Editor’s note: Heir of Novron was originally published as Wintertide and Percepliquis.
Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan
Wintertide is the next to last book in THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS series. As with the rest of these books, this is a fairly self-contained story, but at the same time the reader can feel the momentum building toward an explosive conclusion. Hadrian is forced into a deadly deal to kill an honorable knight by making it look accidental in a tournament, while Royce is desperate to be done with Riyria’s contracts so that he can try his hand at domesticated bliss with his true love.
Wintertide is my favorite book in the series so far, which is as a series should be: each installment a little better than the last. It seems that Sullivan has really hit his stride with Wintertide. The series is at its best when he concentrates more on Royce and Hadrian than on other characters. However, the street orphans introduced in this book do play a very interesting role.
THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS is a swashbuckling fantasy; action, adventure, and intrigue are its strong suits. The world-building and system of magic are left to a bare minimum by design — even more so in Wintertide than in earlier installments — which is a good thing in this kind of tale. You won’t find the complexity of MALAZAN EMPIRE or A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE here. Nor will you find a “dark and gritty” fantasy. RIYRIA REVELATIONS is just a plain ol’ fashioned good time. The stories read fast and there’s no nagging pressure that you need to be able to recall all the details from previous books. In fact, the plot is simple enough that you might even be able to skip a book and still gain a solid grasp of what’s going on. The books are good enough, though, that you won’t want to miss a single one.
Michael J. Sullivan’s genius is that THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS series is as much fun as YA fiction, but written for grown-ups.
In Percepliquis, Royce and Hadrian, the former professional thieves collectively known as the Riyria, along with their companions, are on a dangerous quest to recover an ancient horn that has the power to stop the merciless onslaught of the elves. They will discover that their world, Elan, has a deadly secret history and that many key people are not who they are thought to be. Percepliquis is the grand conclusion of THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS.
What started out as a straightforward fantasy adventure in The Crown Conspiracy has evolved into a full-blown epic in Percepliquis. Mr. Sullivan accomplished this so discreetly that I didn’t even realize how complex the story had become until I cracked open this book. The exciting escapades of two partners in crime have grown to be a world-encompassing high fantasy conflict, complete with many characters who have their own backstories and subplots. That’s not to say the sheer fun of it has been sacrificed.
Michael J. Sullivan writes for an adult audience while infusing his novels with all the charm of the favorite stories of our youth. This quality made the RIYRIA REVELATIONS stand out among its contemporaries. All the genre’s mainstays are here — elves, dwarves, goblins, religions and mythologies, medieval settings, kings, princesses, warriors and wizards, magic, and dragons — but Sullivan uses them all in his own unique way.
Royce and Hadrian started out as a typical “brains-and-brawn” duo comparable to Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. That’s in no way a bad thing, but it enriched the series to see them develop into their own original characters.
While I enjoyed the heroic actions of the Riyria, the noble deeds by many other characters were so endearing that I found myself just as interested in their stories. I don’t want to even remotely risk a spoiler, but I will say that this series ending tugged at my jaded heart. That is no small accomplishment, because my usual reading preference is dark-n-gritty tales.
There are some small details throughout the series that might have been done just a little better. Of these, the dialog is most noticeable, at least to this reviewer. At times, the conversations just didn’t quite seem to fit in the traditional fantasy setting. However, this is easily overlooked, especially when these books are viewed as a whole, completed work.
THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS doesn’t suffer from the “middle books syndrome” that too many series do. Not only does Sullivan maintain the level of interest that he set in The Crown Conspiracy, but the story consistently gets better with each book, making Percepliquis everything that the end of an epic should be and more.
Wintertide is truly a culmination. Many of the storylines that we have been following are drawing to a sort of nexus. In the city of Aquesta the new Emperor is to be crowned after marrying the heir to the throne, Modina (Thrace), while several rebels, Degan Gaunt and Arista, are executed. It’s a veritable powder keg of problems and opportunities for the likes of Hadrian and Royce.
Here is what makes Wintertide so good: The pace of the book is very even, but very quick. Sullivan doesn’t gloss over details, but he doesn’t spend pages going over things that are not meaningful to the story. He moves back and forth between characters to show the passage of time instead of trying to keep time with one character. As readers we are not privy to everything that is happening, but only to those events that really matter. It makes the story move right along.
As always, the character of Royce is compelling to me. Over the last four books, Sullivan has shown us his history and what has shaped him. In Wintertide, Royce continues to evolve as he is torn between different loyalties. For a man who has survived by avoiding ties to anyone or anything, this is very interesting to read about.
Michael Sullivan has done a wonderful job with Wintertide. The balance between action, excitement, character development and story leads to a page-turner that is over much too quickly. This is not a book to try and read as an intro to the series; it ties back to previous storylines a great deal. That’s not a problem, just an observation for readers who have not read everything up to this point. I really liked Wintertide, and Sullivan has gotten me back on the bandwagon!