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The Crown Conspiracy (The Riyria Revelations, #1)
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Theft of Swords > ToS: The Crown Conspiracy (spoilers)

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Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 888 comments The "Sell it to Me" thread is getting long and unwieldly so I thought I start a new thread where we can discuss the first story without worrying about spoiling things for people who haven't finished or are still on the fence about reading it.

I'm usually a sucker for a good Fafhrd & Grey Mouser sword-and-sorcery riff, where a strong buddy and a sneaky buddy banter and bicker and have each other's backs through a string of crazy fantastic adventures. And I've read several variations too: roguish buddy and lawful buddy, husband and wife buddies, brother and sister buddies, gay couple buddies, warrior and wizard buddies, etc. But Crown Conspiracy was a fairly average version of that.

It has some scenes I really liked--that opening really drew me in, and the dwarf-trapped tower in the climax was pretty neat. But it was mostly a lot of been there, done that. For a book about a pair of buddies, the ostensible main characters seem to be the least well-developed. I'm not saying they have to be deep--the protagonists usually aren't in this kind of story. But they don't seem to have much of a personality either, at least not one that jumps off the page. Almost every other supporting character in this book feels more like a person than these two enigmatic cyphers. I'm a few chapters into the second story where they get a little better, but the plot also feels a lot more paint-by-numbers so far, and is lacking interesting supporting characters.

So, was this a terrible story? No, it was fine. Most importantly, it was an easy and quick read. I'm more forgiving of a rote adventure story that doesn't waste my time than one that is both run-of-the-mill and a slog. But I don't think I'd recommend it.


message 2: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Richter (stephenofllongbeach) | 1318 comments It is Michael J Sullivan's first book. Everything gets better with each book. To me, Michael J Sullivan is a pre-order author, I was afraid to read his new non-Hadrian & Royce series, but MJS nailed it.


message 3: by Rob, Roberator (new)

Rob (robzak) | 6715 comments Mod
I agree this story is pretty average. I haven't read as many of the buddy stories as it sounds like you have. (Or at least hadn't the first time I read this one).

I had debated nominating The Crown Tower or Age of Myth because both are much better written..but I'm a pretty big proponent of publish order. Maybe to Mr. Sullivan's detriment since it seems so many people are unimpressed with Theft of Swords

The scenes you mentioned were a big part of me continuing on and the second story in this omnibus got me interested in reading the next one. That and the humor/banter between Royce and Hadrian. I still particularly love that first scene.


message 4: by William (new)

William | 397 comments I agree that a lot of it is "paint-by-numbers", but I've got to say this author paints very well. I recognised an awful lot of tropes, but the way he put them together just somehow worked and (this is important) by the end of ToS the author is putting a twist and shine on his world building that is really hooking me.

If this is how a newly published author starts out a series, I have high hopes for the series.

So I'd say, less a "paint-by-numbers", more an "Awesome Mixtape" with a very interesting demo at the end.


Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 828 comments Rob wrote: "I had debated nominating The Crown Tower or Age of Myth because both are much better written..but I'm a pretty big proponent of publish order. "

Yeah, I see the problem here and I have no real solution. As for me, I have so many books I want to read, if the first one doesn't get me, I will most likely lay off the series because there isn't time enough to read all the books I want to, so why stick with something I don't feel enthusiastic about.

First novels often lack some skills an author will acquire with each book, so you'd often have to choose between reading books in order of publication and reading the strongest ones first to get readers hooked. In any case, a first book should do enough for me to want to read the sequel and that wasn't the case here. I can see why people like it, but it was too trope-y, the world building seemed inconsistent to me and the characters were quite underdeveloped, so I moved on to other things.


Ruth | 969 comments Anne wrote: "Rob wrote: "I had debated nominating The Crown Tower or Age of Myth because both are much better written..but I'm a pretty big proponent of publish order. "

Yeah, I see the problem here and I have..."


^^
I agree 100% with Anne here - the Crown Conspiracy simply didn't do enough to make me want to continue with the series. Sure maybe later books get better but I have so many other things to read that I don't want to spend time on a series on a promise that it improves, when the first book left me so underwhelmed.

I'm also not particularly a stickler for reading in publication order so I can't help wondering if a different entry point to the series would have worked better for me.


message 7: by Trike (last edited Apr 11, 2019 06:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trike | 8158 comments William wrote: "So I'd say, less a "paint-by-numbers", more an "Awesome Mixtape" with a very interesting demo at the end."

This is a terrific analogy. Thanks for articulating that.

