Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Creative Writing 101: Critique aka Swallowing Fire.

    Be it a pat on the back or a 'smack upside your head', critique can leave you shell-shocked. Ah, critique, critical thinking and delivery of a response warranted by the impact of a subject's work. Layman's terms: opinion and advice on how to take your work to the next level, in the critique's opinion.

     Now, good critique is different for everyone. Some people need an extra spoon full of sugar with their review-brew, whilst others don't mind having their work torn to shreds for the sake of improvement. 'Good critique' has to be tailored to an individual, but seeing as I can't tell you how to submit or receive critique for each writer/artist, I'm going to give you a broad brush approach that won't get you hung, drawn and quartered.

How to Give Good Critique:

     Hope. Give a writer hope that there is promise in their work. No matter how had a piece is, it has potential. But, if you trash the creator and rip them a proverbial 'new one', how are they going to realise their hopes and dreams?

Honest – don't sugar coat everything, but don't poison a perfectly good mouthful. Be honest, be fair.
Opinion – remember, the work you are critiquing has stemmed from an idea, and opinions clash. What might be right for you might not be right for everyone.
Purpose – give your review direction. Either critique chronologically (start to finish) or by means of headings (characters, technique, plot etc.). Make sure its constructive yet critical - that's the purpose of critique after all, right?
Evaluation – have you weighed up the goods and the bads at the end? Not everything is bad, point out the strengths, consider the weaknesses.

     Bad critique is horrible. It's when someone smashes a writer to smithereens just for the sake of it. Yes, some may want to watch the world burn, but be fair…only go so far as to push them onto hot coals and make them dance for their money's worth! Good critique will give a writer the helping hand to the next stage. Don't forget: one man's story is another's life. What you say might directly offend or upset someone.

How to Accept Critique…Good?

     Thank your critiquer. Sounds odd trying to tell someone how to accept critique. But, you'd be surprised how many writers and artists react poorly to critique. Yes, it can be hard when you've got a rabid pit bull of a reviewer gnawing at the very bones of your greatest masterpiece (TO DATE!), but shaking it off is only to making the bleed worse. Don't be a sore loser if you're shortfalls are laid bare to you. But, then again, don't be a sore winner if you're heaped with praise! 

Timeliness – look, think of it this way: there are thousands of stories/pieces out there and someone took the time to discover, inspect and review yours. The least you can do is offer them a timely response…not three months down the line when they've moved on.
Humility – you're not god's gift to life, the Adonis of art, the Perseus of poetry, and so on. Take praise in your stride, as you would critique. Don't let it go to your head, as you'll take a fall when someone rips the carpet out from underneath you, and it'll hurt all the more with a swollen brainbox!
Acceptance – you're not the greatest for everyone. You never will be. You CAN NOT please everyone. So when someone points out a fault, or something that they don't like…fix it or move on.
Never argue back – if someone has ruined you in a critique, thank them and move on. Don't argue. You're lowering yourself to their level, and you're about to upset them (and possibly others) as much as they have upset you.
Know when to change – Sure, spelling mistakes and grammar need to be dealt with, but if it's a question of style…ask yourself, do you want to change your work to please someone else, or would you rather keep doing what you enjoy?

     Wow, now don't I feel like some sort of agony aunt? I hope that this has been an eye opener, and you'll keep my points in mind when you next turn to receiving or submitting critique. Remember, we're all part of a wider community, an artist community, and we don't just have an audience, we have peers!

     Anyhow, I'm off to go sharpen a few wooden stakes and dig a few holes, before any of you miscreants come charging over to give me a piece of your mind!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Review: The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A life of debauchery for the nobleman.

A life of pain for the torturer.

A life of blood for the barbarian.

