Publication Date: November 23, 2011 (first published April 1, 2009)
Edition: Paperback, 649 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
600+ pages have never gone by so fast!
THE SECRET IS IN THE TOWER. THE PROBLEM IS THE BEAST. THE ANSWER IS TWO THIEVES.
When a destitute young woman hires two thieves to help save her remote village from nocturnal attacks, they are drawn into the schemes of the wizard Esrahaddon. While Royce struggles to breech the secrets of an ancient elven tower, Hadrian attempts to rally the villagers to defend themselves against the unseen killer. What begins with the simple theft of a sword places the two thieves at the center of a firestorm — that could change the future of Elan.
This book went by way too fast! I read the omnibus in just over a week, but it felt like it only took a few days. This story, Mark’s story-telling and writing in general, is astoundingly good.
We pick up with Riyria in Colnora taking care of some unfinished business. While there, they are approached by a girl who needs their services to retrieve a magical sword from the tower Avempratha in the Nindwalden River. Back at her home village, there is some type of magical demon-beast murdering people every night. A villager – Mr. Esra Haddon – told her Riyria were the only ones who could help… But the question is, why them? Meanwhile back at Medford, Prince Alric has a new duty for Princess Arista. This new duty will lead her up to Ghent where the Church of Novron is gathering participants for a grand tournament, but no one has any idea what the competition will be or what the prize could be.
In my previous review of Crown Conspiracy, I stated how I believed that the history of Elan and the battling of the three political parties were going to become more prevalent towards the overall story arc – this seems to have been correct. The Church of Novron plays a much bigger role this time around. With characters like Saldur, Esrahaddon and some newly introduced characters, all gain more page time and turn our focus to the workings of The Church. We explore its history, bring into question what exactly their overall mission is with the heir of Novron, and why it was that Esrahaddon was imprisoned. There is also the matter of the dwarves and elves that was hinted at previously. The prejudice and hate towards all elves in Avryn, and then the history of the dwarfish people as great builders. These two histories, along with new details of the church, further to complex the plot and expand the horizons of the world. (I am particularly interested in the history of the dwarves and elves when man first appeared)
While in Crown, we saw Prince Alric had a coming-of-age story, this time around we delve deeper into the character of Arista. She has to deal with the aftermath of having been accused of witch-craft and murder, and also the pressures of her new duty laid upon her by her brother.
With Arista, Michael also brings up the question that I had been thinking about at the conclusion of Crown – who was telling the truth about her father’s murder? Both Esrahaddon and Saldur give her conflicting answers with their own truths of the situation – what their own goal was, and what their opposition’s goal was with the Church, Heir, and Old Empire. Along with this conflict, and the information being provided from other characters, it starts to become extremely clear where this story is headed.
I had the feeling the histories of Royce and Hadrian were going to explored as well. They are obviously not explored to the full extent here – that would be foolish with still four books to go – but we do learn more of them. Answering some questions, and raising more. We see each of these characters becoming more of their own, separate personalities. In the village, Hadrian develops into more of the nobel, protective type, and with Esrahaddon, we see Royce as the mysterious, lone-wolf, grudge on his shoulder guy.
It’s a very interesting development, because while we see them growing more into each their own, I didn’t feel that their friendship was in any way hindered during the story. If anything, it made me feel how strong their bond actually is. However, it exposed several chinks in the armor of what could be their downfall.
When I first sat down to review this omnibus, I hesitated to say ‘typical fantasy tropes‘ and in the end decided to remove it all completely from Crown for fear some readers would see that and run the other way. But I will not now. These books have a lot of them. The contrasting personalities of a team-duo, and the main protagonists with unknown histories. The bad guys gone good, and good against evil. It has dwarves, elves, wizards, and magic. There is even a rescuing of the prince and princess. All this and more. It has typical fantasy tropes, but people, let me you – it does not matter. THIS STORY IS AMAZING. The reason that this is such an amazing story is because of how well Michael J. Sullivan wrote it. The fact that it has what some would call ‘overused’ tropes is completely irrelevant. What matters is how
good great and fun a read this is. The tropes are merely the platforms for MJS to set his story on.
If I hear anyone says they don’t want to read this because they are tired of X, Y, and Z, I will send a Gilarabrywn to your house, and have a dwarf lock you in there. There is no reason whatsoever for anyone to miss out on this story, because DAMN! did this have a good ending! (And I thought this one was even more funny!)