I was recently turned on to the musicians Durand Jones & The Inspirations, whose music is in a 60s throwback style reminiscent of bands like Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings or Van Morrison in his “Crazy Love” steady groove mode. Alex Frazer, the 20-something white kid who sings with Durand, sounds like he’s a black girl straight out of 1966 Motown. They aren’t breaking any new ground but I bought their new CD immediately upon hearing it. https://youtu.be/obsykdatEwM

That’s what Theft of Swords felt like to me.


message 8: by Melanie (last edited Apr 11, 2019 07:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Melanie | 74 comments Sullivan said in the Q&A thread that the stories were meant to be "fun" not necessary high epic fantasy. That being said, kind of like the Harry Potter books, there is the beginning of a story arc here that concludes 6 books later. Each book gets more meaningful character development and the plots get a little darker. Also like those books, you can see the author developing with each new installment.


Ian (RebelGeek) Seal (rebel-geek) | 509 comments Am I the only one that noticed that the mythology is VERY similar to Tolkien? His style of world building is often imitated, but I don't remember another author specifying which God created which race like Tolkien does in the Silmarillion.


message 10: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3861 comments I didn't notice, but that's largely because I got about 50 pages into The Silmarillion and was bored stiff. From my three readings of LOTR I don't recall that being discussed. It doesn't come up that much in Fantasy that I recall but I don't think it's an uncommon idea. We've even got a major motion picture titled "Children of a Lesser God."


message 11: by William (new)

William | 397 comments Ian wrote: "Am I the only one that noticed that the mythology is VERY similar to Tolkien? His style of world building is often imitated, but I don't remember another author specifying which God created which r..."

Tolkien's mythology was far more ornate. This reminded me more of Dragonlance, which to be fair owes more than a little to Tolkien.


Adelaide Blair I had a lot of fun with this. (Gave each book a 3.5 rating.) It's obviously early-in-career writing, but the underlying plot about the Imperial takeover is really interesting and led me to put a hold on the next omnibus. I am trusting that the writing will get better based on what I've heard from those who love the series. The only real complaint I have are the naming conventions. The mix of made up fantasy names with prosaic real names doesn't quite gel for me. But in the end, I am enjoying this and want to see how the whole thing plays out.


message 13: by Seth (new)

Seth | 301 comments I avoided this thread until I finished Crown Conspiracy, and agree with a lot of the sentiment. That book was fine, and it was sort of a coin flip whether I'd continue into Avempartha. But I did, and couldn't believe how much more propulsive the pacing is. I never minded reading the first book, but the second one kept me awake to see what happened.


message 14: by Melani (new)

Melani | 179 comments I've been trying to figure out exactly why I find these books so very enjoyable. They're extremely tropey, the characters are pretty stock standard, the plots are predictable, the writing for the women isn't great*, and yet I devoured this book. It's a light popcorn beach read that doesn't take itself seriously and knows exactly what kind of book it is and revels in it. The plot moves along at a rip roaring pace, and even though the tension could probably be worked on (I never really feared for the characters) it all works in an enjoyable way. I probably won't buy the next few books, but I'd get them out of the library.

*to be fair, Sullivan does get better with this.


message 15: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2775 comments "t's a light popcorn beach read that doesn't take itself seriously and knows exactly what kind of book it is and revels in it."

Yep. These aren't books to be torn apart for hidden meanings etc and they're definitely open to criticism but if you're in the mood for what they are, they're light fun reads.

This might just be me but sometimes I get into a rut and don't feel like reading anything. I don't want to work, I just want to be carried along and things like this, Scalzi, etc are perfect. They're more or less straightforward entertainment, they tell a story pretty much in standard fashion and you're never really worried if the characters will survive or not. Plus, they're short or at least fast to read.


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1861 comments Rick wrote: "I just want to be carried along and things like this, Scalzi, etc are perfect. They're more or less straightforward entertainment, they tell a story pretty much in standard fashion and you're never really worried if the characters will survive or not. Plus, they're short or at least fast to read. "

This is where I differ from most people here, because, whilst I agree it is a light and fun read, I haven't found it to be fast at all, on the contrary, it has dragged for me, and while I am still curious enough to keep going, I am not far passed the beginning of the second part. I don't think anything other than personal taste is at fault for this, but it's interesting what people consider a 'quick' read to be. For me, I think maybe that something I am missing is a sense of consequences. I don't read humour well, so what others tell me is funny reads for me as distance, and is a barrier to caring what happens. Without consequences to fear, the book lacks urgency, becoming a 'slow' read, to me.


message 17: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3861 comments I find it interesting how Sullivan uses tropes like royalty and medieval society to argue for democratic elections. That's more in the second book, but I'm finding overall the "trope turned on its head" the most enjoyable part.


