Theft of Swords: The Riyria Revelations, Vol. 1

Michael J. Sullivan. Orbit, $14.99 trade paper (704p) ISBN 978-0-316-18774-9

Sullivan succeeds with simplicity in his originally self-published epic fantasy debut. Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn are a pair of thieves and mercenaries. They aren't mentioned in any prophecies or the lost heirs to anything; they're just criminals who happen to have hearts of gold. Going by the inexplicably pretentious shared name of "Riyria," they steal incriminating letters from a blackmailer, kidnap a young king to save his life, and protect a village menaced by a terrible monster. Along the way, they meet a clever princess, an unlucky monk, a 1,000-year-old wizard with no hands, and a naïve but heroic farm girl. There's even the beginning of a series story arc as the powerful Church of Nyphron secretly schemes to control the world. Hair-raising escapes, flashy sword fights, and faithful friendship complete the formula for good old-fashioned escapist fun. (Nov.)
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