Not much of a heroes hall, is it? Heroes are needed to defend against the growing threat from the Northmen and their alliance with the feral Shanka. Heroes are needed to root out the evil lurking in the heart of Adua, the Union’s Capital. Captain Jezal Dan Luthar, noble swordsman and promising officer, might just be the hero that the hour calls for – if only he can keep his breakfast down on his morning run. Inquisitor Glotka, ex-soldier of esteem and renown turned upholder of justice, might be able to uncover the dark secrets amongst the shadow of conspiracy – if his crippled body will let him mount the stairs without falling flat on his face. And Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian of the North, might just stand a second chance…if his bloodied past would just leave him be.

Each has a part to play, whether they know or like it.

Sometimes it’s not about turning the other cheek, nor is it about hitting first or hardest – its about sliding the knife in at the right moment and giving it a good, hard twist.

Joe Abercrombie’s ‘The Blade Itself’ is his debut novel, and the opening novel to his ‘The First Law’ series. ‘The Blade Itself’ is a bloody and bloodied tale of high hopes and stakes, dashed dreams and brains, and more knives than a battalion of butchers.

In ‘The Blade Itself’, everyone seems to in over their heads. Logen Ninefingers is somehow roped into accompanying a returned-from-the-ancient-past Arch Magi to the capital of civilisation. Inquisitor Glokta is chasing at shadows, marking smugglers and scriveners as traitors and conspirators. And Jezal Dan Luthar, who wants nothing more than to get drunk and wile away the nights in a buxom bosom, but has somehow ended up training for the grand tournament. The plot itself is twisted on itself, but its characters’ interactions that make the story.

A barbarian, a torturer and a nobleman walk into a bar…sounds like the start to a bad joke? Wrong. It’s the start of a really good story. In ‘The Blade Itself’, the veritable menagerie of characters are led into the depths of plot twists and turns, played like puppets at their own game. Other members of the cast are just as colourful, particularly the ‘Named Men’ from the North.

Abercrombie writes with a quick wit and a sharp tongue. His prose is refreshing, different, conversational even. At times it’s like being sat across the fireside from the writer at a campout, at others it’s as if you’re behind the eyes of each character. He dips into the darker side of humanity – or inhumanity in some cases – not afraid to pull the punches on just how low that some are willing to sink to. And the fight scenes…! Bloodied and bloody, if the printers ran out of ink, they could squeeze the pages and use the red stuff instead.

Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say he’s a dab hand with a blade as well as a pen. You’ll be sure to read ‘The Blade Itself’ as fast as if a knife was hovering at your neck.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Creative Writing 101: Tools of the Trade aka Rome wasn't built in a day!

     Rome wasn’t built in a day. Heck, it would’ve have been built at all without the rights tools and materials. Minus the stone, wood, manpower and hammers, what would have been made? A rough circle in the dirt?

     Writing is very much the same. You’re going to need plot lines, characters, scenes, landscapes, etc. etc. But today’s journal is going back to the foundation of writing. Imagine settling down to write…you pick up your pen – it’s run out of ink. You fetch a new pen, but the clicker is broken on this one. Fine, settle for a pencil, but there’s no paper and the lead is broken anyway. You’re reduced to scratching chalk on slate until it rains and washes away your epic, bestselling, genre-breaking novel.

     Take your seats class. Today we’re going back to basics. We’re going to discuss what a writer needs in this day and age to craft his/her masterpiece. Now, you might have differing opinions to mine here, and please feel free to share them below, but this is more of an ‘ingredients list’ for the writer, rather than the story.

     Firstly, you’re going to need a way of ‘rough writing’. This to me is first drafting, word-for-word, raw and unedited story-goodness. I prefer to write this in a notebook as I like the feel of paper and pen, but feel free to use whatever you life. Some write straight onto PC/Laptop, others use sheets of paper – whatever your fancy!

     I’ve just mentioned the old pc/laptop – and you’re going to need it. With it, you’ll need a good word processing program (MS word being the most popular). It may seem like I’m teaching you to suck eggs here, but, it’ll spot typos for you, and it’s a MUST for ease of editing. Try to type up your work as often and as soon as possible, as hard copies (stuff written in notepads) have a habit of getting lost, damaged, or in my case used as kindling when out on exercise with the Army.

