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The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan

The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan
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Book Name: The Death of Dulgath
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Publisher(s): Mascot Books (US) Riyria Enterprises, LLC (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: December 1, 2015 (US) November 3, 2015 (UK)

Hadrian had never witnessed Royce laughing in good humor. When he laughed, babies cried.

I was reading Michael J. Sullivan’s latest Riyria novel, The Death of Dulgath, when I realized why I like these novels so much: they remind me of the books that drew me to the fantasy genre in the first place – The DragonLance Chronicles.

I don’t have any firm data to support this, but I imagine that like me, many Fantasy-Faction readers can recall the first fantasy book that captured their imagination, and sent them down the rabbit hole that leads to George R.R. Martin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, Robin Hobb and Scott Lynch. For me, that gateway traveled directly through the world of Krynn, with Tanis Half-Elven, Sturm Brightblade, Raistlin Majere and Tasslehoff Burrfoot serving as guides.

Through the years, my tastes have changed, leaning toward darker, more complex stories, but I’ll be damned if those books don’t still have a special place in my heart.

Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria books, including The Death of Dulgath, have a similar feel, even if their worlds and plots aren’t similar. The stakes are high, but there’s a light-heartedness to the proceedings, and the sense that the author genuinely enjoys playing in this particular sandbox. In lesser hands, these stories could feel trite, or forced, but Sullivan balances flippant one-liners (“I’ve been thinking of having him paint my daughter, Evangeline … I want it done while she’s still young and pretty – before she starts looking like her mother.”) and clever plotting. Built around the unlikely friendship of Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, these books are just good fun.

About the Author

Michael J. Sullivan originally self-published his Riyria Revelations as six books: The Crown Conspiracy, Avempartha, Nyphron Rising, The Emerald Crown, Wintertide and Percepliquis. After Sullivan sold 90,000 copies, Orbit purchased the publication rights and the Revelations were published as a trilogy consisting of Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire and Heir of Novron, with each book in the trilogy combining two books from the original edition.

In 2013, Sullivan continued the story of Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn with the first two books of The Riyria Chronicles – The Crown Tower and The Rose and Thorn. The newly-published The Death of Dulgath marks the third book in the prequel series leading readers back toward the events of The Riyria Chronicles.

Using Kickstarter to raise more than $31,000 toward the project, Sullivan published the stand-alone Hollow World in 2014, a science fiction novel unrelated to the world of Riyria.

Analysis

The Death of Dulgath continues Sullivan’s Riyria Chronicles. These books take place prior to the events of the Riyria Revelations, and once again, Sullivan sprinkles in hints of what is to come throughout the proceedings, even as the story itself stands alone.

This time, Hadrian and Royce are hired to help prevent the assassination of Dulgath’s last heir, Nysa Dulgath, by examining her household and informing those tasked with her protection how they would plan an assassination, thereby helping improve her defenses. But as with every seemingly simple job in every book ever, things become infinitely more complicated. Shortly after they arrive, Royce and Hadrian begin to suspect that they weren’t hired to protect Lady Dulgath, but instead to provide the perfect patsies.

Once again, the banter between Hadrian and Royce provides much of the novel’s humor, as Royce laments Hadrian’s seeming naivety, and Hadrian must overcome his friend’s murderous impulses. Throughout the Ryria books, Sullivan has been tasked with demonstrating the full arc of the duo’s relationship, from their distrustful introduction to the close bond they share in Revelations. The Death of Dulgath continues that arc. Having overcome their initial issues, they trust one another now, even as the book demonstrates just how little Hadrian knows about Royce’s past as an assassin.

By this point in the series, Royce has softened just a touch thanks to his relationship with Gwen, but his ever-present menace always brings a bit of fun to the proceedings. Much like Raistlin was always my favorite DragonLance character, Royce’s skeptical worldview provides a nice counter to Hadrian’s perpetual optimism.

Royce leaned forward in his saddle, the leather creaking with the strain. The chuckling had stopped, and what smile he wore melted into a grim, straight line. “Now that you’ve met Hadrian, let me introduce myself. I’m the one you don’t want to know.”

It’s especially fascinating to watch how Sullivan manages the slow change these characters undergo throughout the course of the six books (so far) telling their story. With each chapter, you see them become more protective of one another, and you especially see Royce become more human.

While The Death of Dulgath could be read on its own, I think the Riyria books are most enjoyable when read in order of publication – beginning with the Chronicles and following with Revelations. Sullivan himself says it can be read either way (Revelations books followed by Chronicles), but I think part of the fun of the prequel books are the allusions to things still to come in the original books. Of course, that’s just a personal preference.

However you read the books, if you like fast-paced, humorous fantasy, there’s a good chance you’ll like them regardless of the order.

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The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan, 10.0 out of 10 based on 6 ratings
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2 Comments

  1. I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one who didn’t like Dragonlance. These books sound fun, but I feel like I’ve seen the two-handed buddy adventure done an awful lot – couldn’t believe Mr Sullivan has never read Fafrd and the Gray Mouser, but it seems like he’s filled the same niche for a new generation.

  2. Hey Richard, Thanks for reviewing the books. Just wanted to mention one quick teeny, tiny mistake.

    Order of Publication: it’s REVELATIONS then CHRONICLES
    Chronological Order: CHRONICLES then REVELATIONS

    If you could adjust that it would be great – as it leads people to the opposite of what you had intended.

    Thanks again for reviewing, glad you liked the read. You guys and gals do a great job with the site. keep it going!

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