The Crown Tower

The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan, The Riyria Chronicles #1


A warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most valuable possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels the old wizard is after, and this prize can only be obtained by the combined talents of two remarkable men. Now if Arcadias can just keep Hadrian and Royce from killing each other, they just might succeed.

The Crown Tower is the first book of The Riyria Chronicles and one of the two prequels to the critically acclaimed fantasy series The Riyria Revelations written by Michael J. Sullivan. The Riyria Revelations was first published in 2007 and recently the books have been combined into two volume omnibus editions by Orbit and were re-released. The series made quite an impact and with the two prequels, The Crown Tower and The Rose and the Thorn, Michael J. Sullivan takes the readers back to when, where and how it all got started. Just a note up front, I haven't read The Riyria Revelations, so I am fresh to this fantasy world and my opinion will be solely based on how I experienced The Crown Tower.

So where does The Crown Tower begins? The first character that you get introduced to I Hadrian Blackwater, one of the main protagonists of the main series. His introduction in this prequel was done in a quite cool manner and the sentence that kick off the book really got me going and inspired the bit of a thieving/outlaw kind of feel of the book, "Hadrian Blackwater hadn't gone more than five steps off the ship before he was robbed". The first half of the book put the emphasis on Hadrian and without any prior knowledge of his character I found that Michael J. Sullivan gave a nice lowdown on how Hadrian character is. Hadrian is the son of a blacksmith and a rogueish type of warrior choosing the side to fight on of who is winning. He is a sword for hire, tough but contrasting these hard characteristics he also has some softer points. Hadrian left his home in search for something to commit to or find a cause and this wandering aspect seem to have made him of different parts quite mature but he still doesn't seem to have found the true cause yet. One of the coolest things about Hadrian character are his hallmark swords, he wears three swords... 2 smaller ones and one big one, and when Hadrian unsheathes them... beware. 

The other character that later pairs up with the swordsmen Hadrian is, Royce Melborn. Assassin and thief. I definitely liked how Royce was introduced into the story, like I already mentioned the focus in the first part of the book is on Hadrian. I was constantly looking for clues as to when Royce could or had already made his appearance but Michael J. Sullivan pretty much keeps you in the dark until you reach the part of the wizard Arcadius and you see the brief recap of the events that transpired earlier. This really made all the events or earlier connect and made me say "Aha, I knew it!" but all that surrounded it with the intentions of the other boat passengers of Hadrian I couldn't have possibly guessed. Well done. If you compare Hadrian and Royce, it's oil and water, they just dont seem to mix. Royce is bit cocky and wants to do things for himself, he knows he can pull several feats off and doesn't like to rely on others who can possibly make him fail. This nature combined with his quick wit and lightning fast reflexes makes his character unpredictable and seeing that he is an assassin makes it just pretty cool. Arcadias has a plan for both Royce and Hadrian, not only coming from himself, Arcadias wants to bring both Royce and Hadrian together as a team. This is quite the challenge and requires for all the involved parties determination, perseverance and a little bit of compromise. 

Besides Hadrian and Royce there is another story thread that was being start up. That of  Gwen a women who is currently employed in a brothel. When I first started to read about her I didn't know where to really place this story, but with the thought of this being the prequel to the original series I have an assumption that she will be playing a larger part in the story later. But when you take her on the first go, her background story is really indepth. Gwen comes to realize that she no longer can work for her current employer and desperately seeks to go her own way, but in the day and age that Gwen lives this is hard to do. Michael J. Sullivan neatly captured Gwen's own struggles to gain freedom and establish a base for herself, Gwen is shown as a strong and confident women who now doesn't let men walk over her easily. I really liked the ending of the book where you see the first things start to connect between the two storylines!

As for the story and writing of the book. It's just solid stuff. I don't remember a series that I have gotten into this easily. Michael J. Sullivan has a definite way with word and writes up and highly enjoyable story. It's easy to get into, written to the point but not skipping any of the world building that accompanies such an epic fantasy/ thieving story. Now don't think that the story is plain and linear, quite on the contrary there are a lot of twists and turns that make the story feel dynamic and alive. This all comes by show the two main character Hadrian and Royce, the clashing of their personalities really livens up the story. The story by itself is also very itneresting and really takes the reader to different places. The initial start up of the story focused on Hadrian but later when more and more characters get involved the story broadens and evens out nicely. Hadrian dn Royce are send out on a quest to retrieve a book in the Crown Tower for Arcadias BUT they have to do it together. I was amazed as to how Michael J. Sullivan translated this quest which seems quite easy into a daring task. The story of The Crown Tower has a lot of action and fast paced scenes but what Michael J. Sullivan shows even better is that this is a story about characters with different personalities that clash but when push comes to shove...  Very well executed.

The Crown Tower is one of the better fantasy stories in terms of bringing ideas onto to paper and letting them speak for themselves. Even having not read the first series with Hadrian and Royce and just beginning with the prequel I think I have gotten quite the history of the different characters, I can't make a comparison but The Crown Tower in itself is just A grade reading material. With sampling the first book The Riyria Chronicles and Revelation series I have developed quite the taste for it! bring on the other!

The second book in the series is calledThe Rose and Thorn (which was published earlier September this year) and with all that Michael J. Sullivan has shown so far, you don't want to miss out on any of his books.

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