     Now, you’ve got the materials to record your story, but what about the little ideas that pop up here and there? I carry a small notebook on me at all times. AND if all else fails? I use my phone. The iPhone has a handy ‘Notepad’ app that I populate with more story ideas than contacts in my phone. Back in the day, when all I had was one of those trusty Nokia’s that would’ve sustained a gunshot, I was known to text myself to save ideas for later.

     Right, it’s all falling into place! You’ve got hard and soft copies of your work, and a collection of notebooks strewn about the place to keep your writing going. Last, but definitely not least, you’re going to need a BACK UP! HUGELY important. I have several, and I implore you to do the same.

     Personally, for my backups I have: multiple folder structures on my laptop, emailed documents on several accounts, and a ‘Cloud’ (online storage – a must have). I also have a USB, which may not be all that reliable because I leave it in my pocket at all times (and it’s not as if I have a regular office job), but I do plan to invest in an external Hard Drive to keep the rest of the digitals safe. As with copying up from rough to good, your backups should be kept up to date.

     Other things that are useful to have to hand:
A pen…ok, I’ll take this more seriously!
Sketch paper – I find drawing diagrams helps me picture certain scenes, or the layout of a room.
Squared paper – for maps (oh, and for playing noughts and crosses with whoever’s about).
Music – for me it helps get the creative mindset in gear.
Internet connection – don’t let it distract you, but this is crucial for research.

     There we go. Very billy basics, but I thought this would be a fitting return to my ‘Creative Writing 101’ journal entries after a short break. If you have anything to add to this list, feel free to do so below in the comments section. Thank you all for stopping by, and next week we’ll continue as per usual.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Review: Gardens of the Moon

Gardens of the Moon
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The soldiers gamble their lives.

The Empress raises the stakes of her rule.

The Gods keep their cards to hand…

Who has the most to lose? Three years past, but the city of Pale has fallen under siege. Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners have little time to mourn the dead as the Empress commands them on. Darujhistan, the last of the Free cities, still defies the swathe of the Malazan Empire.

There are no signs to an end. The soldiers have given their worth, but the fighting goes on. Will the last of the mortal cities signal the end to the years of bloodshed?

…Or will the gods enter the play?

Steven Erikson’s ‘Gardens of the Moon’ is the first book in his ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ Series. The series spans a boastful ten novels, but what’s worth shouting about is the fact that ‘Malaz’ encompasses three million, three hundred and ten thousand words. Chew on that!

‘Gardens of the Moon’ introduces the reader to a vast cast of characters. Well, actually it introduces us to a world of characters. And by world, I mean WORLD. Erikson has crafted a living, breathing universe, and he’s gone to the trouble of populating the four corners with more characters than you can shake a stick at. That’s a double-edged sword, right there. If you like scope, and you can cope with a theatre overrun by actors in the aisles, then this book is for you. If not, return your ticket at the box office before you get trampled by the extras. The characters do suffer for the swollen census – in ‘Gardens of the Moon’ development is shallow at times, and a lot of the cast share similarities or mirror one another. (Note: The rest of the series does not suffer from this so much, seemingly because as a reader we’ve already been introduced to the cast and character development can begin after the first impressions.)

This is where my usual review style falls down. Where I want to explore the deeper sides of characters and plot, I think it’s best I approach ‘Gardens of the Moon’ with a more summative eye.

Erikson isn’t for everyone. In ‘Gardens of the Moon’ the reader hits the ground running. When I say running, I mean sprinting but you’ll have to keep it up for a marathon. And when I say ground…I mean landing from a 100 ft drop onto a rock flatbed. I think the first 20 pages will make or break the experience for a reader. I’ve seen the mixed reviews, as I am sure you all have, and I have to say that I see everyone’s points.

