I loved Age of Myth, so it’s no surprise that Michael J. Sullivan’s Age of Swords was another delight. It continues shortly after Age of Myth with folks settling back into their existence at Dahl Rhen. They know reprisals are coming, but are still taken completely by surprise when the attack comes in the form of storms and giants. When it’s over, the village is laid waste, centuries of improvements erased in a few hours.
Persephone recognizes that only uniting the clans could create an army strong enough to challenge the Fhrey. Raithe argues that it is impossible without weapons so a small expedition goes to the land of the Dherg (They really dislike that term.) to bargain for swords. They must do battle with a beast who is keeping them from their ancestral home of Neith. While the beast had been trapped for millennia, he was recently released from the traps by Frost, Flood, and Rain, three Dherg who had been sheltering with them in a cave during the attack on Dahl Rhen. It’s clear that the Dherg have many technological advances that the Rhule lack, so Roan goes along to absorb as much as she can.
There are three main threads to this story, the quest to Neith to kill the giant (not really a giant) in exchange for swords, the Rhule clans gathering to choose their leader, and the manipulations and plots among the Fhrey. The young Mawyndulë is as easily manipulated as ever, though perhaps not as weak and worthless as he appeared in the first book.
This book advances the story quite a bit as some people’s skills and leadership came to the fore. Subtle plots also reveal themselves including the bit of a cliffhanger at the end that brings one of my favorite character’s integrity into question. Damn. What I enjoyed most is Sullivan recognizing that he does not have to spend a quarter of the book explaining the first book and filling in back story. One of my pet peeves with fiction series is the frequent meetings with folks from the book before and having them sit down with a beer and chew over their mutual history just in case someone is reading the book out of order.
Each chapter begins with a quote from The Book of Brin. I love that even though it suggests Brin will make it through the entire series, reducing the jeopardy she may be in at any particular moment. I don’t mind. I would trade that bit of suspense for her highly opinionated introductions ten times over. But this is not the kind of series where everyone always makes it to the end and if you read to the end of Age of Swords without crying, well, there is just something wrong with you.
Age of Swords will be released on July 25th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.