This series started out as a fun romp of a fantasy, fairly lighthearted and and fast-paced. Some of my friends didn’t enjoy the first book because they found it to be too shallow, both in plot and character. I honestly don’t think anyone could possibly feel that way about this final installment. Sullivan took the foundation he had laid in the first book, which was heavily influenced by classic fantasy, and ended up with something that felt deep and original and new by the last book.
The mythos was beautifully rendered and was presented with a deft hand, never laden on too thick or thin. The characters were wonderfully developed, and watching them grow throughout the series was a joy. The settings were varied and, while not always unique, were very well crafted and were lovely to behold. The plot took twists and turns that were surprising and heartbreaking and gratifying, often within the same chapter. The entire series was fun, but this book felt like something special.
While there were so many fantastic aspects to this series, what really made it for me was the characters and how they grew over the course of the series. My very favorite character is Myron, the little monk with the photographic memory who sees the good in literally everything. He wasn’t present in Rise of Empire, which was really disappointing, but he was an incredibly important character in Heir of Novron! His view of the world is the view I aspire to maintain, and he’s quite possibly one of the sweetest fictional characters I’ve ever come across.
Then there’s Arista, the princess that seemed like a fairly interesting secondary character in the first book, but who has since become one of the central characters of the story, with more depth and spirit and courage than I would have imagined when she was first introduced. She’s a strong, powerful woman who never picks up a sword or becomes some kind of supernaturally gifted warrior, which is actually rare to find in a fantasy setting. She worked hard to become the woman she is, and I really appreciate finding such a strong woman in a fantasy. And Sullivan didn’t just craft one strong female. In this series, we also have Gwen, Modina, Amilia, Lenare, and more. Sullivan did a wonderful job of creating remarkably strong women, and I applaud him for it.
And what can I say about this series’ dynamic duo, Hadrian and Royce, that hasn’t already been said? Both the individuals and the duo go through tremendous adversity and character growth. They are still a fun bromance, but one that’s been tempered by hardship and sorrow. Seeing how each man handles the difficulties that life throws his way, as well as how those hardships affect their friendship, was always enthralling to watch. Not always comfortable or fun to witness, but always enthralling.
One last thing that I would really like to applaud Sullivan for: his approach to romance. There is no insta-love here. There is no use of romance as a plot substitute. But there is romance, and it’s some of the most satisfying romance I’ve ever come across in any genre, not just fantasy. The romance here grows over the course of the story. It’s not always comfortable or even reciprocated, but that’s how love is in real life. And that realism is what made any romance that came to fruition within the series mean so much more to me as a reader. There was struggle, as there should be for anything that matters.
I won’t say anything more because I don’t want to inadvertently spoil anything, but I really appreciated the writing choices Sullivan made with this series. I’m incredibly glad that I was exposed to Riyria through my wonderful Goodreads friends and decided to pick it up for myself, because it’s now among my favorite series, and it’s one I look forward to revisiting. Also, I’d like to thank Petrik, TS, and Haïfa for patiently listening to my crazy theories without spoiling anything for me, and for gushing with me as I read the series. Bookish friends are the best friends!