that specific chapter, the action that caused it, the… whatever—indicates that up until that point (or maybe through it) I was reeeaally invested in the story being told. But it’s the characters that carried me to that point. Specifically their development, growth, and the intermingling of their arcs. I mean, I still kinda hate the guy for what he did, but the way he did it—in particular the build-up to the moment—was masterfully done.

As with any other Sullivan book, the characters and story and threads are pretty much solid. My main concerns before have involved the detail, language, or—as in the last Legends entry—the cheapening of inventions that took thousands of years to perfect. That particular device, I’m happy to report, has been fixed in Age of War. I mean, we can’t do anything about what happened in Age of Swords, but we’re not doing it anymore. The language, again, is a non-issue. Sullivan always uses a common language, so, if you’re into that—great! The level of detail is rather lacking in AoWar. Shelved, I suspect, to focus on the characters and overarching plot, I assume. Because it’s that that steals the show.

TL;DR

Age of War is a very immersive, very gripping read that at some point will likely turn very frustrating. Try not to throw your e-reader at the wall. That would be bad. Maybe try a physical book instead. The story, pacing and plot-lines are all top notch, but the characters steal the show. A must-read, even for people who will hate the way it ends. Like myself. For while it might sour your opinion on the matter for a few days (or a few weeks), you’ll get over it. And then want to read the next one.

Age of Legend—Book #4—came in summer 2019. Book #5, Age of Death, is soon to join it: due in late fall of 2019 for Kickstarter backers and early 2020 for everyone else.

Book Review: Age of Swords – by Michael J. Sullivan

Legends of the First Empire Book #2

Epic Fantasy

Del Rey Books: July 25, 2017

465 pages

3/5 ✪

This was a difficult book to review, as Michael J. Sullivan did many things well, he just waited a while to do them. I was disappointed overall, but the story is still a can’t-miss in my book, if only for how it bridges the gap between 1 and 3. Strong female characters step up to take center stage in this sequel to Age of Myth, making an enjoyable read into something more dynamic and inspiring. A greater perspective of the different races from men to Fhrey [elves] to Belgriclungreians [dwarves] (and even Grenmorians [giants]) helps give the novel scope, although it continues to lack any dwarf or giant or goblin POV—something I would love to see. However, early, uneven pacing and disappointing POV chapters instead ruin a sophomore effort that could’ve been great.

In addition, frequent sudden, great innovations only seem to cheapen their worth when they are repeated chapter after chapter. The most notable of these—the bow and arrow—goes on to be a major plot device. It’s akin to an author (or Assassin’s Creed) simply throwing in a historical figure just for the hell of it. Not to mention that the invention of the bow predates recorded history, including such things as bronze working, copper working, the wheel, wells, the dahl (and most other earthworks), any known writing system, the sword, pretty much any kind of non-nomadic existence and… well, you get the idea.

After early hiccups, the story really gets going in the second half of the book, in which the strong female leads step up in a big—and badass—way. And yet the conclusion feels cheap on many levels, though I’ll admit I am looking forward to the next installment. The inconsistency of the story and hollow nature of new character POVs in the first half had me abandon the book once or twice before ultimately picking it up again. Once I cleared the 200 (ish) page mark (with the exception of a few bits and pieces) the read became much more smooth and enjoyable.

So… I definitely didn’t love Age of Swords. I was so annoyed reading it that I actually gave up a couple times (yeah, okay, for like a day each), but it is interesting. And it is good. Just needs some work to ensure that the following four books don’t suffer the same shortcomings. Not that that matters, as MJS has already finished writing all the books.