Sal’av, my readers (that’s hello in Atlasian language). My dad purchased the Riyria series years back and I decided to give it a reread. It was refreshing with lots of fascinating bits, and its hard fantasy flavor delivered well. Theft of Swords offers two books compiled into one volume.
Premise & Worldbuilding
Theft of Swords begins with a dark fantasy ambiance, one that had me vaguely reminded of Game of Thrones. Sullivan’s story begins fast, from the perspective of two professional thieves. Anti-heroes at heart, the protagonists drive an interesting line between morality and heroism. There’s plenty of fantasy elements, ranging from magic, elves, and gods. It’s probably the series’ strongest feature.
In the first book, the characters were lively and had strong agency. The anti-hero system added intrigue and strengthened the feel of the plot and worldbuilding. Many of the emotions, however, were underrepresented. At times, I got the impression the author was scared of using adjectives and adverbs. Sometimes not enough of these critters can take away from the prose.
The second book fixed this though. Emotions became stronger, dialog smoother, and the feel of the pacing improved. Still, who exactly was the protagonist felt off at times.
The character arcs are where Theft of Swords falls short. Hadrian, one of the protagonists, sometimes acts more like the mentor. Meanwhile, side characters got more sympathy time with the audience. There were subverted expectations as to who the protagonists were; that confusion really messed with the story, at least for me.
The magic in Theft of Swords is a soft system of whimsical effects and outcomes. Weaving isn’t explored too much, but there’s plenty of lore behind the Art. The author loves to tease you about it, and it had me begging for more. The scenes in the elven tower were especially good.
The tension and pacing were excellent. The political villains were devious, and the mythical monsters horrifying. I loved every page of it. But again, the character arcs messed with this and took from a superb story.
Theft of Swords has fascinating worldbuilding, a magic system with plenty of lore, and great action scenes. The characters are well-rounded, and their emotional display improves dramatically in book two.
The character arcs weren’t well planned or were too much of a plot twist for them to be enjoyable. But to be fair, I’ve read the other books later in the series years ago. The character arcs do improve and weave together, so don’t let this discourage you from trying this book.
Some of the torture scenes were ghastly but well-executed. I suppose every dark-ish fantasy needs them gruesome details, aye? A Game of Thrones trope we now see in many of them nowadays.
Theft of Swords was a pleasant read. Despite its poor character arcs and subpar editing in book one, the story improved in book two. The Art magic system, worldbuilding, and camaraderie the characters share was great. The story continues to improve in later books. This is a classic fantasy novel you don’t want to pass up.
A quick update on NaNo. I had planned for two posts, but since this one is so short, I’m combining the two. I managed to finish my revisions on the beta manuscript for book 2, Heart of Dragons. The rough manuscript needed a lot of work once I reread it. It’s reading so much better now, and the character arcs feel stronger. Book 1 has received its share of worldbuilding updates, and I’m excited to polish that up for its publication in the future. ETA? Not sure, but perhaps Fall of 2022?
At some point, I’ll be looking for beta readers. If you’re interested, hit me up either in the comments or the contact form on this blog.
Before I begin the beta process, however, I’m considering hiring a professional editor for book 1, Blade of Dragons. That alone will be a big project, as I’ll need to
rewrite my whole manuscript fix several things. I’m looking forward to the challenge though, and the story will only get stronger.
Thanks for reading!
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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White