Michael J. Sullivan‘s The Crown Conspiracy is like a breath of fresh air. After a seemingly endless flood of heavy, gigantic fantasy books, this short, fairly simple opening to a new series was very welcome. I didn’t feel like I needed to take pages of notes to figure out everything that was going on!
The main characters are a pair of common miscreants named Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater. They are both criminals, but not without conscience. Royce is the planner and thief in the pair while Hadrian is the muscle and the fighter. They almost reminded me of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.
Our heroes are drawn into a conspiracy (hence the title) to kill the royal family of Melengar. Framed for one murder, Royce and Hadrian are then freed to save the life of the Royal Prince, Alric, who considers them the murderers of his father. So, the stage is set with plenty of danger, some interesting characters, and some villains to threaten the heroes.
The Crown Conspiracy is easy reading, replete with familiar situations and comfortable. This is the sort of fantasy that I grew up with, and it was a real joy to get back to it. You won’t find yourself comparing these books to Steven Erikson or Janny Wurts, but they hold their own against David Eddings and early Raymond E. Feist. As long as you’re not expecting high literature, The Crown Conspiracy is a great read.