Every page is something of a challenge – or at least it poses a challenge to a reader. It’s not an easy-read, but it’s well worth it. The plot is grand, operatic grand, and easy to get lost in. Again, the characters are many and mixed, but also easy to get lost amongst. The meticulous care that Erikson has taken with ‘Gardens of the Moon’ is (and take this as a compliment, I guess) akin to a god-like hand. It’s HUGE. MASSIVE. I know I keep coming back to this point, but I believe that part of the reason the series is a fall-fast to many readers, is because the sheer size puts them off.

Erikson’s prose is beautiful. That much I will touch upon. His complexity of word-weaving is at once poetic, but also befuddling. Yes, I count myself a high-level reader, but no, I did not find this an easy read at all times. I had to re-read sentences, passages, entire pages…but I discovered something new each and every time. It’s like a 2-for-1 on books.

This isn’t a story for the light-hearted, nor is it for the casual-fantasy-reader. You’re going to have to free up the brain space allocated to our own world history to fully immerse yourself in Erikson’s creation.

It’s epic. That’s it. I’ve mentioned operatic, epic, MASSIVE…that IS the ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ Series. Everything else before it? They are claimants to the crown of epicness. I’m not saying to discount them as Epic-Fantasies, but ‘Gardens of the Moon’ and it’s sequels put the fantasy into epic. Sure, even right at the end I found myself more than a little lost and confused, but Erikson has woven so many threads into his story, that when he pulls at one…it all unravels.

Why 5 stars? I’ve yet to justify a rating for one of my reviews, but I feel the need to do so in this case. This could just as easily been a 4, 3, 2, or 1 star review. But, no. Despite its many shortcomings, I believe that ‘Gardens of the Moon’ has set a new standard in fantasy. It’s the benchmark for others to aspire to in scope, world-building, lore… And for that alone, 5 stars is what you’ll get Mr Erikson.

Ever hear about Narnia, the land at the back of the closet? Well, you’d need more than a closet to hide ‘Gardens of the Moon’ in.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Ebook Debut & Exclusive Sneak Preview!

     A big thank you to you all. Yesterday 'From Man to Man' went live on both Smashwords and Amazon. I couldn't have done it without you - readers, watchers, followers and friends. Your support and advice has helped me to this stage, and I'm glad to boast myself as a Self Published Author. I hope you've enjoyed my stories thus far, and I can promise to do my utmost not to disappoint from here on in. As a big thank you, I've included the first chapter from 'It Began With Ashes' as a SNEAK PREVIEW in the ebook.

If you're able to, I ask you to support me one last time by downloading 'From Man to Man' on Smashwords and Amazon, and leaving an honest review.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Review: Heir of Novron

Heir of Novron
Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The war is lost.

The kingdom has fallen.

The enemy has won.

Two thieves are out to steal the show. With the fall of the Nationalists and the kingdom of Melengar, the Empire is set to celebrate the Wintertide holiday. The Witch of Melengar shall be burned at the stake, and the true Heir of Novron – and ex-leader of the Nationalists – will join her. The celebrations will end with the marriage of the Empress Melodina, before her own accidental end. But, there’s no such dead-end for thieves that know every escape route. Royce and Hadrian are at it one last time. They’ve bested the odds before, but even a winning hand needs more than a little luck.

Free the Princess, liberate the Empress, crown the true Heir…all in a day’s work. Why send an army when you only need two men? Against the church, the empire, and the return of an all-powerful nation, Royce and Hadrian have to raise the stakes anyway that they can…

…and when they’re in, they’re in to win.

Michael J Sullivan’s ‘Heir of Novron’ is the culmination of two of his originally self-published novels ‘Wintertide’ and ‘Percepliquis’, part of his 6-book-long Riyria Revelations series. Orbit picked up the rights and re-published the original 6 as a 3. ‘Heir of Novron’ is a show-stealing, pulse-racing fantasy with a finale that’ll hold you at knife-point ‘til the end.

