A brilliant sequel which fulfilled both my eager anticipation and high expectations, Age of Legend takes the First Empire series to another level of greatness with the promise of a showstopper by its finale.
Age of Legend is structurally different from the continuous narrative in the preceding three volumes. This book has three sections; the first part is the shortest which deals with the immediate aftermath of the battle at Alon Rhist. The second section takes place one year after that, and there will be another five years’ time leap for the third and largest part of the book. Without needing to go into too much detail and dragging the narrative, the three-part story enabled the reader to appreciate how protracted the war was between the Rhunes and the Fhreys, before going into the more portentous events.
What a strange treasure is innocence, a virtue to the old and a curse to the young, so highly prized but eagerly parted with – the riches of beautiful skin traded for the wisdom of calluses.
Each chapter is once again preceded by an excerpt from the in-world The Book of Brin, and the first being that of innocence lost after the first war between men and elves. These excerpts in the previous books tended to almost give too much away about the probable events in the ensuing chapter. In Age of Legend, however, they were more obscured and provided more of an impression or a feeling of what is to come, and I thought this was masterfully done. Sullivan’s writing has also improved so much since Riyria, but that ease of immersion that feels like a welcoming embrace is still ever present. Reading a new book from him is akin to slipping into your favourite cosy sweater. But lo and behold, what is this hidden pocket that you just discovered? You may feel like you know Elan well, but you’ll still be surprised by well-crafted revelations about its lore and history that surface at all the right moments.
Sullivan became one of my favourite authors with the Riyria series through his innate skill of creating and writing characters that feel like good, old friends that you would want to revisit time and again. In the First Empire series, such intimate characterisation continues to be the hallmark of Sullivan’s writing. There are no shortages of empathetic, three-dimensional characters, be it ones that you loved or despised. One individual which I found so unlikeable in the earlier books became such a sympathetic character that you couldn’t help rooting for her. Then there was one whom I thought would be a beacon of honour, due to his legendary name, who turned out to be a viper fuelled by vindictive vengeance. As much as I can understand his motivations, it unnerved and shocked me. And I loved how Sullivan created real heroes from those whom you least expected. Not heroes of might and magic, but of steadfast courage born of compassion and loyalty. Squishy heart moments are aplenty in these books.
Things that were obvious in the confines of the heart often failed to translate well when expressed through the inadequate filter of language.
As mentioned by the author, this next phase of the series is made up of a single overarching plot over the final three books. As such, the plot did not progress as much as what we had in Age of War, which served as the first climax of the series. However, there was not once throughout the book which I felt bored in the slightest. The character development is so compelling and riveting that every moment and every page felt important. What I enjoyed most about the First Empire series was getting the unvarnished account of the events and the true heroes which shaped the legends known three thousand years later.
Given that Age of Legend is past the midway point of the series, I prefer not to make any mention about the plot at this stage except that it is working its way to a showstopping finale in a most engaging manner. Please note that this book ends with a cliffhanger of sorts, and I am thankful to know that the next two books are most likely to be released on an accelerated schedule.
Age of Legend will be published on 9th July 2019. I received an early copy of the ebook as a Kickstarter backer.