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REVIEW: 'The Crown Tower' by Michael J. Sullivan

Two men who hate each other.  One impossible mission. A legend in the making.
A warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most valuable possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels the old wizard is after, and this prize can only be obtained by the combined talents of two remarkable men. Now if Arcadias can just keep Hadrian and Royce from killing each other, they just might succeed.


The Crown Tower revisits the world of the Riyria Revelations, taking the readers back to the beginning where Hadrian first meets his partner, Royce.  As a prequel, readers can jump right in here, or if they wish to read them by publication, wait until after they've read the Riyria Revelations trilogy.  It doesn't require any knowledge of the prior trilogy, but returning readers will recognize some characters and pieces that later play a role in Revelations.

It's a smart move to revisit the world as a prequel since Revelations wrapped things up with the characters so perfectly.  Trying to find a way to continue with the same characters after Revelations would have taken something away from that ending, but throughout the trilogy we heard of the many adventures of Riyria so its a perfect fit to bring those tales to readers.
Much of the novel focuses initially on Hadrian, who hopes to leave behind his days of spilling blood for gold, but is not quite sure what else he can do.  With his father's passing, he at least has one destination ahead of him as he travels to meet a friend of his father's holding some things that have been left for Hadrian.  Royce, as he is to most in the world of the novel, remains on the outskirts of the story, in the shadows.  It's not until Hadrian begins to chip through the wall Royce has built around himself that we get to experience the world from Royce's point of view.  Intermixed with the duo's first adventure we also get the story of Gwen's beginnings as she begins building her business.  Though perhaps somewhere in between a major and minor character in the Riyria Revelations, her role was important and it's great to see her fleshed out more here.

Sullivan passed up many opportunities to manufacture a reason for the two to begin working together, instead having them be forced -- dragged kicking and screaming practically -- to work as a team.  This pays off in the end, showing how the two men, despite their opposing personalities, don't just have the ability to become a good team, but eventually good friends.

For readers interested in the amount of magic in their fantasy: The world itself is very magic-lite, but here in the prequels it is virtually non-existent.  A sword and sorcery without the sorcery, offering up only hints that magic may have once played a larger role in the world.

Some of the most enjoyable parts of stories, for me, have always been the beginnings.  Not necessarily the origin, but the start of a book or series when the story is more about the adventure and less about the the grand plot.  Although Sullivan did a great job through all three books of the Riyria Revelations offering up plenty of thrills and action, it is great to take readers back to the time when it was all about the adventure and not saving the world.  Most of all, it's fun.


Fans of the Riyria Revelations will have no trouble jumping back into the world as Sullivan does the meeting of the duo justice. Readers unfamiliar with Sullivan's work, but looking for a fast-paced character-focused adventure will enjoy The Crown Tower as well. With each novel of his planned Riyria Chronicles being a standalone, it's also a good way to dip your toe into the world with a full story.

You may also be interested in:

REVIEW: Theft of Swords
REVIEW: Rise of Empire
REVIEW: Heir of Novron
INTERVIEW: Michael J. Sullivan on Hollow World Kickstarter

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