Thursday, August 20, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter by Michael J. Sullivan

 I found a bright spot in the gloom. Michael J. Sullivan wrote a fourth book in the The Riyria Chronicles that I somehow missed: The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter.

Many years ago, I discovered the superb high fantasy trilogy, The Riyria Revelations, starring the entertaining duo Royce Melborn (assassin) and Hadrian Blackwater (mercenary) who have teamed up as thieves for hire. The unstoppable pair save the world piece by piece, one adventure at a time. The books are fast-paced, excitement-packed, and delightfully funny. The wisecracking friendship between the two is what makes the books addictive. 

So, when I finished the trilogy, I was thrilled by the release of prequels, The Riyria Chronicles, which filled in the backstory of how the two met and began their journey together. After the third, The Death of Dulgath, it seemed the series went on hold and, though I mourned, I eventually moved on. 

Fortunately, I stumbled on this fourth book and quickly purchased it. Now I’m hooked all over again.

A wealthy whiskey baron from a city once terrorized by Royce (in his early life, when he went by the name “Duster”) hires him to find out what happened to his daughter, Genni, who married a duke from the city of Rochelle. She has disappeared and is believed dead. The grieving father suspects the duke wed her for her dowry then had her killed. If that’s the case, he wants revenge, bloody revenge. He knows “Duster” is capable of devastating a city; he’s done it before.

The pay is good. Royce is willing. Hadrian goes along, expecting, in his cheerfully optimistic way, to find the woman alive.

It should have been an easy job, but they enter a city full of nobility awaiting the appointment of a new king. The old king, along with his whole extended family, has supposedly drowned at sea in a storm. In such a situation, the bishop gets to appoint someone. He intends to appoint himself, but first he needs to get rid of his competition, which is all the nobility of the land, in one fell swoop. To accomplish this, he enlists help from a few of the downtrodden of the town, who possess some dangerous magic. Royce and Hadrian not only have to find the woman and rescue her, but they have to do it before the demons are unleashed. The race is on!

Once again, Sullivan provides a rollicking adventure. The trademark banter between the protagonists is there, but more muted than in some of the previous books. There is some interior monologue that gets a little too earnest as Royce seeks to understand the changes being wrought in his own psyche after so much exposure to Hadrian. It’s necessary character development, but steals a bit of the mystery of Royce.

This book was actually published back in 2017. I’m not sure how I missed it until now. The author has been working on a new series that takes place in the same universe but centuries (millennia?) before. I’ve read one of these, The Age of Myth. While it is great fantasy, it doesn’t have Royce and Hadrian and the humor is missing, so I haven’t followed the series. I’m just hoping Sullivan will find inspiration and time for a book five in the chronicles.