Age of Death by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Legends of the First Empire (Book 5 of 6)
Genre: Fantasy, high fantasy, classic fantasy
Published: 4th February 2020 (Grim Oak Press)
Age of Death took an astounding turn in the direction of the overall story, and it was brilliant!
This book is aptly titled as it would be the death of me. We have yet another cliffhanger ending as the second arc of
The Legends of the First Empire series is shaping up to be one continuous story. It was excruciating to say the least, but I can empathise with Sullivan in struggling to find a suitable point to break off for each volume, short of releasing it as a single doorstopper. A single volume wouldn’t work for physical printing purposes, especially if collectors of the hardcovers want to maintain the aesthetics of the books. And if you’ve seen their covers and how the hardcovers look like, you’ll want that consistency. They are stunningly beautiful.
The mythology of Elan as we know it (from Riyria) has been blown apart in this penultimate volume. It is getting harder and harder to write a review for one of these books as we progress towards what is looking to be an epic finale. Reading The Legends of the First Empire as a huge fan of Riyria (books which I’ve read about three times already) made it more enthralling as one can now appreciate how much history has morphed into myths and legends over the span of three thousand years. I’d probably sound like a broken record by now, but it is the gradual unveiling of the truths, the real events and the people behind it, which made this series so incredibly captivating for me.
It would not come to your surprise to know that our beloved characters also continued to grow and develop most compellingly as they venture into a strange new place. I know it sounded vague, but truly I couldn’t say anything more except that the resultant worldbuilding in this place was spectacular. Those who’ve read Age of Legend would know what it was to come. Even with such anticipation, I was amazed with the revelations that came to light when our brave and intrepid band of unlikely heroes dared to undertake this dangerous and arduous journey. Have I ever said how much I loved that the unsung heroes of this saga were not typical heroes and warriors?
“This war won’t be won or lost by birds or dragons, nor by greed or hate, but by the courage and virtue of an unlikely few who will forfeit everything to save the future.”
Sullivan’s writing kept getting better over the years, but the one thing which has been his hallmark all these time was his excellent characterisation. I dare you to read his books and come out not caring about the characters. The story of redemption, one of my favourite character themes, is ever present and well-written in Sullivan’s books (Riyria was the best example of this). And then we also have the stories of marginalised characters who are and become so much more than what people expect them to be.
Poor indeed are the infallible, for facing failure teaches us how to prosper.
Age of Death is the most exciting and fantastic entry of the series so far. While one would expect that of a penultimate instalment of a series, it was the manner in which the story took a turn that made it so fascinating and thrilling. I have no clue how the story will continue for the finale, Age of Empyre, which is without a doubt one of my most anticipated books of the year.
I received an early copy of the ebook as one of the Kickstarter backers.
Official release date: 4th February 2020