In ‘Heir of Novron’, Hadrian and Royce set out to finish what they started. Though the Princess may not be a damsel in distress, someone has to save her, and whilst they’re at it they might as well rescue the Empress, too. They say that three’s a crowd, but the true heir could use freeing if there’s any hope to foil the church’s blasphemous conspiracy. But, even in the world of dirty dealings, the two thieves have never come across a scheme as dark as this. Hadrian and Royce need to unravel the secret ties of the present and the past if they’ve any hope for success – but they’ve always been pretty good at cutting purse strings.

If there is such a thing as going out in style, then this is it. I laughed, I cried – it was a rollercoaster. ‘Heir of Novron’ was…perfect. To put it in any other way would do injustice to the story, the characters, and the author. There’s never been a more fitting finish. All killer, no filler, everything and everyone plays a part. All the old favourites make a return, and there’s always room for a few more surprises.

Sullivan, what can I say? You had me from the opening line, but at the end…I’m still hanging on. I despair! I DESPAIR! Not because the book ended on a dumb-note. No, far from it in fact. I despaired because I knew that I had finished one of the greatest series that I would ever read it my life. And it was a part of my life. I lived and I breathed your world, your characters, your vision. I didn’t want to leave. I still don’t now – the books are already staring at me from the shelf begging to be reread.

‘Heir of Novron’ is a tale of love, treachery, adventure and triumph. Anything is possible; anything at all, even when all hope is lost. It’s not just the themes at play and the plot that drives the reader; it’s the realisation that this world isn’t fiction, its fantasy. It’s the stuff of dreams.

Riyria is a welcome change to the deeply political, overly ominous and all-too-complex fantasies as of recent. It’s enjoyable to read, fun and fast paced. From young to old, the books have something on offer for anyone who decides to pick them up.

It’s not just about stealing the spotlight, it’s about stealing the reader’s heart. The Riyria Revelations certainly did just that for me. Catch the finale to the epic tale in ‘Heir of Novron’!

View all my reviews

Monday, 8 October 2012

Review: Rise of Empire

Rise of Empire
Rise of Empire by Michael J. Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The beast is slain.

The heir is found.

An Empire is born.

Two thieves are in a world of trouble. The kingdom of Melengar stands against the chuch and the new Empire, cornered like a crook in an alley. But, alleys have their shadows, and thieves lurk in the shadows. Royce and Hadrian are back, partners in crime. They’ve escaped a dungeon, stole a Prince, and more besides, but they’re in for their toughest job yet.

Going behind enemy lines is no job for a soldier, but for two thieves…? The only hope for Melengar is to ally with the Nationalists in the south. Caught between Royalty, Ancient Wizards, flesh-eating Ghazel and a Church that blinds all with holy light, Royce and Hadrian are going to do what they do best…

…Steal victory from the jaws of defeat.

Michael J Sullivan’s ‘Rise of Empire’ is the culmination of two of his originally self-published novels ‘Nyphron Rising’ and ‘The Emerald Storm’, part of his 6-book-long Riyria Revelations series. Orbit picked up the rights and re-published the original 6 as a 3. ‘Rise of Empire’ is a rip-roaring, tongue-in-cheek fantasy with a plot that’ll steal the hours in the day.

In ‘Rise of Empire’, Hadrian and Royce are hired by the kingdom of Melengar to establish contact with the Nationalists in the south, and assist Princess Arista in forging an alliance with their leader. As luck would have it – and for thieves, Royce and Hadrian have pretty poor luck – things don’t go to plan. Royce is convinced that they’re caught up in the games of an ancient wizard, and the only way to find out is to unravel the secrets of Hadrian’s past.

I’m so glad to be able to say it, but Hadrian and Royce are back! And the boys are on top form. ‘Rise of Empire’ delves into the mysteries of time, and the shadows of two of the most shadowy pasts ever secreted. They live and they breathe, but renewed vigour runs in their veins as we discover more about their history – not just as Riyria, but in their lives beforehand. Other old faces make a welcome return, though be sure that you’re in for a surprise!

