Monday, December 7, 2009

Review: The Crown Conspiracy

The Crown Conspiracy
Title:  The Crown Conspiracy

Author:  Michael J. Sullivan

Aspirations Media

# of Pages: 

I received this book for free to review.

This book is the first in a series of six books called the Riyria Revelations.  See my review of book two here.  My review of book three is here.

Plot Summary:
Hadrian and Royce are two thieves operating in the kingdom of Melengar.  They do the big jobs- nobles blackmailing rivals, stealing jewels, avenging affairs.  One day, they are approached by a stranger to retrieve a sword in the royal residence.  They do so, and are framed for the murder of the king.  The princess Arista helps them escape from prison with the caveat that they take her brother, the new king, to an obscure prison to meet with a man named Esrahaddon.  What follows is an entertaining plot that includes daring escapes, millennia-old wizards, dark magic, a religious conspiracy, elves, dwarves and much more.

The Crown Conspiracy is Michael Sullivan’s first book, and the first in a series of six in the Riyria Series (all books already written and ready to be published, I am assured).  The book is less than 300 pages long, but packs a lot of character development and hints of plots to come.  Because it’s the first in such a long series, it suffers somewhat from introducing characters that disappear and hinting at larger themes that we don’t get to see, but I feel like all fantasy  series do that.  I found the language a bit jarring.  Epic fantasy tends to use a certain level of formality in its language.  This book, though set in what seems to be a Medieval-ish kingdom, has characters saying things like, “yeah,” “no kidding,” and “kid.”  And then there was one character who spoke in thous and these and ‘tises.  It made sense for that character to do so, and the language used did not impede my enjoyment of the book, but I found it a bit odd.  Just goes to show how much of a fantasy nerd I am, if I get weirded out by characters using the same language I do!

I enjoyed the characters in this book, particularly Hadrian, Royce & the sweetest monk ever.   I suspect those are three we will learn many more secrets about as the series continues, and I am eager to know more about them.  They seem fascinating, but also a lot of fun- Hadrian particularly.  What’s refreshing about this book is that none of the characters really has the fantasy character prototypes working- They aren’t excessively arrogant or brooding over their pasts.  They don’t go around committing vile acts or double-crossing everyone.  They’re refreshing.

The plot, too, was interesting and fast-paced.  I only wish I had more of a hint on the series’ over-reaching plot, but perhaps more of that will become clear in book 2.  I don’t think the plot was ground-breakingly inventive, but the world created is interesting and will over time, I think, become more and more complex with political and religious intrigue.  Overall, a fun and interesting read.  I hope this author gets attention from the fantasy-reading public as he is published by a small press.  Props to the publisher for taking a chance on a six-book series by a new author!  Sometimes I think one of the best things a book blogger can do is to bring attention to these smaller publishers and the books they publish that never get a lot of hype but that are good reads.  So here’s my plug!


  1. I would get weirded out too, I mean yes normal language, but some words are just plain wrong

  2. You would think the editor would have fixed the bizarre language anachronisms! I think that good editing is something you can't appreciate until you see the results of bad editing!

  3. Anonymous12/07/2009

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  4. Blodeuedd- It's funny because the fantasy book I'm reading now uses some of the same sort of language, so maybe it's just happening more now.

    Rhapsody- I don't think it's due to lack of editing. I think the author wanted the characters to use more "street" language and the like as they're thieves. It works well in the story, but I'm just not used to it in fantasy.

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  6. I totally understand what you mean about the language-- it can be off setting! Sounds like a series to look into though!

  7. Anonymous12/07/2009

    Sounds interesting. I love fantasy, but six books is such a commitment.

  8. I haven't read much fantasy, but your synopsis sounds really interesting. I think my husband would also like this book and I will be keeping my eye out for it. Great review, I am glad you enjoyed it so much!

  9. Aarti,

    Just goes to show how much of a fantasy nerd I am, if I get weirded out by characters using the same language I do!

    Not at all -- this is key thing to overcome in High Fantasy without breaking the narrative spell. Three good examples of how to do it are:

    Spend half your life inventing relevant languages, as Tolkien did in The Lord of the Rings;

    Have characters from our modern world travel to the Fantasyland of the story, as Guy Gavriel Kay did in The Fionavar Tapestry;

    Have the story presented as modern translations from ancient manuscripts, as Mary Gentle did in Ash...

    If you don't do any of this, of something equally as good, the results can be (sometimes) terminally off-putting, as you suggest...


  10. Aarrgh.

    or something equally as good, not "of", obviously...


  11. I actually wasn't off-put by the language. It was strange at first, but it didn't impede my enjoyment of the novel at all. I feel bad now, as that is what everyone seems to be concentrating now instead of the part where I said I really really enjoyed the book :-)

  12. That's fair enough -- the technical stuff can sometimes break the spell, but (to go back to the tail end of a quote I've been thinking about recently) legendary sf editor Teresa Neilson Hayden (it's very late here, and I've probably spelt at least two of those names wrong) once said "...story is a force of nature."

    If you get that right, the pages will keep turning and the rest doesn't matter quite so much...

    This reminds me (sort of) of a friend of mine who wouldn't have it that the Harry Potter books were worth reading. Eventually he gave in, and started reading the first one, and though he still maintained he didn't like it, he eventually confessed he had reached this verdict at 3am one morning having started reading at 8pm the night before and losing track of time...

    Argh. This still sounds like I'm casting aspersions on the book currently under advisement, which I haven't read and which does sound interesting...

    Sorry everyone, carry on!




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