Michael J. Sullivan's trailblazing career began with the breakout success of his Riyria series: full-bodied, spellbinding fantasy adventures whose imaginative scope and sympathetic characters won a devoted readership and comparisons to fantasy masters Brandon Sanderson, Scott Lynch, and Tolkien himself. Now, Sullivan's stunning hardcover debut, Age of Myth, inaugurates an original five-book series--and one of fantasy's finest next-generation storytellers continues to break new ground. Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between men and those they thought were gods changes forever. Now, only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer. Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom. And Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over; the time of rebellion has begun.
Age of Myth: Book One of The Legends of the First EmpireFeatured
The level of detail in this novel is exquisite. The world building is rich and easy to imagine. Sullivan describes the setting as such that it is not just words on a page, but a real place. My suspicion is that crafting the whole series at one time allowed him the chance to fully develop this location past the typical one-dimensional descriptions. In this particular instance, his writing style definitely benefits the book on a whole. I also understand that he has written other series set in the world of Elan, which again adds to a more developed backdrop. This result is the benefit of dreaming up a place and exploring it for the length of fourteen books, if not more.
The characters in this series are very compelling. I especially enjoy Persephone, Moya, and Suri as strong female leads amongst a society predominantly run by males. However, there are enough quality men, such as Raithe, Malcolm, and Gifford, that it does not feel as though all men in this society are devoid of morals or cast in a poor light. In other words, there is a good balance. There are, however, so many characters in this story that it made it hard for me to form a solid connection with any single one of them. Though I did care about the major players, I also felt as though I was kept at arm’s distance.
Because the story is so epic in scope, there are some opportunities that are missed in character development. For instance, at the beginning of the book, Raithe kills a Fhrey, which prior to this instance, was thought to be impossible. Raithe finds himself to be a hero among Rhunes, when in fact, he was never a hero, just a boy avenging his father. Unfortunately in the book, this point gets lost as Raithe must step up as the unlikely champion in many cases. It certainly would have served his story more had we as the audience seen a deeper struggle in Raithe with this newfound title as “The God Killer.”
The other missed opportunity was with Malcolm. There is a moment in the book when Raithe looks at Malcolm and says, “We really need to talk about this habit of yours…” In context, I remember reading that and laughing out loud. It reminded me how much more humor could have added to this book, including, but not limited to, making it more unique. While there were some other playful elements already present, Malcolm would have been the perfect character to use for comic relief.
Overall, AGE OF MYTH has definitely intrigued me. The final scene in the book is a huge plot twist that I absolutely did not see coming, making me very excited to read the next installment. Additionally, Michael J. Sullivan has certainly caught my attention as an author with unconventional methods and I am so happy to have been introduced to his work.
In many ways, AGE OF MYTH is your standard epic fantasy. The Fhrey are a very powerful and long-lived race reminiscent of elves in other tales, and some of those Fhrey have learned to harness magic which has led them to view themselves as far superior to everyone else. The news of Raithe killing one of their own reaches Lothian, the fane (leader) of the Fhrey, and that news coincides with information that a member of the Fhrey warrior class has decided to desert his station and take others with him. Thus, Lothian is forced to address both threats, and Arion—one of the magic-wielders—is sent to deal with the problem. Arion heads to Dahl Rehn where the deserter and Raithe have both ended up. Dahl Rehn is a village populated by some great female characters. Persephone is married to the leader of the village and she is his most trusted adviser; Suri is a young mystic who lives in the forest but has ventured to Dahl Rehn with a warning of trouble to come; and Brin is the author of “The Book of Brin”—excerpts from which are found at the beginning of each chapter.
AGE OF MYTH is a tightly written story with action, adventure, wit, and compelling characters. Although the story itself isn’t all that different than others in the genre, the writing, strong women, and flashes of subtle humor help the book shine a little brighter than the standard fantasy offering.
As I noted, I was quite pleased with the power of the female characters in the book. Arion, Persephone, and Suri are obviously stars of AGE OF MYTH, and other women like Tura and Fenelyus provide a strong historical backbone of the story. Many of the males from all the races depicted are despicable and conniving creatures, but Raithe and his sidekick Malcolm are witty, brave, honorable, and fun, and I found myself looking forward to the sections of the book where those two contributed to the action.
The world in which all of these great characters reside is well constructed, and I’m sure that’s owed in part to the fact that AGE OF MYTH is set in the same location as some of Sullivan’s other books.
Another positive to the book is the ending. Some authors struggle to put together an ending that both satisfies and tantalizes when writing a series, but Michael J. Sullivan does it when bringing AGE OF MYTH to a close. The second in the Legends of the First Empire series will come out in the summer of 2017, and I’ll definitely be picking up a copy. In the meantime, Sullivan has many other series out, and based on the writing in AGE OF MYTH, I’ll be checking those out too.
My thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Strong female characters