I noticed this book thanks to Fantasy Book Critic, and got the opportunity to read it thanks to Michael’s wife and editor, Robin; Fantasy Book Critic (as usual) hit the nail on the head, and I can honestly say that this is a great book!
We begin our journey through the book with Archibald, a minor noble who has a scheme to change that ‘minor’ status into ‘major’; he has in his possession something with which to blackmail a noble with more connections and property, but the plan backfires when Archibald can’t come up with the goods because they’ve been stolen from right under his nose – from then on, the tale surges ahead! We meet the thieves and their friends, the royalty and the nobles and their enemies; we are taken right across the kingdom to a place that shouldn’t exist, and a tale begins to take shape of an ancient betrayal, a betrayal that shaped the whole world and the lives of those who call it home.
Michael’s tale flows beautifully; moving from character to character is not jarring in the least, and the rythmn he has from the beginning builds until it takes you a while to realize that it is really late and that you need to get into bed!
The characters themselves are vivid and unique – here we have everything from prostitutes, monks, princes, con-artists, even the odd Elf (but not as you’ve seen Elves before, let me tell you), and each character is true; I never had one moment where I thought, You know what? A Princess wouldn’t do something like that – it doesn’t make sense. They are all important to the story and bring us the different viewpoints we need to understand all sides of the tale. My favourite was Hadrian (one of the thieves), but the Monk (not saying who he is because he’s pretty important) has also got a spot in my heart.
Michael also doesn’t overwhelm us with information – if we need to know something, that something is specific to what is being discussed, or leaves clues for what may happen a bit further on; he is really comfortable in his world, and it comes through beautifully when some of the main characters are travelling through the wilderness – nothing is dumped in our laps, and we are told what we need to know to keep us engaged and curious.
And don’t worry about the fact that if you read this you’ll be starting a new series: The Riyria Revelations (as the series is titled) will be a six-part series, but each book can be read as a stand-alone! The events will tie together, obviously, but not in a way that other series such as Erikson’s Malazan epic do – here, everything is self-contained, and each book can be enjoyed on its own.
This book is a great read; you’ll find that you’ll breeze through it, because Michael’s writing style is so easy to get into; the action, tension and even the funny bits all work well with the style he’s used to great effect here. I couldn’t finish the book in one sitting because I was still working through the tail-end of ‘08, and Christmas and New Year also had their own interruptions, but I’m sure that once you sit down to read it, you’ll be as entranced and swept-away as I was.
April is still too far away, in my opinion; Avempartha, the second part of the Riyria Revelations, will be out then.
All in all, I recommend this book to any lover of fantasy – there’s enough intrigue, action, mystery, and yes, magic, in this book to satisfy the fans, and I’m sure Michael will be thrilled at the following this book will generate for him.