Age of Swords (Legends of the First Empire #2)
by Michael J. Sullivan
Review by Sam Lubell
Del Rey Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9781101965368
Date: 25 July 2017
Age of Swords is set far in the past of the author's popular Riyria Chronicles/Revelations so can be read independently of either Riyria series. It does require reading book one in the current series, Age of Myth as it picks up a few months after the prior book ended and, as is all too common in modern multi-volume epics, there's no summary of what has gone before.
This novel begins with mystic Suri, village chief Persephone, and Arion the Fhrey visiting the tree that gave them good advice in the previous book. But now the tree keeps repeating a message to run and the mystic says, "It's never good when a tree screams." She is right. The tree and their entire village are destroyed by lightning, hail, and giants. The humans and their Fhrey and Dherg allies determine that the destruction was instigated by the Miralytith, the magic-using rulers of the Empire.
For generations, the human Rhune had worshiped the Fhrey as gods, but now, after the events of the first book, they know the Fhrey can be killed, and have access to runes that block the Miralytith's magic. Knowing that the Fhrey are planning further attacks, especially as her village has allied themselves with a band of renegade Fhrey, Persephone decides to gather the various Rhune clans together, appoint Raithe the God-Slayer as king, and fight back against the Fhrey.
But Raithe refuses to be king, saying that the human weapons are not strong enough. When Persephone learns that the Dherg need a magic user to kill a demon, Persephone decides to travel to Neith, in the Dherg homeland, and offer the services of their magic users, Suri and Arion, in exchange for Dherg weapons. Unfortunately, Arion was wounded in the previous book and has only limited painful access to her magic while Suri is still a novice.
Meanwhile, young Mawyndule, prince, and heir to the throne of the Fhrey Empire, becomes involved with a conspiracy to elevate the Miralytith to the status of gods, even over the rest of the Fhrey.
Age of Swords is light, fun epic fantasy with strong, likable characters. Even minor characters have strong personalities and Moya, a minor character in the first book, becomes much more important to this one. It is worth noting that most of the main human characters in the book are female.
Still, much of this volume does not advance the epic's overall arc. About half the book takes place in Dherg and, while interesting, feels a bit tangential. And the inventiveness of Roan and Brin seem too unbelievable, going from independently inventing the concept of writing to being able to read ancient spells in the course of hours. There is a humorous scene where one of the Dherg realizes that Roan did not simply make a wheel for a cart to carry the village's belongings but actually was the first human to invent the wheel. "Very impressive in a sad and stunningly pathetic sort of way."
Overall, these are minor flaws in an enjoyable novel. Fans of David Eddings and Robert Jordan will feel right at home with this series. Readers who have soured on gritty fantasy novels like the Song of Ice and Fire will find Legends of the First Empire a pleasant antidote.