Book Review: Crown Conspiracy (Theft of Swords: Part 1 of 2) by Michael J. Sullivan

The Crown Conspiracy (The Riyria Revelations #1) by Michael J. Sullivan

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: November 23, 2011 (first published April 1, 2009)

Edition: Paperback, 649 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

A fun and enticing story that had me turing page to page with ease!


The Crown Conspiracy is book one of the multi-book saga: The Riyria Revelations. The series is told through six novels conceived as a single epic tale. Across the entire chronicle, mysteries build, characters evolve, and plots thicken, but each is self-contained and can be read independent of one another.

In the first episode, the reader is introduced to Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, who make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles until they become the unwitting scapegoats in the murder of the king. Sentenced to death, they have only one way out…and so begins this epic tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.

We all know nothing ever goes according to plan – for me at least. So I see plans as more of guidelines. After finishing the Broken Empire Trilogy, I intended to keep riding the grimdark train and dive into The First Law Trilogy. However, things happen. I decided to change path and go with the Riyria Revelations. Let me tell you, I think I made a GREAT decision to bump this up in my TBR.

The Crown Conspiracy follows the story of a duo of thieves-for-hire, Hadrian and Royce, called Riyria. They are hired for an assignment to steal a famous sword that is currently in Essedon’s Castle… that is King Amrath Essedon of Warric’s Castle. What seemed like a very simple job and easy money, turns on them quickly and they soon find themselves locked in a dungeon awaiting execution for one of the highest acts of treason one could commit. Luckily though, some in the castle believe them to be innocent, and maybe be willing to help… if they do them a favor. And this favor is to kidnap the prince and take him on a journey.

This story is centered around Hadrian and Royce, but interestingly enough, we never really get a chapter that focuses exclusively on their thoughts and feelings. Instead we have chapters alternating with other them and the other character around them. The picture we get of Riyria – our main protagonists – is actually mostly from other character’s perspectives and their interactions with them. I surprisingly, found this to be used very effectively. Never once did I feel aggravated or left out because I wasn’t in their minds –  honestly, didn’t even notice that much until I sat to writ this – but I think that was because of how well the story is written and told.

Michael I found to be an excellent writer.

When it comes to epic fantasy, a lot of times the author can get caught in the world-building and add a serious amount of fluff that just drags on for the reader and ultimately can take us out of the story. It terms of the ‘showing and telling’ technique authors do – I felt Michael’s was very appropriate. He gave me enough detail of a boat floating down the river to see the changes in location and get a sense of the world, but not too much where I’d be saying to myself that I don’t care how the wind flows over the water.

I also found Michael to have an excellent sense of humor with his characters. From one-liners to character dialogs going back and forth – it added to  the ‘fun’ feeling of the story, and to the individuality of each character. The humor particularly helped to form Hadrian and Royce, and their bond.

Hadrian and Royce are your typical contrasting teammates. They have different personalities, yet they seem to mesh well. They come from different paths in life – and histories that we do no know of yet – but somehow their paths have led them together. Basic formula, but it’s how Michael carries it out that doesn’t make it feel generic. The bond between these two men and this friendship they have – which more than just businessman – is felt immediately. These contracting personality, the unknown history and their deep friendship, make it feel like something is being set up for later on in the series, where one of their pasts will come to light, and it will cause some major type of conflict between the two that will put their friendship to the test.

Another two characters I would like to point out is Myron and Prince Alric. Myron is sweet, lovable old-man who has the enthusiasm of a kid going to Disney Land and seeing Minnie Mouse for the first time (or maybe going on a carousel is more appropriate?). He has one scene with a tree that I found to be particularly emotional and moving. Prince Alric, as the story went on, seemed to go through a coming-of-age story as a side dish to the main focus of this book. I thought added some nice, extra depth to the story, but his story also set the foundation of what seems to be the overall plot of the series.

In the background of story with Riyria, we learn about the history of Avryn and the world of Elan. How the Old Empire once fell, and there are now three political parties all trying to gain control. As time goes on, this background history that was being built up and told, becomes more and more prevalent to this book and what seems to be the series as a whole.

While I have just read the first book, I get the feeling that this is going to be an episodic type of epic fantasy. Meaning, each book will have a focus on some type of ‘quest’, but it will also be pushing forward the overarching story of the series at the same time.

I must also mention that what I found most impressive was how easy a read this was. This is an epic fantasy – no arguing there. Tons of different places, huge map, deep history, many named characters (with a glossary in the back) , and a complex plot. Yet the way it was written, reading this was effortless and I got to focus solely on story. Compliments again to Michael’s writing.

I had always heard the Riyria Revelations were a fun a series, and I completely agree. Reading this book, time just flew by. The pages kept on turning and I was done before I knew it! There is humor, action (some pretty good sword fights), and the story is always moving forward. Great plot for the book, and I went back and forth between who-done-it multiple times. I get the sense seeds are being laid down for the stuff about the Old Empire to take off, and I’m excited to see where this series goes.

And oh yeah, I hate dwarves!

4/5 Rating


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7 thoughts on “Book Review: Crown Conspiracy (Theft of Swords: Part 1 of 2) by Michael J. Sullivan

  1. Leona says:

    I am looking forward to reading the Riyria books! Mike Sullivan’s books are my newest discovery 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael is an amazing writer!(I read all these straight through last month) What have you read by him?

      I started reading the Riyria Revelations right after I finished the Broken Empire. Revelations is more a ‘fun’ series, but because of having spent all that time with Jorg, the whole first book I kept expecting something just horrific to happen.


  2. I love Sullivan’s works, especially his Riyria books. It’s definitely a more traditional jaunt, but I also appreciate the series for its familiarity and for being more down to earth. And the conclusion to this series was mind blowing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so glad to hear be doesn’t go overboard with the world building. I’ve been wanting to read this one.

    Liked by 1 person

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