Cover art illustrated by: Marc Simonetti
The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Riyria Chronicles (Book #4)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 480 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 5th December 2017 by Riyria Enterprises, LLC (Self-published)
As always, another great book in the series, and now I’m fully caught up with The Riyria Chronicles. I hope it won’t be too long for Drumindor to come out.
“Things will change, but not all at once… You can’t obtain respect at the point of a sword, not from people who despise us. Respect needs to be earned. Trust needs to be built up over time, over generations.”
If someone told me I would grow to care about this duo this much years ago, I won’t believe them. It is a happy and sad day; I’ve read every available book—so far—in The Riyria Chronicles series by Michael J. Sullivan. The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter is the fourth book in The Riyria Chronicles series by Michael J. Sullivan. In a similar storytelling approach to the previous installment, The Death of Dulgath, this novel is written to work as a standalone. Gabriel Winter’s daughter mysteriously disappears, and she’s presumed dead. Two of our beloved rogues—Royce and Hadrian—are paid a fortune to seek the truth behind this disappearance, and deliver bloody retribution to the person responsible. Once again, it’s good to be back with Royce and Hadrian again; they’re truly one of the best bromances in fantasy, and The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter just strengthened that notion further. Although I do think that this novel is comparatively the weakest of the available four books so far, there’s no denying that I overall had a great time reading this part of Riyria’s adventure.
“Gwen, it seemed, was a much better thief. She’d managed to steal an entire person; She’d pinched his old self, stealing it away like a poorly guarded purse. When she was around, everything was different. Mostly, it was confusing, both exciting and peaceful, which left Royce pondering the change. Was he better off or crippled? Had he lost his way or found a better one?”
Personally speaking, I struggled in several sections in the first half of the novel. Unlike its predecessors, the new characters, setting, and plotline somehow took me some time to find myself completely immersed. This is different than The Death of Dulgath, for example, where I found myself hooked by everything instantly. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to care about the newly introduced characters—especially Evelyn Hamsworth—in the second half of the novel. And let’s not forget, in the midst of the parts that didn’t click with me, there’s always Royce and Hadrian, the cynical ex-assassin and the idealistic ex-mercenary.
“Why is it you choose to see the darkness in everything?”
“Because it’s there, and ignoring that fact invites peril.”
“But light is also there, and recognizing it allows happiness.”
“What good is being happy if you’re dead?”
“What good is being alive if you’re miserable?”
Among fans of the series, there’s no doubt that the biggest highlight of everything related to the Riyria series is this duo. The interactions and banter between them continue to be so damn enjoyable to read. Once again, Royce continues to be dumbfounded by how kind and idealistic Hadrian is, and it’s incredibly delightful to witnessed Royce’s constant character development from their first meeting. Hadrian and Gwen’s influence on Royce is impossible to stop. Royce and Hadrian are like yin and yang; two opposite sides, but together they form a whole. Royce thinks that every solution requires merciless actions; Hadrian is the opposite, and he’s often rewarded by his virtues. The contrast is always fun to read, and in this book, seeing they interact with Evelyn Hemsworth ended up being one of the best parts of the book.
“Hadrian was wrong. I do have a unicorn in my world, and the damn thing goes by the name of Hadrian Blackwater. He’s a mythical beast impossible to believe in, even when he’s right in front of me.”
The other best part about The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter is getting to witness more of Hadrian’s past. The previous two books were heavily focused on Royce and his development; again, how Hadrian and Gwen changed his life and line of thoughts, even if slowly. In this novel, Hadrian has more spotlight than Royce. Hadrian may be a super kind-hearted character, but we must not forget that he has extraordinary swordmanship and talent in battle. I mean, his multiple titles as Galenti, The Tiger of Mandalin, the Hero of Calis, the Courtier of the Queen, and the Bane of the Ba Ran Ghazel aren’t for show. They’re there for a good reason. And it felt great to hear it from a character that has witnessed Hadrian’s past—that he regrets—in person.
“Every cup is different, but each can only hold so much. Eventually you either stop pouring or make an awful mess. Make a big enough mess and you have to clean up; you have to change… I made a really big mess, and it wasn’t tea I spilled.”
As I mentioned, I highly enjoyed reading the second half. The pacing there was brilliant, and this is probably the most action-packed book within The Riyria Chronicles or The Riyria Revelations. I don’t think I can recall any book in the Riyria series having this many chase and battle scenes. And it’s wonderful. Sullivan’s prose flows well like usual, and when it comes to his books, I tend to always find a lot of resonating passages, such as this:
“Chasing fantasies was a thin thread to justify a life, and yet how many wonders had been wrought by people who did exactly that—those who believed in crazy dreams.”
Despite a few rocky starts, The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter is overall another magnificent addition to Royce and Hadrian’s adventure. Reading The Riyria Chronicles has been such a blessing, and as I said before, I never expected I would grow to care about Royce and Hadrian this much, but this prequel series really did it for me. It made me excited for the future of The Riyria Chronicles, especially because the next one is titled Drumindor, and it also made me so pumped to reread The Riyria Revelations. Highly recommended!
“Surviving was often a matter of moving forward. Moving forward was a matter of putting yesterday in the past, and all of it began with putting one foot ahead of the other, remembering how to smile, how to dance, and especially, remembering that laughing wasn’t disrespectful; it was essential.”
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