Book Review: Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan - The Fantasy Review

Book Review: Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

The Fantasy Review’s review of Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan, volume 1 in the The Riyria Revelations series. Volume 1 includes the first two books, The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha which were combined into one volume when the book went from independent to traditionally published.

We have an interview with Michael J. Sullivan if you want to check that out.

Royce stared out at the tower in the middle of the river and considered why jobs involving stealing swords were never simple.

Modern Fantasy with a Classic Twist

Reading Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan is the ultimate comfort read for those of us who adore the classic fantasy tropes, but want a modern story. It’s got elves, dwarves, ancient magicians, and a deep history and lore that spans 1000s of years. 

This Tolkien-like backdrop is unashamedly similar to all those classic tropes, and it’s absolutely brilliant. Sometimes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But fix it Sullivan does, bringing these cozy tropes to a fresh, modern fantasy tale of two thieves with a knack for getting into (and out of) trouble; Royce and Hadrian.

Royce and Hadrian

Royce Melborn is a light footed thief and Hadrian Blackwater just might be the greatest swordsman alive, and together they make for one of the best duos in literature. Their chemistry is a magnet, pulling the reader along on their adventures.

“…You don’t win battles with hate. Anger and hate can make you brave, make you strong, but they also make you stupid. You end up tripping over your own two feet.”

Despite their outward appearances as hardened criminals, these two men have a lot of heart. They are not only fiercely loyal to one another, but when someone is in dire need of help, they will do what they can; sometimes for a fee, that is.

Their dialogue is fantastic, often funny, and reads like they had known each other for all their lives (although they haven’t). This friendship, almost like a found family, is one of the most highly praised aspects of this book for good reason.

Twists and Turns

Despite being a relatively light fantasy book without the epic stakes you might find in something like The Wheel of Time, Theft of Swords can get pretty dark. There was a moment in the second half of the book I found myself tearing up. This is a testament to Sullivan’s brilliant character work, even with the side characters who a lesser writer would not have spent as much time developing.

The plot after Theft of Swords does look like it becomes more epic in nature, spanning an entire continent with conflict on the horizon, so do not be put off by lower stakes in this first book.

There are some great mysteries in Theft of Swords, and some of the most exciting and engaging ones will draw the reader further into this series, with this first volume ending on an intriguing cliffhanger and leaving many big questions unanswered.

Theft of Swords does relent a little though, allowing the reader to discover the answers to some smaller but also exciting mysteries, so you finish the book very satisfied.

Final Thoughts

Michael J. Sullivan has created an engaging and exciting plot with some of the best character work in fantasy. Royce and Hadrian are favourites, of course, but even the side characters are just as interesting.

If you want to dive into an epic fantasy world with all the classic tropes, but done incredibly well, with great characters and intriguing mysteries, you should definitely pick up Theft of Swords!

Related to our Review of Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Owner and Editor of The Fantasy Review. Loves all fantasy and science fiction books, graphic novels, TV and Films. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature and Creative writing, they would like to go on to do a PhD. Favourite authors are Trudi Canavan, Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson.

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