Heir of Novron, the combined fifth and sixth installments in the Riyria Revelations, is the strongest of the lot. By a long shot really. Perhaps it’s the culmination of multiple story strands, the many “revelations” involved therein, or just the fact that the more you read the more you love the characters. Michael J. Sullivan’s ability to weave plot threads together over 6 books is unbelievable, and that is aided by his patience in writing and finishing each of his novels before he even released his first.
For those of you who’ve followed my reviews for Theft of Swords and Rise of Empire, you’ll have noticed my love for the series rising tremendously, as each adventure gets better and outdone by the next. And again, each book has a different feel, each adventure a completely different take on the genre – an idea that sits perfectly well with me.
Wintertide, the fifth Riyria novel is perhaps the most political of the six books, and though that comment may seem “boring” when it comes to the fantasy genre, don’t be fooled. It’s an excellent adventure, most of which takes place in the palace. By political, I don’t recognize the book as a parallel to the day and time we live in now, but more that it’s stuffed full of knightly court intrigue. Finally Empress Modina and Amilia’s story gets put in the forefront, while Hadrian and Royce go separate ways to help save Arista and Gaunt. This book follows Hadrian attempting to play the noble role of the galant Knight, after being hired by the church to kill Sir Breckton (in exchange for the prisoners).
The situation for Modina, who by the beginning of the novel is still a seemingly helpless individual, gets worse and worse with each passing day, as she is to be betrothed to someone against her will by the end of Wintertide, and will be killed after it is said and done, so that her right to rule will be passed on, to be properly governed by the church of Nyphron.
By the end of the book Modina quickly scales to become one of my favorite characters, if not my overall favorite for the series. Her courage and brilliance to rise up and become what she needs to be for her “family” is undeniably remarkable, and her transformation from impoverished farm girl to the woman she is now even more so. The revelation at the end that she is fully capable, and fully cognizant of what’s going on, and a step ahead of everyone else is just fantastic writing. And the book ends happy. Until, of course, it stops being happy altogether and becomes one of the saddest twist endings ever. Well done, Sullivan, well done.
I mean it when I say I didn’t think this story had it in it. When you read the first few installments you recognize that it builds and builds upon each other, eventually to culminate in something huge. But wow. Percepliquis takes the cake. And then it eats it too. As humanity is driven into peril, and the world seemingly climaxes to its conclusion, a band of individuals must be assembled for the most dangerous mission imaginable, journey into the lost crevices within the earth to the ancient and hidden city of Percepliquis to brave further perils so as to retrieve the Horn of Gylindora, in order to save the world. As you can imagine, craziness ensues.
I actually had to take a break from the adventure to gather my breath and commend author Michael J. Sullivan for his ability to channel Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring. He got back to me which was pretty sweet.
Above I mentioned that this last book weaves each of its plots together, and that’s no small thing. Even passing lines from deceased characters come back to haunt and to aid in the fun and the peril. This book could only have been accomplished by someone who wrote all his books in one shot, and if there were any reservations that this was actually the case they are now firmly out the window.
If I could criticize the story at all, I’d point out that the true antagonist of the entire series only just shows up in this last book, and I feel that could’ve been a far greater reveal/twist if he were introduced earlier. And perhaps Arista was a tad too overpowered.
But with the myriad of twists and “revelations” that confront Hadrian and (most importantly) Royce, each passing chapter gets better and better and those minor niggles aren’t so bad in the long run. Because it’s all so good. Each character has a fitting moment or three in the spotlight. My favorite scene is perhaps one of Arista’s where I actually teared up. She attempted to halt the death of King Alric, her brother, and the resulting darkness, light, and… well, the writing in general simply bled poetic beauty.
Most importantly, the city of Percepliquis was the most imaginative journey I’ve experienced in fantasy for a long long while. I mentioned in a previous review that the setting is important. If I can’t picture myself wanting to venture into this world the writer’s crafted then what’s the point of living vicariously through the characters. The ancient city of Percepliquis is a place I can see myself missing, once I’ve gone on to another series. The entire idea of this city even existing is a magical experience, and then having each of your favorite characters go down there is just too cool.
In many ways this is one of the more self-gratifying endings I’ve read. Everything you could possibly want the main characters to do, in your wildest best-case scenario fan-dreams, before its conclusion, they go ahead and do it. It may not be a happy ending for all, but an exceptionally gratifying read. I recommend the series to anyone. And perhaps it won’t take as long for you to really love it as it took me. I want to revisit this with new light, knowing what’s to come. I have little doubt I’ll enjoy it even more a second time around.