Theft of Swords: Avempartha, by Michael J Sullivan

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Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – November 23, 2011

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) THEY KILLED THE KING. THEY PINNED IT ON TWO MEN. THEY CHOSE POORLY.

There’s no ancient evil to defeat or orphan destined for greatness, just unlikely heroes and classic adventure. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, are two enterprising rogues who end up running for their lives when they’re framed for the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy that goes beyond the overthrow of a tiny kingdom, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery before it’s too late.

Thoughts: The second book in the Theft of Swords omnibus is Avempartha, which is a definite improvement over the first book of the series, The Crown Conspiracy. Sullivan’s writing has gotten better, the tone of the novel is less distant and removed, and the dialogue flows more naturally as isn’t as stilted as I’d found in the first book. It has its moments, but on the whole, a much better presentation.

See, I told you it was worth pushing on with.

Hadrian and Royce have returned with their usual smooth banter, which is the true highlight of these books thus far. More hints are dropped about Royce’s background, which wasn’t exactly well-hidden to an observant reader (nor to Hadrian, as one scene shows), and the two are developed and fleshed out considerably more and start to feel less like characters and much more like real people.

There is a good deal of info-dumping in Avempartha, though happily, far less than in The Crown Conspiracy. Characters talk for pages about backstory, explanations of how things in the world work, and so on, in too great detail to be believable as anything but an attempt to convey things to the reader. But as I said, it’s less common here than before, which made me happy.

Avempartha has the story set very shortly after the previous book ends, and the bulk of the story takes place around the pretext of a contest to kill a marauding beast, the Gilarabrwyn. Also known as some sort of draconic creature with a fancy name. Hadrian and Royce once again find themselves in the centre of trouble and trying to find their way out of it while being the virtuous heroes and saving a town full of people.

And here we find a bit of tongue-in-cheek mockery, where they comment that once again they find themselves needing to steal a sword, this time one that can kill the Gilarabrwyn. It’s here that you realize that the title of the omnibus is a little joke, and that made me think more highly of the author. It may be a repetitive plot device, but at least there’s some humour to be found in it.

This book has a quicker pace and far more tension and action than the previous novel, making it not only a more enjoyable read but a quicker one, as I just tore through the pages, eager to keep reading. It’s impressive to see the amount of improvement between one novel and the next. I’m very glad that I pushed past the awkwardness of the first novel, because the second was certainly enough to make me want to continue the rest of the series. And since that’s 2 more omnibus editions, plus currently 2 prequel novels, that’s saying something.

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