Age of Swords is a great sequel in developing the characters that I’ve grown to love in Age of Myth.
I could appreciate why the author named this as his favourite book of the series, even at this early stage. Every author should be fond of the characters that they have created, and writing that one book that brought most growth had to be the most fulfilling.
Age of Swords demonstrated what usually occurs when the bonds of subjugation start to fray. Prior to the events in the Age of Myth, the Fhreys were viewed to be gods and the Rhunes primitive beings. With the co-mingling of the outcast Fhrey amongst the Rhunes and a chance meeting with Dhergs or dwarves, the sharing of ideas and technology enabled the more ‘primitive’ race to advance at an exponential level. The discovery of the reclusive and covetous Dherg, and their know-how played a significant role in this novel. I have to say that some of these advancements did occur almost all too expediently or conveniently. Regardless, it didn’t really bother me as the superb character development completely overshadowed this minor issue.
I think we’ve just witnessed the world shift, and I doubt it’ll ever be the same again.
As before in Age of Myth, there wasn’t a tremendous amount of plot progression in this book. The material sought to give the reader a better appreciation of the key characters and why they are so important to the story. What happens is that the pacing slows down and we get a lot of conversations taking place. This is important for me, though. The Legends of the First Empire is a prequel series for me in its truest sense as I have read all of the Riyria Revelations and Chronicles’ books. As such, I can say I already have some knowledge of the final outcome, and the journey becomes more important to me; i.e. the story of what actually happened vs what became “legend” millennia later. There was just so much fun and delight in discovering the linkages and references to the Riyria series. My heart did a little dance whenever something or someone caused me to exclaim “Oh my gosh, is it…” or “Is that..?”
One thing’s for sure, if you are looking for well-written female characters no look further than in Michael J Sullivan’s books.
Although men were strong like rocks, any stone could crack. Women were more like water. They nurtured life and could shape the hardest granite through unrelenting determination.
The female characters in this series are astounding. They are smart, courageous, resilient, compassionate and strong without once compromising what makes them women. Be it Persephone, Moya, Roan, Brin or Suri, all their stories truly shine. There is no better word to describe the character development of this stellar cast, on which a lot of time was spent.
This is in stark contrast to the men, who seemed to be stubbornly irritating. Well, except for one outright star which I will come to later. I was especially annoyed with Raithe and Mawyndule. Raithe’s arc seemed to take a step backwards in here with his reluctance to act and pessimism leading to an almost cowardly course of action. I definitely wished to see more of Malcolm to temper his insufferable whining. Mawyndule’s POV was completely unlikable as it served to drive the point of how the Miralyth believed themselves to be above all other Fhreys and deserved to be within the pantheon of the gods itself. It was, unfortunately, a necessary evil to shape the narrative of the larger story at hand.
The saving grace among the men was no other than Gifford. I was delighted that he actually received a fair bit of page-time in here. Damaged as he was, his strength of will, determination and courage was extraordinary. His relationship with Roan was especially beautiful, bittersweet, heart-wrenching and sad at the same time. An outwardly crippled man who does not view himself as such, and a brilliant woman who is broken inside.
Most people pitied Gifford and a few even despised him. He never understood either.
Another favourite aspect of this book is, finally, the explanation of the Art. Oh my gosh, it was so beautiful and I truly understand now why it is called the Art. The power of creation that exists in almost everything in the world; the threads and the chords and how it can be altered, manipulated by an Artist. Arising out of this particular narrative was an emotionally powerful sequence of scenes, definitely the most memorable for me from this book.
As much as I loved a whole lot of Age of Swords, it pained me that there are parts which I did not enjoy, namely Mawyndule’s and the Miralyth arc. As necessary as it was, it was a bit longer than I would have liked it to be.
All in all, though, this is another really solid instalment into The Legends of the First Empire. Hopefully, with most of the key characters being established and judging from the ending of Age of Swords, we will finally be getting more action in the subsequent book, Age of War.
Review originally written in July 2017