Before I start, let us take a moment to admire the stunning cover for Age of War by the one and only, Marc Simonetti. In my opinion, this is the best cover he has produced for any of Sullivan's books to date, and it is most fitting that the book dedication is made in his honour
This book is dedicated to the artist Marc Simonetti. People are told not to judge a book by its cover, but so long as Marc is creating them, judge away.
With the two preceding books setting the foundation of the events leading to the war between the Fhreys and the Rhunes, the Age of War can be viewed as the penultimate climax of the series where the first war ever between the Fhreys and the Rhunes finally broke out. Just from the title alone and natural extension of the story, one can reasonably expect some serious action and battle scenes to occur. And I was not disappointed. Moreover, I can also say that Sullivan has managed to hone his action and battle-writing skills as well.
Regardless, the narrative did not go all-out at a breakneck pace as true to Sullivan's approach to storytelling character development always takes precedence. While the preceding volumes, especially Age of Swords, tend to favour the women (which are some of the best female characters in fantasy), we have pretty much equal opportunity for all main characters to shine in this latest instalment. It includes one notable introduction from the previous book, a young man whose name alone caused a whole lot of flailing (on my part at least) because of its implications. Sullivan also has a penchant for unlikely heroes, which makes his stories so compelling. Think of Myron and Emilia from Riyria, and in this series, Gifford and Roan.
To a man with so little, hope is a barrel of ale. It alleviates pain for a time, becomes a crutch. But it also ruins what little good a person might otherwise squeeze out of life.
My favourite part of the whole story so far is the getting the real juice behind the legendary tale of Nyphron and Persephone. In this respect, I always believe that it is fascinating to read the Legend series after Riyria even though one does not truly spoil the other. Now, though the revelations are the main draw for me, I wouldn't be half as engaged in the story if I do not care about the characters. Sullivan's biggest strength as far as I am concerned has always been his characterisation, which I will extend to some with dubious personalities and even that whiny brat, Mawyndule.
The worst thing that can happen while reading is to feel nothing. Stories are ultimately about the people in it and if one does not feel anything, whether it is love or hate, towards the characters then their stories are not likely to stay with you. For all that Sullivan is known for his light-hearted fantasy, he can be downright cruel sometimes. The war exacted an immense cost on our beloved characters and no one who survived can be said to be the same again. At the end of this book, it is this transformation which sticks in my mind; surely a sign of a tale well-told.
There is only one romantic arc within the story which hurt the pacing a bit and did not entirely strike a chord with me, even though I appreciated that it is most relatable under the circumstance and some of the scenes are quite cute. I believe, however, that many other readers will likely differ from my opinion.
In short, another great addition to the series. I am so looking forward to knowing where the story is going next and how Sullivan is going to expand the narrative to bring us to the existence of the fabled city in the Riyria series.