Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Review: The Crown Tower by Michael J Sullivan

The Crown Tower (Book 1, The Riyria Chronicles)
by Michael J. Sullivan
Release Date: August 6th, 2013
2013 Orbit
Softcover Edition; 416 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

A warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most valuable possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels the old wizard is after, and this prize can only be obtained by the combined talents of two remarkable men. Now if Arcadias can just keep Hadrian and Royce from killing each other, they just might succeed.

My Thoughts
The Crown Tower is the first book in the Riyria Chronicles, the prequel to the Riyria Revelations, the books that first introduced us to the adventures of Hadrian and Royce.  Being totally captivated by their adventures, I was intrigued about this series of novels about their earlier life, their first meeting, and how they managed to become such a successful team.  I enjoyed the novel very much, practically devoured it, but in hindsight, wonder how much of that fascination and enjoyment was because I absolutely enjoyed the Revelations series I think perhaps my judgment is a bit cloudy because of that fact.

What I liked:  The author's smooth and lyrical writing style is definitely continued in this novel and while he concedes and acknowledges the Revelations series in a very subtle way, this is very much a stand-alone novel that accomplishes what he set out to do - show us how Royce and Hadrian first met, with those small little twists that readers have come to expect.  And while the story may be a little slow at first, it definitely picks up in a way I would expect, throwing Royce and Hadrian into a near-impossible situation, and leaving the reader wondering how they would yet again, get out of it.  

Hadrian was somewhat naive and very trusting, almost too trusting for someone who spent the past five years fighting for different military groups/armies, and the by-play between himself and Royce was interesting as Royce was so jaded and sarcastic, ready to pretty much stab everybody in sight.  The fact that they hate each other is not news to readers, but the bickering and interplay between them was comical and fascinating, and I found myself chuckling a couple of times over the interaction, one of the things I loved in Revelations.  Personally, this is why I think readers are so fascinated by these two characters!!

I also enjoyed Gwen's POV as we finally learn a bit more about her story.  This is where things become a little dicey though as it's a point I really liked but thought more was needed.  Let me explain.  I really enjoyed learning how Gwen stood up for herself and became the owner of a brothel and inn, but what I would have really liked knowing were more about her inner thoughts towards this type of life and what really brought her there.  I felt this part was kind of glossed over and while I enjoy her character, I feel like there is this disconnect with her because her real feelings aren't always evident, it's more about everyone else's. I'd like to see a deeper character development with Gwen and a bit more about her background and what really drove her.  She is a really classy lady and played such a huge role in Royce and Hadrian's development that it would be nice to really know what she was thinking. Perhaps more in the second book?

What I wasn't sure about: Not too sure about Hadrian as he seemed overly naive and trusting to me, not someone who had just spent five years in one military unit after another.  And I would question his leadership ability as he seems to have difficulty making good decisions and good judgment calls.  It mentions his ability to judge people by the way they move and the way they speak and how Hadrian has this ability, yet Hadrian got himself into a couple of dangerous situations in this novel that he really shouldn't have if he had used this so-called ability.  Was the author trying to impress on us readers that even with great ability, we still can make silly and stupid mistakes by not paying attention or by trusting blindly?  Not really sure what the mixed messages were here, but I was confused by this early on in the novel and frustrated by Hadrian at times.  Royce was far clearer, as it was just stab anybody who got in his way.  I still haven't learned a lot about his early years, so hopefully that will come in future novels as he's a mighty interesting character.

The Crown Tower is a worthy prequel to the Riyria Revelations.  I was somewhat skeptical going into this novel as I enjoyed the Revelations so much I was afraid of the big disappointment.  Luckily for me, Mr. Sullivan was able to tell the story of Hadrian and Royce's first meeting with the same spunky feeling as in his Revelations novels and the spirit and fire of those novels really came through here.  The novel has excitement, suspense, mystery, fighting, and comedy, all elements we come to expect from a Sullivan novel. It is hard to say whether you should start with Revelations first or Chronicles, but my gut would say Revelations as you get a feel for the partnership first before learning how it all started.   I am currently reading The Rose and the Thorn, the next book in the Chronicles series, and loving it!! 


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