Hadrian and Royce are a team of mercenary thieves who live from one job to another with little to no remorse for what they do or for whom they do it. Then, one afternoon, they are hired for what seems like a relatively easy--suspiciously easy--job that lands them in the dungeon in The Crown Conspiracy, as these jobs tend to do. That is only the tip of the iceberg though. Framed with regicide, Hadrian and Royce go on the lam and are forced to solve the King's murder to clear their "good" names. They make friends and form alliances along the way.
In Avempartha, Hadrian and Royce are hired by a country girl to help her village get rid of a menacing creature that kill indiscriminately. Characters from the previous story make appearances and put their lives at risk. To say any more would spoil the fun of the mystery and ending.
While all of this is happening in the foreground, there is a sinister church vs. state power struggle plot recurring in the background. The death of the king is the first in a series of orchestrated events to shake the Apeladorn world. Hadrian, Royce, and friends are caught in the middle and tread carefully as the world shifts around them. If not kept under control, there's a chance this plot line might run rampant and take over the rest of the series. Political intrigue can enrich a series, but it can also weight it down.
The world of Apeladorn starts out small and gradually expand to a significant size by the end of the second story. You're introduced to this world through relatable characters, and you experience and learn about it as the characters moves the story along. There are info-dumps, but you only notice them if you focus on finding them. Otherwise you'd gloss over most of them because they're subtle and are worked well into the narrative.
What I like most about this book is the shifting tones in the stories. There are moments when things are dark and there's no escape, yet characters are still able to banter to lighten the mood. It's not something you often see in fantasy. I also like how Sullivan could write humor into any moment, regardless of gravity of the situation or whether or not lives are at stake. The humor keeps the action light and moving along at a swift pace, and I suspect, it also keeps the story from plunging into melodrama, as it often happens to fantasy series that take themselves too seriously.
From now on, whenever I hear someone say he/she is bored with fantasy because there's nothing new or interesting to read, I will drop a copy of this book in his/her lap.