The Rose and the Thorn (The Riyria Chronicles, #2) - Michael J. Sullivan The Riyria Revelations series may have wrapped up, but when it comes to this fantasy world and its characters, clearly there are still many stories to be told. Michael J. Sullivan fills in the details of the past first with The Crown Tower, and now with The Rose and the Thorn. Thanks to Orbit Books and NetGalley, I was able to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

While the first book told the origin story of the partnership between Royce and Hadrian, I thought this second one focused more on the birth of Riyria and the concept itself. Returning to Medford after a year of being on the road, the two thieves find that trouble has come upon Gwen Delancy, the woman who saved their lives after the harrowing events at the Crown Tower. The whole city is looking for one of Gwen's girls, a young prostitute who may have unwittingly stumbled upon a conspiracy to kill the king of Melengar and his family.

To be honest, I think the fact I was going to enjoy this book was already a foregone conclusion; to me, the romance between Royce and Gwen is one of those fantasy fiction love stories for the ages, and I was giddy with the fact that we got a glimpse into how their relationship first sparked and blossomed. This book also served to provide back-stories for some of the supporting characters in The Riyria Revelations, and we got to see appearances from familiar faces such as Reuben Hilfred and Viscount Albert Winslow.

That said, while I thought the The Crown Tower could be read as a standalone without having much knowledge of the six books of The Riyria Revelations, The Rose and the Thorn on the other hand might not be so easy to get into for newcomers to the world of Riyria, mostly due to the large number of characters and lore it introduces in the opening chapters. Still, it's not such a big avalanche of information that it would be overwhelming; I still have no doubt that the book would be enjoyable to people who haven't read the original series, but it'll just be more to take in.

In general, though, readers who already know the names and the political climate in this period of the books involving the Church of Nyphron will probably have more reasons to find this book exciting. I for one loved it. From the description I thought I would be getting a lot more about Royce and Gwen, but even then I was not disappointed when I discovered their story was just a part of an overall bigger picture. So many past events that I'd been aware of from The Riyria Revelations have now been given a new life and significance.

In sum, this book basically gave me more than I bargained for, and in a good way. I generally love to read these kinds of "world-building" novels that add to an existing story or series, so really, both these The Riyria Chronicles books were right up my alley. I hope Michael J. Sullivan will be open to writing more in the future, even if they aren't necessarily about Hadrian and Royce. As he's shown with this book, even the supporting characters from his world of Riyria have interesting stories to tell.

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