Age of Myth: Book One of Legends of the First Empire, by Michael J. Sullivan

I had never even heard of Riyria before and now, with this wonderful book, I’m suddenly hooked on the author and have to start hunting for more.

I’m prone to avoiding books by any author compared to Tolkien. I blame Stephen R. Donaldson who was promoted as the next Tolkien when his Thomas Covenant series came out. I read a few but found the horribly kludgy despite enjoying the unique perspective on magic that the books contained. Michael J. Sullivan is much nearer Tolkien though unique in his own approach and perspective. He creates characters you can fall in love with with interesting magic but a minimum (at least in this book) of non-human characters. This book has a goblin and a giant but the bulk of the characters are either humans or the god-ish Fhrey. The Fhrey have magical powers and as little respect for humans as they can manage.

The central hero of the book is Raithe, the last living son of a warrior. He and his father cross a river into Fhrey territory to hunt because drought has spoiled the land on the human side. They are challenged by a Fhrey with some slaves for having carried weapons on this side of the river. Raithe’s father refuses to throw his sword into the river as ordered, attacks the Fhrey, and is killed. Raithe tries to attack the Fhrey himself but while they are facing each other one of the slaves steps up behind the Fhrey and whacks him with a large stone. Raithe finishes the job, then he and the slave Malcolm flee the scene and remain partners in trying to dodge Fhrey justice for the remainder of the book.

Sullivan writes wonderful dialogue and I admire/envy his approach to writing. This is a five-volume series and we know this because he’s already written the entire series and released this book in June. The remainder are sitting with the publisher, with volume two ready to be released in late July. Sullivan, in the introduction, says this helps him draw on small things that come out of his writing and to go back to earlier volumes to set the foundation for new directions.

In this book there is a growing division among the Fhrey, those who believe they truly are gods and those who have been ostracized after a long war. Raithe and Malcolm travel together, with Malcolm promoting Raithe as “The God Killer” until they land in a small village where there has been a change in leadership following the killing of the old leader by a bear. They find shelter and purpose in the village along with meeting a wonderful character, a young mystic named Suri who may have greater powers than some of the Fhrey.

The action is frequent and well-written and nearly all the characters get to speak some of the most clever dialogue I’ve read in an age. The story didn’t lag for a second. I’ve already pre-ordered the next volume and may have to dig through the earlier Riyria series to ease my new addiction until Age of Swords is released this summer.