Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Crown Conspiracy - Michael J. Sullivan



About the Book

They killed the king. They pinned it on two men. They chose poorly.

Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles until they become the unwitting scapegoats to 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. 

I’ve wanted to read this book for about a year now. Lucky me, Robin Sullivan asked me if I’d be willing to review the series. Of course I said yes. How could I not? I got the first two books in the Riyria Revelations series a few days ago along with some bookmarks. Michael Sullivan was kind enough to autograph them for me. That thrilled me half to death. Getting signed books is about as exciting as it gets for me. (Links for author pimpage are at the bottom of this post)

The Crown Conspiracy is a debut novel, but it doesn’t really read like one. After a somewhat rocky start the novel quickly hits its pace. Sullivan irons out his style and the book really takes off. One of my Goodreads updates regarding this book said, “it went from being on the better side of average to unputdownable in about ten pages flat.” That’s a pretty good summary of how the plot flows. The first few pages are rocky, some awkward moments but then the plot explodes and suddenly you find yourself whirled along with the protagonists on an unlikely adventure.

It’s important for the reader to understand that this is a good old-fashioned adventure tale. It is self-contained and incredibly character driven. I am pointing that out because; if you pick up this book expecting a George R. R. Martin-esque series you will be disappointed. This isn't a complex book with a thousand side plots, uber complex cultures and a cast of characters about a mile long. This book weighs in at a little over 300 pages and because of that, the plot and character development is incredibly measured. A lot has to happen in that small amount of pages, but Sullivan handles it masterfully. All of this makes The Crown Conspiracy rather refreshing. 

As I mentioned above, this book is incredibly character driven. The world, by and large, was interesting but much on the back burner compared to the tale being told by the protagonists. There isn’t an epic list of characters to keep track of, nor do they all carry confusing names which are as long as my arm. This seems to be a very wise choice for Sullivan to have made. It kept the plot understandable and relieved the frustrations I often feel when starting a new fantasy series. The simple language and simple names allowed him to really focus on the story he was telling. That was a very noticeable and welcome change from many other books I’ve read recently.

Sullivan’s writing is wonderful, almost understated. He’s not overwhelmingly descriptive, but he’s about as descriptive as a book like this needs to be. He seems to know when to lie on the literary prose and when to keep it simple. Perhaps I am odd for being shocked by how atmospheric this book was. It’s small size and readability is very deceptive. It’s an easy tale to get lost in.

There was a section of the book which seemed a little info-dump intensive but that was handled nicely and the information given was information which, I’m sure, will be important for me to understand for the rest of the series. While this isn’t really a complaint, it is an observation that many potential readers may want to be aware of. However, the character who did the info-dumping was a welcome, humorous addition to the overall book. 

This book isn’t amazingly deep, but I don’t really think it’s meant to be. Sullivan seems to be setting the mood for the rest of his series, which, from what I understand, are all fairly self-contained like this book. The Crown Conspiracy is a good action-adventure romp and as such, was a comforting read which could serve to invigorate the action-adventure sphere. The book ended well, if a bit predictably. I did have a hard time with some believability with the characters. An example of what I mean is that it seemed at times that the prince might have, perhaps, accepted his situation a bit too easily to be fully believable. Those were small issues when compared to the whole of the work.

Many of the characters in this work seem to start out fairly stereotypical and some never quite venture far from that mark. However, as the tale goes on each character grows and develops an interesting and unique identity of their own. Sullivan blends the comfort of genre stereotypes with enough of a new flavor to keep readers interested and it’s worked for him. He has a huge following of fans for this series. He’s a good storyteller, and that’s advertized well in The Crown Conspiracy.

I’m sure every review out there mentions this, but regardless, I’ll mention it again. Michael Sullivan finished all of the books in this series before the first one was published. This really peaks my interest for several reasons. 1) I am very interested to see if this method of attacking this project will help with keeping plot, world building and characterization more tightly woven than often found in ongoing series and 2) because writing six books and editing them all before the first one goes to press impresses the hell out of me.

In summary, The Crown Conspiracy nicely blends well-known fantasy tropes and new ideas to create something unique, yet comforting. This was a good action-adventure romp filled with interesting situations which reminded me of Dungeons and Dragons (only better) with the maturity an adult would enjoy. His writing, and system for naming his world is blessedly simple which allows the reader to enjoy the tale he is telling more. The cast of characters is small, easy to manage and well contained. If the ending was somewhat predictable and the some of the characters actions/reactions weren’t completely believable, it’s easy to overlook. This book is like invigorating candy to action-adventure tales.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. Sullivan really has something great going here.

4/5 stars

Author's website
Author's blog

I'd post links to places you can buy the book but seriously, it's all over the place. 

9 comments:

  1. Glad you are enjoying it, I have the ARC of Wintertide and plan to get to it soon. You are in for a great experience with Sullivan. Simple tale that gets better with each installment.

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  2. Still haven't tried the series, but it's on my tbr list!

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  3. I've had this one on my list for awhile too, but they don't have it at the library, and I rarely buy books. Someday I'll get to it.

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  4. So thrilled you enjoyed this one. :) I loved it! It's fun, pure fun and to a point that is what a great deal what reading should be about! :)

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  5. Hey Brenda - most libraries will order books that are requested. For mine there is an on-line form and at present the first 4 books have been added to my library. Thanks for remininding me that I need to make a request for Wintertide now!!

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  6. STOP GIVING ME NEW THINGS I WANT TO READ! ARRG!

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  7. An excellent review and one I'm sure that Michael and Robin will be well-pleased to have. :-) Michael hit the nail on the head with that message he wrote for you - indeed, welcome to the adventure! :-)

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  8. So glad you got a chance to read this and enjoyed it so much! I enjoyed the desciptions in the book, they are just right. They could have very easily been over done, but Michael did a wonderful job with it. And the series just keeps getting better and better. You are hooked now. :) No looking back.

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  9. Major kudos to the guy for being able to edit the series before #1 goes to press. Thanks for the review, I like the sound of this book; a character driven adventure fantasy that doesn't rely on 'epicness' but allows the characters to drive the story. I'll check this out when I get chance :)

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