Sullivan continues his punchy deliver. The plot races along, always two steps ahead. And, just as you think you’ve caught up, it twists out of reach and makes for the finish line to fanfare and applause. The characters drive the story as much as the plot, and the reader’s investment in them is more than worth its weight in gold.

Riyria is a welcome change to the deeply political, overly ominous and all-too-complex fantasies as of recent. It’s enjoyable to read, fun and fast paced. From young to old, the books have something on offer for anyone who decides to pick them up.

What they say is true – there is honour amongst thieves. Find out more in ‘Rise of Empire’!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Character Creation 101: The Fleshy Bits aka Quit Peeking!

     It was his upbringing…you can’t blame a boy after he was raised like that. But one does not simply walk into Mordor. You’d have to pay a fair penny for that to happen. Maybe that’s why he did it. For the money. Plenty o’ them celebrity-peoples do it for the money. What about Tinkers, tailors, soldiers and spies? Though, wasn’t it Colonel Mustard in the dining room with the candlestick? Don’t get me started on candles!

     Though the above sounds like the ramblings of a madman…ok, I’m not even going to try and defend it. It is what it is. HOWEVER, the point I’m trying to get across is the thought process going into creating a character. So you’ve got the name and you’ve got your tags from my last two blog posts, but now it’s time to breathe life into your characters.

     Let’s start from the top.

     History – the upbringing, the old, the new, the current. Everything that happens to a person shapes them in one way or another. This isn’t so much as their ‘destined path’ in life, but more their mood, attitude, likes and dislikes. Take the stereotypical ‘raised by wolves’ character. They grow up to be a little wild, rough around the edges, sometimes a bit of a loner. This fits with the upbringing. Now, if said characters was raised by wolves BUT was a debonair fop, blue-eyed, baby-faced, and able to use every utensil at the kitchen table whilst being able to concentrate long enough to eat with his mouth closed…then either the wolves were well versed in mealtime etiquette or there is another side to his history that we do not know. Sometimes it’s not necessary to explore the entirety of a character’s back story, but we were all young once.

     Motivations – what’s made the character act as they do? Not so much as in history, but why are they currently involved. Queen and country? Money? Fame? To get the girl/guy/Colonel Mustard? Revenge? A motivation can be anything, but it’s something that helps the reader connect to that character, and to relate to them. It turns a character into a being, a person. Take Luke Skywalker for example. He wanted revenge, peace, and a new haircut amongst other things.

     Methods – Everyone has their own methods. How they think, how they act. Most importantly, how do they REACT? Problem engagement and solution is critical to a story. I mean, that’s what a story is. A problem, and an account of how it is overcome (or not in some cases). Your character needs a clear-cut method of copy with things. This could be from having a berserker-like rage that sees them through the bloodiest of battles, to a severe arachnophobia handled only by the trance state of believing themselves to be a rolled-up newspaper. Put simply, your character is a priest. How do they respond to being attacked? Turn the other cheek (not literally…well…), preach the wrongs of their attackers’ actions, beseech mercy? Who knows, your priest could be a Warrior-Monk who beats 50-shades-of-whoop-ass into any who dares raise a hand to them.

     Functions – your character….do they have a function? Are they important to the story? Or have you just made them up for the heck of it? If they serve no function…chop them. It’s fine to have a background characters, or someone who acts as a plot device, but if your guy/gal is only there as eye-candy why not tie that role into someone else? That way you’ll have One more fleshed-out character rather than two sacks of bone and gristle.

     Purposes – what does your character want in life? Tied closely to Motivations, a Purpose is the long or current goals for that character. Save the world in time for tea? Go to the shops before they’re old? Giving a character a goal helps share a sense of achievement with the reader. I mean, we’re all going somewhere, right?...hello?

