Cover art illustrated by: Marc Simonetti
The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Riyria Chronicles (Book #3)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 408 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 15th October 2015 by Riyria Enterprises, LLC (Self-published)
The Death of Dulgath is the best volume in The Riyria Chronicles so far.
There’s no way I’m starting this review without mentioning my admiration of the gorgeous cover art illustrated by Marc Simonetti. My co-blogger—TS—own the limited hardcover edition of The Death of Dulgath and The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter, and wow, they’re stunning. I’m actually sad that I don’t have the means to own those editions. THIS is the cover art that The Riyria Revelations and the first two books in The Riyria Chronicles deserve, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed these books will receive the Simonetti cover art treatment.
“What else is there to hope for with any art? To capture not just truth but a truth worthy of display, one that provides comfort, joy, or understanding, and moves the heart or makes it pause.”
I’ve been doing my best to prolong my journey through The Riyria Chronicles, and it’s bittersweet that I have only one published book in the series left to read now. I loved this installment so much; I loved The Death of Dulgath even more than The Crown Tower, and I’m sure on a reread after I finished The Legends of the First Empire I’m going to love it even more. I sound like a broken record, but I’m repetitively impressed by what Sullivan did with this series of standalone prequel novels to The Riyria Revelations. I won’t claim The Riyria Chronicles as one of the most mind-blowing or epic fantasy series out there; it’s not that kind of fantasy series. However, every installment in The Riyria Chronicles keeps on achieving one rare feat: they make me feel good.
“Hadrian had never witnessed Royce laughing in good humor. When he laughed, babies cried.”
Nysa Dulgath is the last member of the oldest family in Alvyn, and she’s targeted for assassination. Three times they tried to kill her, and now a professional is hired to destroy this plot. Enter our beloved Riyria duo, they’ve been partnered for three years now, and now they’re asked to prevent the murder of Nysa Dulgath. The previous two books in The Riyria Chronicles can be considered as a duology that depicted the origin story of Hadrian and Royce. The Death of Dulgath is the third installment in The Riyria Chronicles by Michael J. Sullivan, and this book marks the first time this prequel series truly moves towards a more standalone approach with the narrative. Although I mentioned reading this book and series made me feel good, do not let it fool you into thinking that The Death of Dulgath or the previous books was ever lacking in necessary tension, conflicts, and compelling mystery. There weren’t many battle scenes per se, but the characterizations and storytelling remained engaging throughout the entire novel. The meaning of art, good and evil, friendship, love, history, and beliefs were some of the driving themes of The Death of Dulgath, and they’re handled incredibly well.
“But everyone believes in something, you know? And what we choose to believe in says a lot—not only about the kind of people we are, but about the kind of people we want to be, and the kind of world we want to live in.”
I personally think that just because The Death of Dulgath worked nicely as a standalone novel, if possible, please do not make this your first Riyria novel. You have to read Riyria’s previous adventures in order to understand this duo further. Similar to The Rose and the Thorn, Royce is once more the leading main character here, and I’m gratified by it. Royce’s characterizations and development in The Death of Dulgath were phenomenal, and it makes me excited to read through The Riyria Revelations again. Sullivan continuously built upon what happened in the previous two books, and The Riyria Revelations, and he developed both Royce and Hadrian so believably. The gradual influence and effect of being close with Hadrian and Rose transformed Royce into a more compelling character, and this progress was exhibited magnificently.
“I just never noticed how little of me existed before. I was a shadow without a person.”
And the same notion applied to Hadrian. This kind-hearted and powerful warrior may be more than capable of killing anyone in his path, but without Royce, Hadrian would probably end up dead already from being too kind. And without Hadrian, Royce would just straight up turned evil. I do believe their characterizations and developments in The Death of Dulgath and The Riyria Chronicles were the things I needed to make me fall in love with The Riyria Revelations quicker. Don’t get me wrong; I loved The Riyria Revelations so much, but it wasn’t until the last omnibus that I fell head over heel for it.
“Believing the worst of people, of the world in general, was a trap too easy to fall into. Hadrian had fought beside soldiers who’d developed similar views. Such men saw evil and virtue as concepts of naïveté. In their minds, there was no such thing as murder, a killing was just something you did when circumstances warranted.
A terrible way to live. What good is a world – what is the point of living – if generosity and kindness are myths?”
The standalone approach to the storytelling style doesn’t diminish the high level of characterizations given to the characters. It’s easy for me to say this was proven through Royce and Hadrian’s characterizations, which would, of course, be true. But what’s even more awesome is the level of care given to the new characters that appeared in The Death of Dulgath for the first time. Sherwood’s depression and passion for painting were palpable; Scarlett’s development throughout the novel made me care more and more for her; Fawkes is one of Sullivan’s most despicable characters so far; the character of Nysa Dulgath was so fascinating to read. Somehow, it seems like Sullivan was able to get across the characterizations of these new characters as efficiently and effectively as possible.
“We are more than the bodies we inhabit… They’re little more than clothes, and yet we judge so much by them.”
The Death of Dulgath isn’t a big book; it’s about 400 pages long, and this fact astounded me. Sullivan is an author that keeps on getting better with each book; the pacing was superbly done, the narration was captivating, and the accessible prose was so well-polished. The positive things I mentioned in this review earlier, the amount of world-building, history, and revelations (or references) regarding the history of Elan was successfully implemented here. Yes, this book contained plenty of interesting history that correlates to The Legends of the First Empire series. I’ve read only Age of Myth, and I’m enthralled by the Easter Eggs I noticed already. Words like Fhrey and maybe even characters from The Legends of First Empire—I could be mistaken; I need to read more of the series to be sure—were integrated the story seamlessly. I will go back to this book again after I’ve read the entirety of The Legends of the First Empire.
“Many important events in history occurred in less-than-ideal fashion but were corrected in recollection.”
Imbued with the precise balance of danger, revelations, humor, friendship, loss, love, and hope, The Death of Dulgath is another engrossing feel-good fantasy novel. I honestly believe it deserves a spot in my list of favorite books. The careful planning that Michael—and Robin—Sullivan displayed in this novel—every book in The Riyria Chronicles and The Riyria Revelations really—towards the plotting, characters, and world-building of Elan established that they have a clear grasp and vision of this world. And I have no doubt this notion will further be amplified once I’ve read through The Legends of the First Empire and the newly released series in Elan: The Rise and Fall. This review sounds like I’m saying goodbye to The Riyria Chronicles or something, but I’m not; I still have one more published book left in the series to read. I undoubtedly look forward to reading the next adventure of Hadrian and Royce in The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter, and every subsequent book in The Riyria Chronicles whenever they’re ready.
“Usually to make something truly great, you need to start from scratch, Royce remembered him saying. You need to break everything down, strip away the impurities, and it takes great heat to do that, but once you do, then the building can start. The result can seem miraculous, but the process—the process is always a bitch.”
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