Review: Rise of Empire (The Riyria Revelations, #3-4)

Rise of Empire (The Riyria Revelations, #3-4) - Michael J. Sullivan

After a series of major changes in the last book(s), Royce and Hadrian are still pretty much themselves, though grimmer and more exhausted versions of themselves. Both are still working for the Melengar royal family, still sent on dubious quests to save the kingdom while subverting the Nyphron Empire, which sound like a lot but it's all in a days work. The work, however, is beginning to take its toll on both of them. With the world's fate hanging in the balance, there is less banter in this installment and more peril. These adventures are less fun as they become a matter of life and death.


Nyphron Rising is, as the title says, about the Nyphron Empire on the rise. The focus of the story is on the Empire using the supposed heir of Nyphron, Thrace / Modina, to further their own personal agendas, all in the name of Nyphron of course, while the heir herself is incapacitated.


Hadrian experiences an identity crisis at the start and decides to seek early retirement. Royce, while used to Hadrian's idealistic outbursts, has an ulterior motive and convinces him to work one more job for the Melengar royals.


Royce and Arista had promised Ersahaddon to keep a secret to themselves at the end of Avempartha. This comes to a head when Hadrian returns to his hometown and makes amends with his past and makes sense of the burden his father kept from him, which he now bears.


Arista, Royce, and Hadrian then head out to meet with the leader of the rebel forces to strike a deal for Melengar. It does not go according to plan... would be the simplest way to sum up these events. The trio find themselves in an even tighter spot... would be another way to sum up what happens afterward.


Finally, the identity of the true heir of Nyphron is revealed...? Maybe, maybe not. Seems too easy and convenient that it just happens to be Gaunt.


The Emerald Storm is a ship belonging to the Empire that's carrying suspicious cargo and mysterious orders. Royce and Hadrian are sent on a wild goose chase, per Alric's orders. The journey accomplishes... not much and causes a great deal of... disturbance.


Arista sets out on her own to find the true heir of Nyphron following Esrahaddon's assassination. She makes her way to Aquesta and somehow manages to find employment within the castle, with the purpose of locating the heir. This journey also accomplishes not much and leads to a great deal of disturbance.


Meanwhile, Thrace/Modina is still trapped in her role as puppet Empress, but she's no longer incapacitated... that much. Reuniting with Arista gives her a sense of purpose that her current existence lacks up to this point. She helps Arista locate the heir and prepare for his rescue. But as mentioned before, things do not go according to plan.


Second installments in a trilogy are burdened with setting up events for the final battle/confrontation, and so they're weighed down by multiple plot lines that often end in cliffhangers. All well and good (as long as you have the last book in hand).


I didn't enjoy Royce and Hadrian's adventures on The Emerald Storm as much as I enjoyed the adventures in the first book. The light tone and bantering of first book is gone, replaced by a dark political intrigues--not what I was expecting. The writing seems heavy-handed as a result and ends up dragging on more than it intrigues. I can see why this plot is important to the overall story arc and final book(s); however, it just seems too much of a break from the initial set-up. The big reveal at the end with Marius just seems tacked on at the last minute to throw the reader off track.


There were a few plot holes that left me scratching my head and flipping back in the book, hoping to catch a foreshadowing moment I'd miss.

  1. Marius working in mysterious ways
  2. Hilfred mysteriously coming to Arista's rescue in Aquesta
  3. the set up of both Arista and Gaunt for capture, to name a few.


These things all happened too mysteriously. Also, seeing as how Royce and Hadrian are quite popular after the events of the first book, it doesn't make sense for them to retain their names when they're out of Melengar. Neither makes attempts to hide his real name/identity. It just seems that that would make matters more complicated, and yet it doesn't...?

(show spoiler)


The problems I have with this book can be summed up in a few words: I expected it to follow the first book's narrative. And when it didn't, I was disappointed because the first book was fun. This one? Not so much fun.