The Crown Conspiracy review

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Crown Conspiracy is the first published work of author Michael J. Sullivan. This is the starting volume of The Riyria Revelations series which will span 6 novels. The book was released in October 2008 and the follow-ups were or will be available at approximately 6 month interval. Currently released are Avempartha (April 2009) and Nyphron Rising (September 2009), with The Emerald Storm coming up in April 2010.

Royce and Hadrian are two professional thieves working on their own, aside from the organized guilds. One is taciturn and self-possessed while the other one is talkative, brawny and adventurous. After being asked to perform a theft at the king's palace, they find themselves imprisoned on false pretense. They will be freed by an unlikely ally to protect the heir to the kingdom. Roaming the countryside in search of a millennia old wizard they will meet with Myron, the only monk who survived the slaughter of his abbey. With his help, they will try to restore the crown to the prince.

There wasn't a tremendous hype surrounding Sullivan first novel, but step by step, the book made its way around the blogosphere and was eventually very well received and much talked about. Although I enjoyed the novel, I'm not as ecstatic about it as most of the other reviewers. I think the whole series will probably appeal more to me than this instance alone. The fact that it was a short read probably has something to do with it. It's not a fault but it can shorten considerably the time to get immersed in Sullivan's world and appreciate the characters.

The Crown Conspiracy can be classified as traditional fantasy. One of the best comparisons for me with this novel is Greg Keyes's A Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series. The use of Myron the scholar/monk reminded me quite of lot of Stephen Daridge (and there's this power-hungry behind the scene church...). For "use" I mean as way of helping the characters decipher ancient texts, be a "portable" source of knowledge and produce a good quantity of history for the world. I felt at times that it was overly exploited but in the end it served the worldbuilding well (even though it's still a little thin) and probably helped with the pace since info dumping was not necessary aside from Myron's discussions.

There was a scene that I felt was a bit too much taken from LOTR. Maybe it was intentional but I'm not sure. Everybody remembers when Gandalf and his fellowship find themselves in front of the Hollin gate of Kazad-dum. Aside from the monster in the lake, the scene in The Crown Conspiracy is feeling strikingly similar. They even try to open the door with 'dwarven words'...

I enjoyed following most of the protagonists. Even though the main characters of Royce and Hadrian remain mysterious at the end, I connected with them. The duo is entertaining with just the right touch of humour. The "villains" of the novel felt slightly too limited but not too dumb to undermine the story.

Magic is often used in fantasy as a safe conduit, but not in this case. The all knowledgeable monk take this responsibility. For me, that was a plus. Speaking of magic, it is present but mostly as a prospect for the future books of the series.

The writing is effective with only so many descriptions. The third person perspective felt right and the short chapters helped to create a real page turner with a faster pace. One of the best moments of The Crown Conspiracy for me was the final convergence. This was ably done by the author. The chapters were even shorter and the pace increased to create a great finale, I was hooked.

I would recommend this book mostly if you intend to read the full series, although I hope to confirm this soon since I have only read the first book so far. This is good old fantasy well executed and just addictive enough to make me want more.

Technically, I loved the AMI cover by Michael J. Sullivan himself, an uncommon art style in fantasy which is much appreciated. The paperback edition of the novel is 296 pages. The map of Elan is beautifully detailed and is also available on the web (link at the index).

The Crown Conspiracy review score :

Characterization............. 7.5 /10
World building............... 6.5 / 10
Magic system................. 7 / 10
Story.............................. 7 / 10
Writing........................... 7.5 / 10
Overall (not an average) 7.5 / 10


Micheal J Sullivan page


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

First I want to say I am sorry for taking so long to get back and read this review. I got you link in you comment and well, I am finally here.

Its great to hear you enjoyed the book. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series as much or more than this one. I like the good old fantasy feeling I get from these books.

Phil said...

You don't need to be sorry! :)

I'm really eager to read the next books from Sullivan. For you, did the series became more interesting when you read Avempartha and Nyphoon Rising?

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I enjoyed Avempartha very much. Had me thinking on a story line there, and I am still curious about a few thoughts on this one. But Nyphron Rising really took the series to a new level. To me Nyphron Rising is where the underlining theme of the conspiracy seemed to really come forward. Nyphron Rising may be my favorite so far out of the three.

I hope you enjoy them!

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