Read an early copy of the ebook as a Kickstarter backer
Nolyn by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars.
Series: The Rise and Fall (Book 1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, high fantasy, classic fantasy
Publication date: 3rd August 2021 by Grim Oak Press
Nolyn was yet another well-crafted and enthralling tale from a masterful storyteller, who never fails to give me what I craved from the world of Elan.
It’s quite extraordinary what this book could do for readers who approached Sullivan’s works from different entry points. Firstly, for readers like me who read all of Sullivan’s works by publication order, i.e The Riyria Revelations, The Riyria Chronicles, and The Legends of the First Empire, there’s so much to love and appreciate with plenty of nods to the past, and learning the truths behind the myths and how things came to be by the time our most beloved duo hit the stage. For readers who have only read the First Empire books, Nolyn offers progression on what happened hundreds of years in the future after the finale of the preceding series. Finally, even for one reading Sullivan for the first time, Nolyn would be an enjoyable and engaging read. Primarily, this is due to his excellent characterisation. At the same time, I also felt that the lore, history and worldbuilding were also deftly established in the narrative for new readers not to feel lost.
Clearly for me, everything that was read after Revelations are considered as prequel stories. Even though First Empire was very far in the past but given these are about characters who became legends, I already have some idea of what would have come to pass. I termed Sullivan a masterful storyteller because he has the ability to keep me thoroughly engaged and captivated by the stories of these characters even though the ultimate outcome was already known. Of course, for these prequels set very long ago, there are additional characters whose names didn’t exactly made it into the myths and legends. The truths about who they were and what they did to shape Elan as we know it made for the most enthralling read. And it is because of my experience with these books that I stand by my opinion that reading Sullivan’s works by publication order – Riyria, First Empire and now The Rise and Fall – will offer the most enjoyment that one can get out of these books. Seriously, the number of times I got excited at the Easter Eggs and being shocked (in a good way) by the truths while reading these prequels were too many to count, and it’s incredibly fun.
Pardon my rambling above as this is one of my favourite worlds to return to because it always felt like coming home. The world that Sullivan created was not particularly unique or original, but in spite of its classic fantasy setting with elves, dwarves and dragons (of a kind), Elan still felt fresh in a way. There’s enough worldbuilding to keep its lore and mythos fascinating, but it’s not overly intricate nor tries too hard to impress. What this achieves is a whole lot more focus on the stories of the characters, and Sullivan absolutely excels in this aspect.
“Words came and went, and with time many changed their definitions. The intent behind the words was what mattered. Sephryn knew that if everyone took offense at everything society was doomed.”
The story in Nolyn took place over eight hundred years after the conclusion of the First Empire series (but still a hefty two thousand years and then some before Riyria). With that more than sufficient time have passed in order to observe the changes wrought by new empire. The two main characters in this book, Nolyn and Sephryn, are the children of the some of legendary people who were responsible for the creation of the empire. Both of them are well-written as persons straddling two worlds, being the only two of their kind in existence in Elan at that time. At the beginning, Nolyn’s and Sephryn’s arcs seemed disconnected, at least until the appearance of a certain cretin from the past. It was not difficult to then realise that some devious machinations were at play, and all that culminated with the two subplots coalescing into a grand scheme of seeking vengeance.
“He wasn’t the father I wanted, but I think he may have been the father I needed.”
The one thing I got out of this book was that I actually liked the side characters more. I felt that the supporting cast really brought out the best of the main characters’ arcs. Out of the two, I enjoyed Nolyn’s story more. There was a much anticipated scene between him and his father – whom I’ve never been able to love (for quite obvious reasons) nor hate – which made this book great. What transpired after that scene was surprisingly emotional for me. While Sullivan has always been able to make me feel for his characters, I didn’t expect it would be this much about this particular one.
“Nolyn was listening to one melody played on four different instruments, and the concert was a bloody one.”
And then there was the introduction of the Seventh Sikaria Auxiliary squadron. Through some twist of fate, Nolyn was assigned to this squad in the frontlines of the Goblin War. It seems that the Seventh Sik-Aux have already established a reputation of being the most feared and legendary squad amongst the legionnaires – warriors who trained in the art of fighting called the Tesh. Oh yes, seasoned readers know exactly what this means, and it’s immensely exciting. Aside from the implications of who these warriors will eventually become in the course of the rise and fall of empire, the interactions between the individuals as well as Nolyn are some of the best moments in the book.
The Rise and Fall appear to be a trilogy of stand-alone stories of significant individuals, that hopefully will eventually provide all the revelations to the pertinent questions that I still have. There are plenty of delectable Easter Eggs yet to be found and I’m very eager for the hunt to continue. The next book can’t come soon enough.