The Crown Tower: Fast-paced sword-wielding fun

The Crown Tower by Michael J SullivanThe Crown Tower by Michael J Sullivan

The Crown Tower is the first book in Michael J. Sullivan’s RIYRIA CHRONICLES series. This series starts before the existing novels, THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS, and it lets us see how Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn first meet.

Since I haven’t read any of Sullivan’s other books, in a way I was the perfect reader for this one. I didn’t have expectations. The Crown Tower is full of fast-paced sword-wielding fun from the first chapter. Sullivan’s breezy style moves the book along quickly. The characters are drawn well enough to hold the reader’s interest and make the conflicts believable. Royce and Hadrian, in particular, are so different that it is hard to see how they will ever be able to work together, which is exactly Sullivan’s point.

Hadrian Blackwater is a mercenary soldier, coming home after many years of fighting pointless battles in pointless wars. His father has died and he is on the way to meet an old family friend who bears a message from him. Practically as soon as he steps off the boat, Hadrian has to save a street-boy from a press-gang, and we see that he is both an amazing fighter and an amiable sort who really just wants to get along.

On a barge headed upriver, Hadrian is suddenly in the middle of a bloody mystery when everyone on the barge except for him is either dead or vanished. The murderer, he is sure, is the unfriendly dark-hooded man on the barge, the one the other passengers had warned him about. When he reports the murders, though, he and the sheriff find no trace of the barge or the bodies, or any report of a barge missing. Hadrian continues on to the university of Sheridan, where he meets his father’s friend, the mage Arcadius, who also introduces him to the dark-hooded man; Royce Melborn.

Royce moves with almost supernatural speed. He is acrobatically agile. He trusts no one, he kills without compunction and he doesn’t believe in friends. He is loyal to Arcadius because he owes him a debt. Arcadius is about to collect. He insists that Royce and Hadrian, together, steal a magical treatise from the Crown Tower, an impregnable fortress in a neighboring country.

In a state of mutual distrust, Hadrian and Royce set off. The multiple murders and the cover-up on the barge are explained to Hadrian’s satisfaction if not approval. The first attempt at the mission does not go well, as these two still haven’t learned to work together. Even while they are bickering, Sullivan demonstrates how Royce’s cynicism, based on experience, can be very useful, while Hadrian’s innate chivalry and good nature build up a bank of goodwill they are able to draw on later when they need to.

The book also follows Gwen DeLancy, a prostitute in the town of Medford. When a customer murders another girl and the owner of the brothel where she works does nothing, Gwen leaves and takes the other girls with her, forming her own brothel. Gwen, it turns out, has gifts of her own, and did not end up in Medford randomly. The way she is connected to Hadrian and Royce is interesting. While I’m disappointed that women can apparently only be barmaids, prostitutes or farmwives in Sullivan’s fantasy universe, I admire Gwen’s guts and smarts as she carves out her own territory in the male-dominated port town.

The book moves quickly, and the action sequences are lively. The best parts of the book are Gwen’s actions to come into her own, and the growing partnership between Royce and Hadrian. A battle scene at a farmhouse near the end is catch-your-breath exciting.

Wise-cracking, sword-swinging characters with just enough pathos to hold my sympathy; this book makes me want to go find the first in the RIYRIA REVELATIONS series and read it, to find out what Royce and Hadrian are doing years later. Mission accomplished, Mr. Sullivan. Keep up the good work.

Release date: August 6, 2013 | Series: The Riyria Chronicles. Two men who hate each other. One impossible mission. A legend in the making. Hadrian Blackwater, a warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with Royce Melborn, a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most prized possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels that the old wizard is after, and if he can just keep them from killing each other, just might do it.

SHARE:  facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail  FOLLOW:  facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrsstumblr

MARION DEEDS is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

View all posts by Marion Deeds

One comment

  1. I admit that I’ve only read “Theft of Swords” at this point, but knowing that the prequels are hitting the shelves makes me want to dump all other reading projects and just focus on the rest of the Riyria revelations books so that I can catch up ASAP! I really can’t believe I let this series slip by me for so long.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Thoughtful Thursday: Hooked into reading | Fantasy Literature: Fantasy and Science Fiction Book and Audiobook Reviews - [...] a reader. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of his latest book The Crown Tower …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>