     Opinions – everyone has a right to their own opinion, and no opinion is ever wrong. This to an author is like handing a kid a box of matches and telling them to go play in the hay barn. Your character can have an opinion on anything, and their actions will be shaped thus. Look at Spiderman. ‘With Great Power comes Great Responsibility.’ Now, look at the Oracle in the Matrix Reloaded. ‘What do all men with power want? More power.’ CONFLICT = ACTION. ACTION = DRAMA. DRAMA = SUSPENSE. SUSPENSE = CLIFF HANGERS. CLIFF HANGERS = MORE BOOKS. MORE BOOKS = ….repetitive stress injury.

     After looking into the above, ensure that your characters are consistent in their ‘lives’, and develop how the world shapes them. External and internal factors make us the people that we are, and that goes the same for your fictional friends. Make them different, don’t be afraid to set them aside from the pack. Give them depth, a reason for existence, connectivity.

     And if all else, fails…I know a girl in a red hood who’s grandmother can school anyone in table-side manners.

D. E. M. Emrys. Author. Soldier by day, Soldier by night - Writer in Between. 
Author of Heroic Fantasies:

From Man to Man - Currently FREE from Amazon

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Review: Theft of Swords

Theft of Swords
Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The King is dead.

The Prince is missing.

Two Thieves have escaped.

Blame hovers like the executioner’s axe. The Prince and his Paupers are on the run, hunted by once loyal soldiers. But, the two men he travels with are the best in the business. Royce Melborn, master thief with a past as dark as his mood, and Hadrian Blackwater, veteran swordsman and general do-gooder. Together, Royce and Hadrian work as Riyria, a reputable front for dirty deeds.

Where do they go, when there’s nowhere to run to? Guarding a Prince, paid by a Princess, framed for killing the king…what’s next? The return of an ancient wizard?

There’s no other way to put it, but, there really is such a thing as being in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Michael J Sullivan’s ‘Theft of Swords’ is the culmination of two of his originally self-published novels ‘The Crown Conspiracy’ and ‘Avempartha’, part of his 6-book-long Riyria Revelations series. Orbit picked up the rights and re-published the original 6 as a 3. ‘Theft of Swords’ is an adventure-bound, fantasy romp, with a page-turning plot and punchy delivery.

In ‘Theft of Swords’, Hadrian and Royce are initially hired to steal a nobleman’s sword from the King’s castle. No easy feat for the everyday cut-purse or burglar, but Riyria are known for the daring jobs. Only…things aren’t all as they seem. Thrown into the dungeons for the murder of the king, they are freed by an unlikely ally and paid a King’s ransom (see what I did there?) to spirit the young Prince away. Escaping one prison in search of another, the two Thieves are caught between doing what they’re paid for (a Princely sum! Ok, I’ll quit it now), and doing what’s right.

Hadrian and Royce are a joy to read. They embody the popular growth of what has become known as ‘bromance’. They bicker and they quarrel, they reminisce and they hope…the world is at their feet, and its theirs for the taking, but they have to decide which way to head first. Royce is your archetypical sullen grouch, with a history he’s none too willing to let on to, but one that has shaped him into a thief or world renowned skill. Hadrian is a veteran swordsman, having fought in countless battles, at the head of armies or in the back streets. The minor characters are also a joy, fully fleshed and breathing. They’re a joy to read about.

Sullivan writes with a simple yet speedy approach. It’s refreshing. The plot comes think and fast, the action sharp, the dialogue witty. The characters sold the stories to me, and how they exist and interact within the realm is a further testament to the immersion of the book(s). It’s nice to have a break from the ‘return of the ancient evil’ plot, or the ‘invasion of enemy forces’. Two friends, too many enemies, tonnes of adventure.

I have to say, I DEVOURED the series. I loved them. They were so easy to read, and I don’t doubt that I’ll re-read them before long. I smiled the entire way through, and they’re short and snappy enough to be read in furtive glances between stops on the London Underground train. There’s something for everyone with Riyria.

In a game of Hide and Seek, does a thief hide in the shadows, or seek the gold? Find out in ‘Theft of Swords’!

View all my reviews