Series: The Legends of the First Empire #1
Published by Del Rey on June 28th 2016
Our reviews of this author: The Death of Dulgath
Having only read (and enjoyed) the first adventure of Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, I didn’t enter into Age of Myth with the same expectations a long-time fan of Michael J. Sullivan might have. As such, I’d like to think I was able to read it a bit more objectively, and treat it more like a mass market debut than a long-awaited graduation from the indie shelves.
There’s no doubt that Sullivan is a decent writer, and I admire his dedication in not just plotting out by actually writing all 5 books in the series before allowing one to see print. In an era where we often wait so long between books, and where publishes drop authors mid-series, that effort provides a level of comfort to the reader. It’s a double-edged sword, though, because I swear you can feel that comfort permeating the text. While I largely enjoyed the read, I didn’t feel there was any real drama or danger to the story. It felt like a comfortable, connect-the-dots kind of read, and I never felt as if the stakes were truly high enough to justify all that effort.
The other (huge) problem for me was the characters – or, at least, half of them. The elves I quite liked, and felt were by far the most intriguing aspect of the story. They had a sense of majesty and magic about them, combined with the usual sense of arrogance that, in this case, is entirely warranted. I wanted to know more about them, their culture, and their influence on the world. For me, the book only really came alive when they strode across the page. The humans, on the other hand, I found to be rather bland and boring. I know this is a prequel, and Sullivan is building his own mythology, but there’s a certain level of civilization I find is necessary to really establish a culture. Suri was the most interesting of the lot, but even her I found hard to really like or care much about. As for Raithe and Persephone, I found them both far too weak of a character to carry the story, and far from the type of hero/ine who sucks me into a story.
Now, having said all that, the narrative itself is clean and polished, making for an easy read, if not one with a lot of flair. The world-building is intriguing, but Sullivan does far too much telling and not enough showing, making it often boring at the same time. There is some humor to the tale, although not as much as I remember from Royce and Hadrian, and the dialogue is actually quite sharp, so much so that I often wished the characters could live up to their voices. Pacing, however, is a major issue, with the story suffering from far too much walking and talking in the first 300 pages or so, followed by a frantic rush of action in the last 100. If the entire book had been as strong as those final pages, it likely would have mitigated some of the other weaknesses. As it is, we’ll just have to hold onto the promise that Sullivan can pick up where he left off in the next book.
I almost feel bad, because I really wanted to like it more than I did, but the fact that I persevered through to the end says something for the overall quality of Sullivan’s writing. While I may not be jumping at the chance to get my hands on the next book, I’m also not at all discouraged from continuing with the adventures of Royce and Hadrian.