Rise of Empire: Straight-up action/adventure done fantasy style

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsEditor’s note: Rise of Empire was originally published as Nyphron Rising and The Emerald Storm.

fantasy novel reviews Michael J. Sullivan Nyphron RisingRise of Empire by Michael Sullivan

Nyphron Rising: Now that the Imperialists have a puppet for their throne, the war for conquest has begun. Knowing that Melengar cannot stand against the Imperialists’ might, Princess Arista employs Royce and Hadrian to escort her on a self-imposed mission. While working for the princess, Royce has his own agenda: to secretly investigate Hadrian’s past to determine if what the wizard Esrahaddon has told him about his friend is true. This secret has the potential to topple the powers of Elan.

Nyphron Rising, the third book in THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS, is another consistently entertaining installment. Some interesting new characters are introduced that add a little more depth to a story that’s been, up to this point, a comparatively light read.

As enjoyable as epic fantasy can be, many times the sheer fun of it all gets lost in complexity. Enter Michael J. Sullivan and his RIYRIA REVELATIONS. This series is a straight-up action/adventure done fantasy style, and “there ain’t a darn thing wrong with that.”

Sullivan brings back a type of story that’s had very little presence in this genre in the last twenty years or more. I, for one, wish him much success and hope his career is a long one. Making swashbuckling tales popular again creates more excellent choices for fantasy readers.

The Emerald Storm: This is supposed to be the Riyria’s last mission: to put an end to the master assassin/spy Merrick Marius’ assistance to the Imperialists. With no idea where to find him, Royce and Hadrian disguise themselves as sailors in order to board the Emerald Storm, which is the ship believed to be delivering a message to Merrick.

Sullivan has stepped up the action even more for his fourth book about Royce and Hadrian, the professional thieves known as the Riyria. As they sail the Emerald Storm, unknown enemies conspire against them. Raiders hound the ship’s wake and their destination is the jungle islands just past the edge of civilized world, where warrior tribes and outlaw bands plot to ally themselves with the Imperialists. And, their goal now just within their grasp, Thrace’s Princesses Arista and Amilia intensify their scheme to free the rebel leader Degan Gaunt.

So far, The Emerald Storm is my favorite book of the series. There are a few elements reminiscent of classic adventure literature, a who-done-it mystery, a pirate tale, and a thriller-type plot twist or two. I particularly enjoyed the warrior-tribe culture of the land of Calis.

As with all these books, parts might be just a little over-the-top, and there are few things, like the system of magic, that veteran fantasy-readers may find too simplistic, but that’s the kind of story this series is. Sullivan is focusing on just having fun. The theme is in tune with the likes of The Three Musketeers or Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s a series that could be considered more or less kid-friendly, but definitely not categorized as YA. When thought of in those terms, THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS is on its own out there in the fantasy genre, or, at least, the only story like it that stands out.

~Greg Hersom

fantasy book reviews Michael J. Sullivan Riyria Revelations 3. Nyphron RisingMichael J. Sullivan’s RIYRIA REVELATIONS is really growing on me. For someone who enjoys the complex, highly detailed fantasy of Erikson and Wurts, this is something much simpler, but equally satisfying.

Nyphron Rising follows Avempartha, but it’s not really a direct sequel — if you haven’t read book 2, you won’t have any problem jumping straight back into the adventures of Royce and Hadrian. This time they’ve been hired by Princess Arista of Melengar to meet with another group who are rebelling against a newly re-arisen Empire.

Royce and Hadrian are the central characters but Sullivan spends nearly as much time focusing on Arista and another storyline. I understand why he did that, but I would prefer to spend more time with Royce and Hadrian because they are most fun!

Nyphron Rising is a great story — a fun plot with new characters and plenty of action! Sullivan’s writing style is easy to follow and the story is complex enough to be exciting, but not so complex that you have to keep backtracking to remember who’s who and what happened when.

The Riyria Revelations is a very welcome change of pace and is worth setting on your bookshelf as something to read when the heavy-hitters (e.g., Wurts, Erikson, and Martin) have left you needing a breather!

The Emerald Storm is the fourth installment by Michael J. Sullivan in the RIYRIA REVELATIONS series. Chronicling the high seas exploits of Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, The Emerald Storm continues where Nyphron Rising left off and our heroes return in order to save civilization. Again.

The further revelations about the history and motivations of both Blackwater and Melborn are highlights of The Emerald Storm. These are great characters, so time spent developing their history is worthwhile. Princess Arista, the Empress, and her secretary receive their own storylines as well. However, I just didn’t feel that interested in what was happening with them this time around. I knew that Sullivan needed them to tell the story, but I just wanted to skip ahead to the main characters.

Still, Sullivan keeps the plot moving: bad people get away with being clever and devious, good people are killed, and there is enough fighting and adventure to make up for shaky attempts at drama and intrigue. I guess that I expected some swashbuckling adventure and The Emerald Storm didn’t have as much I wished for.

~John Hulet

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GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

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JOHN HULET (on FanLit's staff July 2007 -- March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years. We still hear from him every once in a while.

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  1. I’ve seen these books mentioned a lot and have considered checking them out for a while now. So many books, so little time…

  2. I have read all three of these books. I really enjoyed them. Stefan, I think you should give them a whirl. You just may really like them. I love how the stories are complete in themselves, but their is an underlining thread that connects them all together and tells a story in itself. You don’t need to read them in order, but I would really suggest it as you get to know the characters better that way along with the intertwinning thread.

    Hop you get to try them and enjoy them.

  3. man I really need to read these. The author and his wife are active on goodreads, and they are both so nice. I need to pick these up, I’ve never heard a bad thing about these books.

  4. I am glad to see you enjoyed this read. I have been really loving this series. I love how it is a great read I find easy for me to get into and understand. I love the fantasy feel, with the action and adventure included. This has been one of my greatest highlights this year, and last year. :)

  5. I have to admit I thought it would be hard to top the last book. But this was a thought with about every book so far, and Michael Sullivan delivered better than ever with each read. This is the first book that has left me wanting more and anticipating the next book, Winterstide. I can’t wait for it to come out!

  6. Too be honest, I had my misgivings before starting it. I really wasn’t up for another high-seas adventure or pirate tale, so I was a little surprised that it turned-out being my favorite, so far.

  7. Greg – Even after hearing that, I’m glad you enjoyed the book so much. Even though they are on a ship, there are other things going on that kind of evens out the ship voyage.

  8. I agree. The inner conspiracies that were occurring on the ship was an especially entertaining twist. But I think my favorite element were the warrior tribes and outlaw warlords the Ryiria meet-up with.

  9. Ayal Hurst /

    I am trying to find a copy of The Emerald Storm and Wintertide for a reasonable price….I have never before seen a paperback go for $100+….that seems crazy to me….if anyone has one they want to share, it’s the only way I’ll get to finish the series….

    Warm regards,

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