This review was originally posted on Fantasy Faction
I’ll start off by saying that I am a big fan of Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations. Most of the books I prefer are dark, gritty and have characters, that are at best, morally ambiguous. Riyria Revelations is not that. (Although a strong argument could be made against Royce’s moral compass, so perhaps he does hit that check mark.)
Seriously though, Riyria Revelations is a straight up adventure story with a very fun duo of thieves in the middle of it. You could try to label them with the typical roles that duos fall into Good Cop (Hadrian), Bad Cop (Royce), Brawn (Hadrian), Brains (Royce), and so on. However, Sullivan turns the characters into more than just the generic stereotypes, and the interplay between the two is great fun.
Because of my high opinion of Riyria Revelations, I was very excited to hear about Riyria Chronicles.Riyria Chronicles is a duology that consists of The Crown Tower and The Rose and the Thorn. The pair of books serve as a prequel story, telling the tale of how Royce and Hadrian met and became the team of thieves we are familiar with from Riyria Revelations. My review covers the first of those books, The Crown Tower.
Once again, Sullivan delivered a very enjoyable adventure story. We get a better picture and understanding of what caused Royce and Hadrian to become such opposite personalities, and we get more insight into what makes them tick. We are shown how they team up and learn to work together and how they really complement each other. We also get to hear Gwen’s story and how she came to be the character we are familiar with in Riyria Revelations. I absolutely enjoyed it, so regardless of what I have to say from this point on, this is by no means a bad review.
However, I can’t help but compare, and have to admit that I liked Riyria Revelations better. The writing was on par to the first set of books, so it’s not a decline in quality that is leaving me feeling this way. And just to be clear, saying I like something (Riyria Revelations) slightly more than something else (The Crown Tower), still leaves room to be very happy with that something else, which is the case here. But I have two theories on why The Crown Tower did not work quite as well for me as the books in Riyria Revelations.
The first is more of a personal reason. I tend to be very sensitive to spoilers and because of this, I like to know as close to nothing as possible. I rarely look at reviews or even blurbs for books I know I am going to read. Reading what is essentially a prequel story, I obviously know much of what will happen. I may not know exactly when or how everything will unfold, learning the details is the point of the story, but it did lose some of the suspense for me.
I feel like this shouldn’t impact my rating of the book because it’s an effect of the order the story is released. But it is hard to judge at what level my engagement with the book is impacted. When I sit back and think about what I learned in this book that I did not already know or speculate from Riyria Revelations, there is very little. Much of this prequel was told or hinted at in bits and pieces over the course of the books in Riyria Revelations. It’s still a good story; I just did not find much that was new outside of perhaps Gwen’s storyline.
The second reason is that after my reading, I strongly believe one of Riyria Revelations real strengths is the interplay between Royce and Hadrian. Since they are not teamed up until later in the book, we lose some of that. And I missed it. I did however really enjoy revisiting these characters, as well as Gwen and getting more information on who they are, where they came from, what makes them the characters I have become so familiar with across Sullivan’s books.
This was a fun story and while I may not rate it quite as high as I did Riyria Revelations, I am really looking forward to reading on, as The Rose and the Thorn continues the adventures of Royce and Hadrian and the beginning of Riyria.