Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review - The Crown Conspiracy

Michael J Sullivan – The Crown Conspiracy
Michael is a name anyone with a passing interest on fantasy forums will have heard of. He is one of the success stories of self-publishing. I first stumbled upon him when he released a short story on the Kindle involving the two protagonists from his main series. I was suitably impressed and have finally got round to giving the series a whirl.
The blurb;
The Crown Conspiracy is book one of the multi-book saga: The Riyria Revelations. The series is told through six novels conceived as a single epic tale. Across the entire chronicle, mysteries build, characters evolve and plots thicken, but each is self-contained and can be read independent of one another.

In the first episode, the reader is introduced to Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, who make a profit able living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles until they become the unwitting scapegoats in the murder of 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.
Royce and Hadrian are great characters. They are also fairly unique. I love reading about two mates who share witty banter back and forth but are also good at what they do. Royce and Hadrian fit this description but only to a degree and in a good way. Yes they share witty quips but it is used sparingly. It never feels forced and as a result feels more natural.
The heists they pull off are clever and they always seem one step ahead of their victims until they break their code and take a job at short notice and find themselves framed for murder. What follows is an exciting tale as the duo struggle to keep their heads above water and wrestle with their sense of honour.
By default they accumulate other characters, all interesting and all with their own mysteries and arcs. Whether it be the Prince-come-King who has to adjust his perspective from his sense of entitlement to realising he is not owed anything or Myron the monk, who offers comic relief as well as much needed background to the world.
The plot flows nicely and whilst there are no real surprises there are more than enough elements touched upon to hint at wider issues and further secrets to be unveiled. Sullivan does action scenes well and the thought he has put into his set pieces is rewarded. For example, tower rescues open up to be far more complicated than you would normally find. Hidden doors reveal unsuspected treasures. All of this adds to a story and a formula that could have been “samey” becomes more distinguishable from your average novel.
The ending is very good. The main arc is wrapped up well but there are several plot threads left tangling tantalisingly. I was very tempted to go straight on to the second book but forced myself to stop. Always a good sign I find.
My rating: 8.8