Rise of Empire by Michael J. Sullivan
|Book Name:||Rise Of Empire|
|Author:||Michael J. Sullivan|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / eBook|
|Release Date:||December 14, 2011|
Since I really enjoyed Theft of Swords, and my habit is to keep reading something until it ceases to be entertaining, I picked up Rise of Empire.
As before, the story focuses on Royce and Hadrian, two former thieves, currently working for the king of Melengar. Unfortunately, for them the newly formed Empire, which the Nyphon Church is running in all but name, would like to annex Melengar. Neither of them are especially pleased with this on general principle and both of them have personal issues with the situation. I would say that a mess ensues, but really it’s more like the mess is an ongoing event. Also as before, there are two stories in the one book.
I would be the first one to admit that I really enjoy partnership banter, dynamics and conflict. In fact that’s what kept me reading through the first set of stories. This time around there are some reasonable conflicts and differences of opinions between Royce and Hadrian. Royce has some serious separation issues and really doesn’t want to lose Hadrian to the grandiose destiny alluded to in Theft of Swords. It was really nice to see exactly how Royce absolutely loves the people he thinks of as family. Hadrian’s respect of it was touching, even when Royce has managed to make an ass of himself. I liked that Hadrian felt that he could rely on Royce even when Hadrian was feeling unsure about where he wanted to go with life next. I am noticing a running trope of them having these discussions while locked up in prisons though.
Arista, Amelia and Thrace/Modina were all decently done as well. Arista in particular is becoming quite resourceful. This time, rather than becoming more of a noble diplomat, she started to become more of a person. She by far has the most choppy emotional ups and downs through the two novellas. She’s starting to get herself out of situations and starting to make her own decisions and plans. I just keep getting the sneaking suspicion that she’s being set up as a love interest for Hadrian. Regardless, her dressing-down of the anti-Imperialist general was one of my favorite scenes, made even better in that he did not think to question her femininity with regards to how well she could or could not do the job of running things. Instead the scene focuses on social class and the traversing thereof more than anything else. Amelia offers up another example of traversing social classes but in the opposite direction from Arista’s. I’m noticing that upwards mobility into the noble classes isn’t working so well for, any characters. Thrace has been kept in a catatonic depression by the treatment of the “helpers” assigned to “make her into an empress.” Amelia is in a constant state of awareness that missteps will likely result in her death, but both of she and Thrace are working off of each other rather nicely in a little circle of mutual protection. I so want at least one of them to succeed spectacularly without help from the main male characters though.
The boys aren’t immune to the class smackdown either. Less than a chapter after Hadrian gets the unofficial title of “Lord Marshall” he gets tied to a stake in the ground. If anything, it seems that joining the merchant class is where most of the characters want to be. The ladies get independence and some clout at the local level while the men seem to get a measure of stability from that position, as illustrated with Royce and Gwen, both of whom seem to be moving into the supposedly stable upper middle position from poor backgrounds, with multiple additional social stigmas attached to both of them.
Through the first novella, I thought that the bad guys were more than a little unfocused on the intrepid duo, but Marius in the second novella more than made up for it. Smart, sneaky, manipulative, few scruples, and long range planning skills? Sign me up! To give credit where credit is due, the bad guys from the previous two novellas are rather busy running an empire of conquest. I do find it interesting that Marius is absolutely sure that his interpretation of what Royce will and will not do is absolutely correct, even though by now the reader can be pretty assured that Marius has a small blind spot in that regard.
There’s some expansion of the narrative world, but I found that the introduction of the goblins rather left me cold when compared to how the elves and dwarves were treated in the first novella set. It was mildly intriguing to see a much different culture that the one Royce and Hadrian come from, but there wasn’t enough time spent there to get more than a feeling of Other-y-ness and exoticism.
Plot-wise, it still seems a little Rosencranz and Guildenstern-ish, but as before I’ve been ignoring a lot in favor of the character interactions. In any case, our main duo do appear to be taking a more prominent role in the events around them, especially with Marius manipulating Royce and Hadrian around for his own ends and profit. In addition, both of them now have a vested interest in not letting the Empire win. So the long running plot is shaping up rather nicely, now that it looks like most of the prophecy and destiny bits have been put into play.
I suppose I should mention that the foreshadowing was heavy handed enough that it did penetrate my happy fog from the duo bickering, but I didn’t mind that much. Certainly not enough to stop reading or get upset by it. There are too many people in this narrative who can see the future and who cross the main characters’ paths.
Minor gripe aside, I will totally be looking forwards to the next two novellas in paper format. I really want to see how this actually plays out rather than settle for what I think will happen.