Saturday, 7 November 2015

Review: The Death of Dulgath (A Kickstarter For The Win)

When one of your favourite authors starts a Kickstarter campaign, you just gotta say yes to donation, especially when it means that you'll be funding a new novel in a series that you absolutely love. I was anticipating a great story from Michael J. Sullivan when he started the Kickstarter campaign (which became the third most backed campaign in the site's history) for the third novel in the Riyria Chronicles, The Death of Dulgath. I got exactly what I asked for and then some, possibly making this my favourite of Royce and Hadrian's adventures. Which, considering what they have endured and fought against, is saying something. This new chronicle of everyone's well-meaning mercenary and cynical assassin is exciting, fun, mysterious, and full of all the surprises I've come to expect from the series.

Absolutely beautiful cover, which really sets the tone for the book.
Three times they tried to kill her. Then a professional was hired. So was Riyria.

When the last member of the oldest noble family in Avryn is targeted for assassination, Riyria is hired to foil the plot. Three years have passed since the war-weary mercenary Hadrian and the cynical ex-assassin Royce joined forces to start life as rogues-for-hire. Things have gone well enough until they're asked to help prevent a murder. Now they must venture into an ancient corner of the world to save a mysterious woman who knows more about Royce than is safe and cares less about herself than is sane.

One thing that I love about this series is that while it is undoubtedly a fantasy novel, the level of fantasy isn't overwhelming. It's smooth and subtle, not enough to drown you, but enough to let you know that it's there. When Hadrian and Royce embark on their mission, it's clear that their destination has a spiritual aura to it. They can't quite put their finger on it, but given their skills and senses, they know it's there, just beneath the surface. The pace at which the supernatural element was revealed was steady so that when the twist was revealed, I was surprised, but not so much that I was saying "What the f*ck?!" And it is a damn good twist, too. The whole nature of it is what ranked this book up into the tops of the Riyria novels. The ranking was solidified by strong action, mystery and mythology, character revelations, and the chemistry between the two leads.

As much as I love watching Hadrian and Royce go back and forth between their moral standings, this was definitely a strong story with great new characters. Everyone had a definite past that defined their future, and helped mould the choices they made. Even when the minor characters were introduced, no matter how brief their role, I felt like I knew them, and completely understood their motives. Characterization has always been a strong point in the Riyria books (and as a fan, I can tell you it's almost definitely part of the reason that 1876 fans happily helped fund this project), and it's as present as it ever was in this latest story.

While the minor characters are great, it's clear that Hadrian and Royce are still the top dogs. Hadrian is overwhelmingly charming, loyal, and sincere... Things that get him into a few rounds of trouble that Royce has to help him out of. I had a couple moments where all I could do was smile and shake my head, thinking: Oh, Hadrian, you're awesome, and I love you, but you really can be an idiot sometimes. But then I would remember that Hadrian isn't just a semi-gullible charmer that wants to see the best in people. He's a stubborn protector that's eager to do the right thing, something that rubs off on his grim companion, Royce.

Royce definitely had the biggest development. He learned a secret about his past that becomes absolutely vital later in the series, when the Riyria Revelations begin. I love the way it was revealed and his reaction to it, how it affected his choices and motivated him to ultimately do the right thing. The series also opened up a million other questions, leaving me to want more from the world and the universe of Riyria. For example, I would love a book that brought up more of Royce's past with the Black Diamond assassins guild. More than that, I would love to read more about Hadrian's past. He's just so unintentionally "cute" that I just can't help but want to know more about him. Let's just say that it's impossible not to love both these guys, and if Michael J. Sullivan ever puts together another Kickstarter for Riyria (or two, or ten), all I have to say is: "Take my money to make it happen!"

The setting and writing style are absolutely gorgeous. I could easily visualize everything that was happening with my two favourite fantasy characters, making it even easier to fall in love with a tale that's full of adventure, peril, and excitement. Whenever anyone asks me about a good fantasy book to read, this is the first series that I recommend. Even if I hadn't been so in love with the series to start with, The Death of Dulgath would have hooked me from the first page. The paranormal mystery of it all, that thing you know is there but just can't see yet, is what welcomes you into the world and keeps you there until the last page. Absolute recommend for any fans of fantasy, general or epic, and lovers of fiction. If you haven't read any of the Riyria novels before, you have no idea what you're missing. If you have, well, I expect you're thinking the same thing I am:

When's the next Kickstarter? 

Amy

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