Friday, March 08, 2013

Theft of Swords

After some delay, I finished Theft of Swords by Michael Sullivan yesterday afternoon.  I had had about 75 pages left to read--but I'd been "stuck" exactly right there for probably a good two weeks already.  I checked the book out at the library, and renewed it twice to finish it.  I believe two times is still the limit on how many times you can renew a book (assuming nobody else has a hold on it) so I was nearing the end of the period in which I could read the book.  The last 75 pages took me about half an hour to forty-five minutes to read, so I could (and probably should) have finished this some time ago, but I got distracted by reading some hiking books, watching movies, and generally being busier than normal.

Theft of Swords is book one of the Riyria Revelations trilogy--which is only a trilogy in the sense that its current publication format is a large trilogy of books.  In it's original format, it's actually six books long, and each book of the trilogy is actually an omnibus of two books of the original series.  So, in a sense, I've read two books by reading Theft and feel a bit invested in the series.

Theft is the story of two men, Royce and Hadrian, who form a typical buddy-cop movie--except that instead of cops, they're the "honorable thieves" archetype, meaning that this is caper fantasy.  There's a level of political intrigue and politics that plays a strong role, especially in the second book.  The story takes place in the human kingdoms, a balkanized area that was once a single Empire.  There are three basic political leanings; the imperialists, who favor the finding of the Heir and restoring the Empire, the royalists, who favor the balkanized kindgoms and their own nobility, and the populists, who favor a rule by the people.  The imperialists seem to be (so far) almost comically, moustache-twirlingly evil, with the exception of one character, who is actually a crippled wizard who remains from the time of the Empire 900 years ago, trapped in a time bubble.  The driving force of the imperialists seems to be the Church of Novron, who has engaged in a number of blatantly false schemes to proclaim an heir, re-establish the Empire, and the church's preeimince within it (although the Church is already pretty preeminent in the lives of most; apparently there's no such thing as too much power for it to grab for.)

The series seems to have a lot of fans, and there's a lot to recommend it.  The concept of a buddy movie is always fun, and the main characters here are both archetypical and yet charming and interesting in most regards.  I also am a big fan of caper and intrigue type stories, and they seem to be competently played out here.  It's pretty good swashbuckling stuff, with interesting action and scenarios, and mostly intriguing characters.  The author seems like a nice guy who's engaged with his fans online as well; in fact, when I updated my status on Goodreads to show I was reading this, I actually got a message from him, thanking me for reading it and inviting me to continue the series and comment to him directly.  I probably won't (other than here) but man, that's a nice bit of personal marketing.  Because of this, the series seems to be fairly popular.

And although this is hardly a real seller, I really like the covers of the books.

I have some serious reservations about it, however.  The prose really needs a serious level of polish.  It often feels quite hoaky and clunky--especially the dialogue and description of action scenes.  The novels were originally self-published as e-books, and it still feels like that's the case (even though these copies are published by Orbit.)  I've said it before and I'll say it again; where are the careers in editing in the fantasy genre?  In this case (unlike in so many others) cutting fat isn't the problem, it's polishing the prose.  There's a certain kind of amateurish feel to these books that makes them--in spite of their selling points--a bit difficult to read.

Our library does have the next two volumes, but I'm not sure that I want to continue, especially when I've got plenty of other items on my To-Read list.  Certainly I won't do so immediately; I've in fact, already started on the third book of Don Bassingthwaite's Legacy of Dhakaan trilogy, which will complete the trilogy and close it out for me.  I bought those (because it looked like they wouldn't be readily available from either my library or anyone else that I could Interlibrary Load it from) but I probably won't keep them when I'm done.  They've been pretty good--but not so good that I have confidence that I'll re-read them anytime soon.


James Sullivan said...

I thought the last four( or two, depending) were better. They did tend to improve and the pay off at the end of the last book was also pretty good.

Don't give up on them yet.

By the way, the author and I are not related.

Joshua Dyal said...

Heh. It wasn't my intention to give up on them, but it is my intention to wander a bit afield with the very long list of books to read that I already have.