Rise of Empire by Michael J. Sullivan
Rise of Empire has all the good things that made Theft of Swords such an enjoyable read. As the second part of the Riyria Revelations series it contains the books Nyphron Rising and The Emerald Storm. You can read my review for the first part of the Riyria Revelations here.
Both stories advance the big plot about the empire and the Heir of Novron. The plot becomes more important and takes over. With the Empire newly formed, Melengar stands alone against its might. No allies are forthcoming, in fright of angering the giant, so the protagonists have to take their own future and the future of their world into their own hands. Pampered Princess Arista enlists the help of Riyria to be useful to her brother and her country, plunging into an adventure she’s ill prepared for.
Many characters we know and love come back and I don’t think I need to say anything about them. Their growth is believable and learning more about their past is interesting. A few characters get introduced and I like them very much. They are a great addition to the cast. It is amazing how few words Sullivan needs to make us love or hate a character. The story reintroduces some minor characters too and gives them a bigger role from then on.
The book is as easy a read as the one before. You can breeze through the two stories easily. It’s great that we get a better sense for the whole empire and what’s at stake. Rise of Empire holds some very entertaining twists and turns ready for you. The whole tone of the book and the story feels more mature, as our heroes struggle against a mighty adversary. They are alone in their fight, only a few people to save a kingdom. they grasp at straws and it is entertaining to watch them wriggle on, their sights set on victory, even if their chances are slim.
While I enjoyed reading this book as much as Theft of Swords, I still had some problems with both parts of Rise of Empire: In the first, the military decisions seem dumb and a bit like playing into the hands of our protagonists. These decisions are explained later on (in the second part), but only very briefly. The explanation makes them seem reasonable, but it came too late for my taste and the whole thing felt strange throughout Nyphron Rising.
My second problem lies with the end and I won’t say much about it so I don’t spoiler anything. It just felt a bit too much like the reader is compelled to read Heir of Novron. You can’t stop with just Rise of Empire and maybe read the next part some time later. I’m glad Heir of Novron is already out, otherwise the wait would have been annoying. Now that seems very good for a book, but I felt Rise of Empire didn’t really end, but rather stopped at the heights and only continues in the next book.
I think everyone that liked Theft of Swords will like Rise of Empire too and in my opinion the plot of the Riyria Revelations series isn’t something you can just stop reading in the middle. While I think this part is the weakest of the series, it leads perfectly to the next book and advances the plot in an interesting way. If you came this far, keep reading, you won’t regret it.