Michael J. Sullivan's Age of Myth sequel, Age of Swords, arrives this week in hardcover, moving the six-part series another step forward while still telling an engaging self-contained story. Come inside to check out my full review on the new fantasy story!
Age of Swords is the second book in The Legends of the First Empire, a six book series from Michael J. Sullivan. The first book, Age of Myth, launched around this time last year and thoroughly impressed me. Filled with engaging characters, impressive world-building, and action, the novel was a promising start for an epic fantasy series.
Age of Swords picks up shortly after the events of the first book, and wastes no time in getting right into the thick of things. The Fhrey, a race of beings the lowly humans (uncivilized and largely undeveloped) considered gods for centuries are angry following the events of the previous novel. With their authority challenged, they seek to make an example of the quaint Dahl Ren village.
Facing giants and magical storms, Persephone, the clan’s leader; Raithe, the god killer; the mystic Suri and the other band of misfits set out to unite all the clans together. Rebellion is brewing and the might of the entire human race will be needed to have any hope of winning. As the clan leaders gather together in the hopes of picking a leader, the reality of warfare against a superior race comes to a head.
In an effort to secure more effective weapons for the battles ahead, Persephone sets out with Suri, the magic wielding Fhrey Arion, Moya, and the slave-turned-inventor Roan to the land of the Dherg. This reclusive and greedy race (Dwarves in typical fantasy parlance) are the key to crafting stronger weapons (swords) to fight against the Fhrey, but in return they want an ancient and powerful enemy dealt with.
All the while, dissension is brewing amongst the Fhrey, and Raithe has to try and hold things together amid the clans in Persephone’s absence. It’s a bigger story than the last one, but manages to retain an intimate feeling. In the effort of remaining spoiler free, I think I’ll keep the story details at that. Suffice it to say, it’s another excellent fantasy story bringing together great characters and action with a non-stop pace.
Grand World-Building, Personal Story
Where Age of Myth was focused on the smaller scale battle within the clan, Dahl Ren, and their encounters with bigger affairs, Age of Swords really expands the world. The overall scope of the story is broader, bringing the larger conflict into greater focus and setting things up for future books.
We get to explore more of the world’s history and a bunch of elements really come together. Frankly, Sullivan manages to incorporate some of the best fantasy world-building I’ve seen in quite some time. While the concepts he’s using aren’t new to the genre, the twists he puts on them makes it feel unique and original.
Age of Swords delves into this much further than the previous novel, but it’s not all exposition and explanation. Sullivan manages to strike a delicate balance and still tells a personal story for the characters. The novel hooks you into the larger plot for the series (the big rebellion) by emphasizing the characters at the heart of it. By endearing readers to individuals, you find yourself caring about what happens next in the big picture. Doing so combines the best of a smaller, more intimate story, with the large action of a fantasy epic.
This mix makes for some powerful storytelling and a book that’s genuinely hard to put down. Despite coming in at nearly 500 pages, there’s never a dull moment in the story and it reads quickly. The story beats and action sequences keeps the plot moving along at a quick pace; moving forward before anything grows stale, but not overwhelming you either. I found myself wrapping it up in just a few days and eager for more.