Sometimes a book comes along at just the right time, and for me, Theft of Swords was such a book. Fatigued by Grimdark, I wanted something that was very much fantasy in a traditional sense, something that was a bit light and sparkling despite bad things occasionally happening.
Enter Royce and Hadrian.
From the very first scene, in which our two protagonists jokingly taunt and critique a band of increasingly mystified bandits, I was enchanted. Immediately I felt that Sullivan had hit on something that has been a bit lacking of late – a return to Fantasy in the vein of Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser novels, where the characters can be heroes or antiheroes without everything having to be dark, dank and miserable. Indeed, a lot of bad things do happen in this world. There is racism, poverty, murder and plenty of dangerous beasts lurking in the dark. But the tone is so delightfully chipper and hopeful, the humor so on point, and the friendships so utterly real that I couldn’t help but feel my spirits lift. Readers who enjoy Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards will feel right at home here, as there’s a similar sense of easy chemistry and laugh-out-loud banter between the two leads.
With that said, in this entry my favorite character is easily Myron, a hopelessly sheltered and naive monk who due to tragic circumstances is forced to tag along with Royce and Hadrian for a while. His fish-out-of-water observations and hilariously inappropriate comments had me cackling in public places to the point where I had to switch off the audio book a few times to avoid total embarrassment. It’s also fair to note that some of the credit there goes to the powerhouse performance of Tim Gerard Reynolds, who is always a joy to listen to. If you need any persuasion on that front, Sullivan has two free Riyria short stories up on Audible that are stand alones and will give you a great idea of what to expect:
The plot to both stories in Theft of Swords (two books for the price of one here, folks) is coherent, clever and nicely paced, with some great surprises and excellent situational comedy along the way. Frankly, I enjoyed it so much that I picked up the entire series on audio book and backed his latest, The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter, on Kickstarter. That’s on the strength of the first novel – and people tell me that this is the weakest one!
What a time to be alive. 🙂
r/Fantasy Bingo 2017 Squares
- Debut Fantasy Novel
- AMA Author
- r/Fantasy Goodreads Book of the Month