Rating : 7/10
ARC provided by the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Note 1: The quotes in this review are taken from the ARC edition and may change in the published edition.
Note 2: I’m definitely on the unpopular opinion side here. So if you don’t agree with me, you can drop a comment and we can discuss it 🙂
Note 3: I just realized that the title is PERFECT ! It couldn’t have been more appropriate :’)
“Losing leaves a bitter taste that lingers long after the sweetness of victory has been forgotten.”
Damn, this is a very hard book to review for me!
Mostly because Michael J Sullivan is one of my favorite authors. I love his writing! I love his characters, his humor and the way he tells his stories. Unfortunately, that is also precisely why this book didn’t work as much as I hoped, for me. I found his storytelling in AoS different from what I’m used to. It’s more forced and somehow, deliberate, with little room for unexpected turns of events. Michael knew exactly where his story was going (the 6 books are written already, with different editing stages), so he dropped a lot of the necessary cornerstones for his characters and the bigger picture’s further development. To the point where this book felt like a huge introduction ! If this was the first book of the series, it would have been understandable but this is the second installment and I was bored during half of the book 😥
AoS is rather character-driven. The plot doesn’t move much (most of the interesting actions for me took place in the last 15% of the book) and you can see most of them coming from far away. Often because of the excerpts from the book of Brin, at the beginning of each chapter.
I have nothing against character-driven stories, believe me ! One of my favorite series of all time is the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson and It’s certainly not fast-paced. But it is full of twists and revelations and amazing battle sequences. I didn’t get much of neither in AoS. Don’t get me wrong, there were beautiful, touching and heart-wrenching moments but they were scarce imo. MJS explained in his Author’s Note how all his characters were very important for the future turns of events (there were a few hints throughout the narrative too), and that it was necessary to give each of them enough space to grow into their full potential. Retrospectively, he was successful. What seemed like idle conversations and very long introspection parts, were justified at the end of the book. However, those parts often felt unnecessary, lengthy or boring to read.
Another element that slowed the pace and wasn’t very realistic, was the contrast between how primitive and backward humans were in this series and how ONE particularly gifted character invented devices on a daily basis, to suit every situation (the axe and the pottery table in AoM were only the beginning). So Michael kinda packed millennia of humanity’s early technological progress in a few days. It was unsettling and despite the edge these inventions gave to our characters, there were too much of them to be believable.
“I think we’ve just witnessed the world shift, and I doubt it’ll ever be the same again.”
Please don’t let these points talk you out of trying this book (and the series). They are a matter of personal preference and there is a lot to love in the story Michael is telling in The Legends of the First Empire :
1. Michael has a gift for writing amazing female characters! Ordinary women and girls who refuse to sit idly and settle for the modest roles men assigned to them. They are both strong and fragile and most of them are touching in different ways. And most importantly, all of them are determined to write a piece of History! My favorites are definitely Suri and Moya! Both were hilarious, endearing, loyal and brave in their own way ❤ Male characters on the other hand didn’t shine much in AoS ! XD Seriously, I wanted to strangle them in more than a dozen occasions!
2. The expansion of the world building! The story extended far beyond Dahl Rhen and Erivan’s capital to new villages and « foreign » lands. One place in particular had a distinct Fellowship of the Ring feel to it and I kept expecting a Balrog to emerge from the depths of the city and attack the party!
3. The references to the Riyria series were priceless!! OMG, it was extremely fun and rewarding to make connections to “future” events and legendary characters, creatures and places!
4. The Art is finally explained! After 8 books in the world of Elan, I’m glad Michael provided details about its requirements and it’s connection to the elements, to nature and to Life itself. And damn, it’s pretty complex ! XD There are a lot of (definitely necessary) details and subtleties, so be prepared ! 😉
5. Michael’s prose has a simple beauty! It’s very accessible and suited for every reader. His writing is generous, funny, touching, punctuated by beautiful metaphors, hilarious dialogues sometimes and touching and heroic moments. You can always be certain to find unbreakable friendships, loyalty and sacrifices, and a lot of beautiful characters who’ll eventually blossom out into unexpected heroes in your read!
There are many lies spoken during a war, even more before one. That is how they start.
I was so sad I enjoyed this book much less than I anticipated. Despite a very exciting beginning, the story was extremely simple (once again) and I definitely expected more. So, it took me a while to write these few thoughts because while I was bored during a major part of the book, there was a tremendous characters’ growth and many pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall in place. And I’m definitely intrigued to see where this story is going!!