message 18: by Grimothni (new)

Grimothni | 13 comments In general I really enjoyed this, I kind of like my fantasy to be relatively light as long as there’s at least a good character or two that I can latch on to. I do have a question/criticism though for those who have read beyond these two stories that I will call : Chekhov’s Ambassador (view spoiler)


message 19: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2775 comments Ruth - interesting. I blew through each part in a couple of evenings. I generally find straightforward prose with a through line for the plot (i.e. and easy to follow plot) quick to read. I can see, though, if it doesn't catch your fancy that it wouldn't be that. And, yeah, there really aren't much in the way of consequences although that changes slightly in the second book.


message 20: by Anne (new) - rated it 2 stars

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 828 comments Rick wrote: " I don't want to work, I just want to be carried along and things like this, Scalzi, etc are perfect."

Concidentally I read ToS and The Collapsing Empire by Scalzi in quick succession and the latter confirmed what I didn't like about ToS. Although I understand what people mean when they say they love the dialogue in ToS, I found it very clunky. There were a couple of dialogues that I found actually funny, but it was mostly one-liners. Scalzi on the other hand writes perfect spot-on witty banter. Reading these books nearly side by side I would say that Sullivan was aiming for what Scalzi seems to deliver nearly flawlessly.

I can only speak for The Crown Conspiracy, because I didn't keep on reading. It was actually the dialogue that put me off the most and while I can believe that it gets better, the hope of improvement wasn't enough to keep me going.


message 21: by Melani (new)

Melani | 179 comments Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth wrote: "This is where I differ from most people here, because, whilst I agree it is a light and fun read, I haven't found it to be fast at all..."

I do have to be in the right mood for this type of book, and my interest flagged a lot in the second half/book. I skimmed/skipped a LOT of that second book in fact. And that's one of the reasons I find the book to be a fast read. There isn't anything particularly complicated going on, and I don't think Sullivan's writing is so amazing that I need to read several long paragraphs on 'how to fight' (just one example of an area I completely skipped over), and so the book was a fast read by default. Books go by pretty quickly when you skim/skip large portions of it.


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1861 comments Melani wrote: "Books go by pretty quickly when you skim/skip large portions of it."

That might be the other reason why it is taking me so long to read this book. Not only am I a slow reader, but I am really bad at skimming and scanning. I either read a book fully or else it is just an exercise in turning pages since I won't remember what has happened. My attempts to read more quickly to get past a section I am not enjoying are exhausting to me, meaning I am more likely to put the book down after a shorter length of time than if I'm just reading, meaning I either slowly read a 'bad' section, or read it quickly, but that is all the reading I'll be doing that day.


message 23: by Seth (new)

Seth | 301 comments Anne wrote: "Concidentally I read ToS and The Collapsing Empire by Scalzi in quick succession and the latter confirmed what I didn't like about ToS. ... Scalzi on the other hand writes perfect spot-on witty banter."

I guess I'm on the other side. I almost quit the Collapsing Empire because I thought the dialogue just got a little too precious at times. Sometimes authors seem to project the idea that friendship and intimacy between characters is best illustrated by their willingness to make tongue-in-cheek comments to each other. There are even books where characters stick tongues out at each other as demonstrations of how close they are (I think it was Behind the Throne - KB Wagers). This whole idea annoys me - I suppose because this has nothing to do with how I've ever experienced friendship.


message 24: by Rick (last edited Apr 24, 2019 09:32AM) (new)

Rick | 2775 comments Anne wrote: "Concidentally I read ToS and The Collapsing Empire by Scalzi in quick succession and the latter confirmed what I didn't like about ToS. Although I understand what people mean when they say they love the dialogue in ToS, I found it very clunky. There were a couple of dialogues that I found actually funny, but it was mostly one-liners. Scalzi on the other hand writes perfect spot-on witty banter...."

I don't disagree with that comparison and I don't think the CC dialog was great or anything but a) your comparison is between the 30th book by an author who's been writing fiction for 20 years and Sullivan's first book and b) CC's still an *easy* read, at least for me.

Seth - " I almost quit the Collapsing Empire because I thought the dialogue just got a little too precious at times"

This is the hit on Scalzi. His dialogue is all witty, snarky banter and feels similar across his books. He's still on my to read list but no longer a "day one buy and read as soon as it's out" thing and I still think The God Engines was one of his best. Sadly (for those of us with this criticism), he's got no incentive to stretch himself because he has a long term Tor deal and a lot of people really love what he's doing given that his books sell quite well.


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