Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Emerald Storm - Michael Sullivan


About the book

A MESSAGE IS INTERCEPTED. A SINISTER PLAN LAUNCHED. TWO THIEVES STAND IN THE WAY.

Ex-mercenary Hadrian Blackwater sets course on a high seas adventure to find the lost Heir of Novron. His only hope lies in confronting the ruthless and cunning Merrick Marius. Fearing his friend is not up to the challenge, Royce Melborn joins his old partner for one last mission. Their journey finds them adrift amid treachery and betrayals forcing Hadrian to face a past he hoped never to see again.



375 pages (paperback)
Published on: April 2, 2010
Published by: Ridan Publishing – will also be released by Orbit
Author’s webpage

Thanks to the Sullivans for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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I read Nyphron Rising when I was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago. I reviewed it, and then got so overwhelmed with life I basically completely forgot I read and reviewed it, until Robin Sullivan reminded me in an email. I felt like an idiot, but I guess it’s excusable. That was a pretty incredible period of my life. That being said, The Emerald Storm did an amazing job at refreshing my memory with plot and characters without overwhelming me with a series-up-to-this-point summary that can take up half the book. I mention this to say that The Emerald Storm is strong enough to stand on its own merit, but, unlike previous books, I’d recommend readers read the series up  to this point before they start on this one. It can be read as a stand alone, but I think it would be a confusing stand-alone and would lack the punch it will have for readers who have already invested time in the series.

The world in The Emerald Storm grows quite a bit compared to other installments in the series. Along with growing, it seems to gain a history and depth that other books hinted at but never really expanded upon in this amount of detail. New cultures are introduced to the reader, like the Tenkins who are somewhat tribal and live in the jungle far south of the Empire. Sullivan also mentions other lands which the beyond the boarders of where the series has thus far ventured. This really adds a new layer of depth and development to the series as a whole and reminds me a bit of Steven Erikson’s history filled Malazan world, yet on much more reader friendly terms lacking the overwhelming qualities of Erikson’s series.

The characters in The Emerald Storm also develop nicely along with the series. Women in The Emerald Storm seem a bit more powerful, sure-footed and pivotal to the plot than they did in other installments in the series. Arista, in particular, is developing nicely and really becoming a character to watch for. While I did find myself wishing she had a bit more time in the limelight, I truly enjoy how Sullivan is developing her. Despite the strong character growth and development in the main cast, the antagonist, Thranic, was a bit too stereotypical and predictable in his role. He was interesting to follow and added a nice panache to the book, but he lacked the strong qualities of the rest of the cast and was a bit of a disappointment overall.

The Emerald Storm reminds me a bit of The Wizard of Oz, specifically, the “man behind the curtain.” The events that dominate Royce and Hadrian’s part of the story are almost completely manipulated and planned out by Royce’s nemesis, Merrick, whom the reader won’t really interact with until the end of the book. While Merrick’s name is mentioned quite often, the fact that he remains an illusive, shadowy figure throughout the book gives Royce and Hadrian’s entire chunk of the book an incredibly mysterious air and leaves the reader curious about a number of different plot elements.

As I mentioned above, the women in The Emerald Storm really stood out more than they have in previous installments, specifically Arista who is really coming into her own. While her portion of the plot centers more on the empire and the depressing and somewhat mad puppet empress, the real highlight of that portion of the book is Arista’s overall character development. Though she doesn’t seem to have as much stage time as Amelia, she truly steals the limelight in her sections and dominates the cast that enters her portions with her.

I should mention the plot. The Emerald Storm is quickly moving and because of Sullivan’s writing style, it is easy for the book to engage the reader. However, a large portion of the book takes place on a boat and, if you know me, you know that not much turns me off faster than paranormal romance, zombies and boats. It says more for the book and plot development that I enjoyed the portions of the book that took place on a ship as much as the landlocked portions, which is no small feat.

The ending of The Emerald Storm will leave readers frantic to move on to Wintertide. The plot pace mirrors the development of the series as a whole. There is no slow boil here. Something is always happening, yet in the midst of Sullivan’s quickly moving plots are some incredible character developments. The series is at once bold and subtle, serious and fun and so is this book. Sullivan toys with tried and true sword and sorcery tropes and twists them into something new and fresh. Readers will want to be invested in the series before they embark on The Emerald Storm, but it’s well worth it. The Emerald Storm is a quality installment in an already beloved series.

4.5/5 stars

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