The Rose and the Thorn is the second half of Riyria Chronicles, a duology prequel to the previously released Riyria Revelations, by Michael J. Sullivan. I loved Riyria Revelations, so I was very eager to read these. One of the aspects that make these books so enjoyable is that Sullivan has created a very fun and interesting dynamic between his two main characters, Royce and Hadrian. This is by no means the only merit to his books. But if you read my review of The Crown Tower, the first half of Riyria Chronicles, you know that I did not love it as much as I did the books in Riyria Revelations. I suspected it was because I missed the interactions between Royce and Hadrian. And now that I have read The Rose and the Thorn, I find further support for that theory. This book was every bit as enjoyable to read as Riyria Revelations, and had just as much of Royce and Hadrian.
The Rose and the Thorn is full of mystery, adventure, betrayal and just plain awesome. The story moves at an excellent pace and Sullivan’s characters and their interactions are excellent as well. The world and politics that exist here and how Royce and Hadrian move within them, or work around them (or maybe just ignore in the case of Royce), is very well done. Sullivan has crafted an environment that allows for us to root for a pair of thieves and have fun reading of their exploits.
But The Rose and the Thorn was not solely about Riyria. It also tells the story of Reuben Hilfred. I was fascinated to watch the development of this character. And while in my last review, I commented that I felt less engaged because of the nature of a prequel story, knowing where the characters will end up, this is one storyline where I felt the reverse was true. I think knowing more about Reuben and how his character develops past the point of this book and knowing what events await him, actually made his storyline more fascinating, I actually felt more intrigued.
In addition to Reuben, The Rose and the Thorn also further fleshes out Gwen DeLancy’s character. I really enjoyed getting more information about her and how her life as we read it in Riyria Revelations came to be. More focus on her has also given us more insight, or at least another perspective, on Royce. It is definitely interesting seeing Royce from another character’s point of view. She brings forward a softer side of Royce that no other characters can see or understand.
I have to say, that The Rose and the Thorn was an excellent end to the Riyria Chronicles and is every bit as strong as any one of Sullivan’s other books. I absolutely recommend reading not just this, but all of theRiyria books (Riyria Chronicles and Riyria Revelations). If you are new to Sullivan’s work, I honestly think the duology and trilogy can be read in either order. It definitely works reading it in the publication order as I did (especially if you read the duology back to back). But I suspect it would work every bit as well in the chronological order. I’d definitely be interested to hear reactions to this from readers who will be experience Sullivan’s work for the first time and start with Riyria Chronicles.
This review was originally posted on Fantasy Faction