Book Review: Age of War by Michael J. Sullivan
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 3 of The Legends of the First Empire
Publisher: Del Rey (July 3, 2018)
Length: 420 pages
Age of War is the third book of The Legends of the First Empire series and it is aptly titled, given how things are heating up again after the slight slowdown we experienced in the previous installment. From my time with the Riyria Revelations, I’ve learned that Michael J. Sullivan is an author who likes to slowly and methodically build up a series arc, and though this strategy often leads to uneven pacing and some monotony during the early volumes, it’s absolutely worth it to stick around because you always know the ending will be rewarding. Indeed, here we are seeing the results of the first seeds sown in Age of Myth and Age of Swords, and these burgeoning developments are growing into a very promising outlook for the rest of the series.
So far, we’ve seen the results of the brutal clashes between humans and Fhrey, but also learned that the relationship between the two races aren’t all that simple. The Fhrey have their own internal conflicts, with infighting and rebellions against the Fane. The leader of one of these fractured groups is Nyphron, who has taken his renegades and joined forces with the humans, led by Persephone. But with so much history of anger and distrust between their two peoples, this new alliance is proving fragile. In response, Nyphron proposes marriage to Persephone in a political move to unite their two forces.
Although Persephone believes it is a prudent plan, a few concerns make her hesitate. She doesn’t exactly know how to feel about Nyphron, for one, even if she knows love will not play a part in the marriage. That’s because she’s already in love with Raithe, the hero known as the God Killer. Also, while a political marriage will help solidify the alliance and help both their sides, there are suspicions that Nyphron might not have been entirely forthcoming with his agenda. But in order for her people to survive, Persephone must quickly make a choice, for the Fane’s armies are on the move and the first real war between Rhune and Fhrey is about to begin.
Again, for most of the book, we have significant sections devoted to relationship building, as well as establishing the foundation for the major battle to occur at the end of the story. Persephone’s role as keenig of the human clans has her running around smoothing over conflicts and attending to everyone’s needs, while Raithe pines from afar, resenting Nyphron for the amount of time the Fhrey leader gets to spend with her. Meanwhile, Bryn is hard at work on her project, a written account of the history of the world, though she also manages to find enough time to pursue her own romance with Tesh. The young Dureyan survivor has grown from a scrawny boy to a fierce warrior, even earning himself the name “Techylor” from the Fhrey, which means “swift of hand” (but for those who’ve followed Riyria, it also means so much more).
These are just a few examples of why I think readers of Sullivan’s first series will get a get a much greater kick out of these books, because they show us the truth of many of the legends surrounding this world. While it is also fine to start with The Legends of the First Empire, the stories of the characters here will probably have less impact. Most of the names here have entered into myth by the time of Hadrian and Royce, and it’s fascinating to see how much of the real history has survived and which parts have been bastardized or misinterpreted.
But all in all, Age of War can be considered a pretty tame sequel up until the second half, when the plot starts ramping up towards the war. Since most of this book is a prelude to one huge battle, it does start somewhat slow, with a lot of diversions and choreographing, but once the players are all in place and the action is ready to begin, what we get is an intense drive to the finish. There were some pretty significant developments, including a couple of earth-shattering deaths, so I highly recommend preparing your emotions and bracing yourself for some painful twists before heading into this one.
In sum, Age of War is another solid sequel to what is shaping up to be a great series. With three more books to go, I’m sure the best is yet to come, but Sullivan is doing an impressive job keeping up the momentum and excitement through the series’ middle stages, managing to skirt a common problem with a lot of epic fantasy. I’m looking forward to the next volume.