am 15. April 2017
Note: this omnibus consists of the books 3 and 4 of the “Riyria Revelations” fantasy series and is not a good place to start reading, because a lot has already happened and the books need to be read in the intended order. So I'd start with “Theft of Swords”.
This time, I was a bit torn about how to rate the book, four of five stars, and settled for 4,5 [yeah, the coward's way out, I know]. Because there is a great story, the very well fleshed out characters, both old and new, and courageous decisions about plot twists – yet there were some lengths as well. And some of the POVs just plain annoyed me, since they felt like a pretty boring interruption of the adventurous ones.
Again, it's hard to try to summarize the plot without spoiling stuff and with this being an omnibus and all, things get even harder. Nevertheless, I try to tell what I can. The situation of the kingdom of Melengar is dire, since all the other kingdoms are already under the church and the “New Empire's” sway and fight king Alric. Arista, his sister, is not successful as ambassador in her attempts to get any allies. Her brother is frustrated, doesn't want her to pursue their last chance with the nationalists, who are fighting the empire rather successfully. But Arista just commissions Royce and Hadrian to accompany her and on they go on their perilous trip. It's a hard trip for Arista, she learns a lot about the life of the common people and the poor and subsequently, her character develops a lot! And she finally gets the hand on her magic and what she is capable of is astounding. As a mild spoiler, I can tell you that they are partly successful, but not without losses and with things turning out differently than planned.
For Royce and Hadrian, there is a lot more background information and some really emotional and gripping scenes add to their depth. Their hilarious communication with the super-dry humor thankfully remains. But make no mistake, there is some foretold impending doom that hovers over their heads and it nearly killed me to read on and on and just wait for the hammer to fall.
When the assignment with Arista is finished, there is one last mission they go on together and it brings them to the sea, on board a ship, where most of their part in book 4 takes places. I'm not a fan of the sailing-theme, but I liked it a lot more than the alternative: Arista undercover, where a long time nothing happens and the worst, Amilia. If you remember, the girl Thrace slew the beast at the end of “Theft of Swords” and was therefore made [puppet]-empress to fool the people into submitting under the rule of the alleged heir of Novron. But she is totally traumatized – and gets a “handler”, Amilia. And Amilia is.... well, a maid turned noble, who has not really a clue about the world around her. And sorry, reading what she does and thinks is tedious. I did like the very short moments, when Thrace [now named Modina] got back into reality and shot sentences like bullets. She is cool that way and I wonder, if the regents and the church know what they are in for. Especially when Thrace finally finds a new purpose [which sadly takes a long, long time].
What threw me, were the elaborate machinations, one betrayal literally being revealed on the last page and it made me gasp. Then there are the people you [and the protagonists] feel so sure about and then something happens that makes you question it all. The identity of the heir is revealed, but I doubt it's the truth. But that is just me, interpreting a vague dialogue at a secret meeting and thinking about what I learned about Nyphron in “Age of Myth”, the prequel telling how the first empire came to be. Maybe you conclude differently. But as you probably already realized: there are plot-twists that kept me on my toes and the overall story arc gets better and better. So this stays one of the best high fantasy series I know of today, flaws and all.