The Rose and The Thorn by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Riyria Chronicles (Book #2)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Published: 17th Sept 2013 by Orbit
My third time reading The Rose and The Thorn, and it still felt just as wonderful to be back.
In my view, The Crown Tower together with the The Rose and The Thorn formed the origins duology of Riyria. It also seeded the conspiracy that was over ten years in the making, leading into the captivating story that started in The Riyria Revelations. As far as prequels go, The Riyria Chronicles were superbly well-written, and continues to solidify the reasons why Michael J. Sullivan ranks as one of my favourite authors.
“I never told you anything about my past.”
“Are you going to tell me now?”
“No. I am going to show you.”
Royce Melborn aka Duster – we haven’t seen how truly dangerous he could really be, until now. Throughout reading Riyria Revelations, it was mentioned numerous times about what Royce was capable of during his much earlier days, but by that point in the overall story, it was almost all tell and no show as he has been tempered by his many years of friendship with Hadrian. In this book, however, we actually got to see this complex and fascinating character live up to that reputation.
After being completely befuddled by Hadrian’s actions during the Crown Tower heist, as well being on the receiving end of unexpected kindness from a stranger, we’re beginning to see signs of humanity surfacing from within Royce. Yet, when hell bent on revenge on those who hurt the very rare few who were kind to him, the intensity and darkness emanating from Royce was frightening and not just a little disturbing. At the same time though, it was satisfying to finally be able to have a glimpse of what made him so infamously scary.
As such, The Rose and The Thorn was probably the darkest book yet of the two Riyria series. Aside from seeing Royce’s dark side, we also have the poignant backstory of Hilfred, and the treasonous plotting that was taking root within the courts of Melengar many years ago. Brutality and maliciousness abound in this installment – oh Bishop Saldur, how I loathe thee!! One minor warning there is that reading this prequel book before The Crown Conspiracy will give away some spoilers to the plot in the latter.
On a lighter note, it was delightful to meet other characters who we’ve come to know and love from the Riyria Revelations series, such as a much younger Arista and the Pickerings. The introduction of Viscount Albert Winslow was the icing on the cake for me. His POV was funny, entertaining and also distinctive in its voice. And hence, with the viscount finally in tow, Riyria was born.
It’s really amazing how a prequel such as this can be such a page-turner given that one already knows what became of its characters in later books. I suppose that the key defining difference between merely knowing the outcome and being engaged by what actually transpired is how well the story is told. In this, Sullivan has yet again done a fantastic job.
P/S: Yes, it’s another favourite – get used to it as long as it’s a Riyria book. As Petrik once said to me, Sullivan could write a novella about Hadrian and Royce going shopping, and it’ll also be my favourite. So long as their characterisation stays true, I’ll shamelessly admit that it’ll be so.
Updated review after 2nd reread, originally written in 2015.