A Total Inability To Connect

The Rose and the Thorn - Michael J. Sullivan Writing: 4.5
Story/Plot: 5
Depth/Detail: 5
Enjoyment: 5
Audio Performance: 5

Mike, Mike, Mike...you've already got me. I already love your books, your characters, your ideas and your fan interaction. I already supported your Kickstarter, bought signed copies of your books on your website, preordered [b:The Crown Tower|16043804|The Crown Tower (The Riyria Chronicles #1)|Michael J. Sullivan|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1375570227s/16043804.jpg|21821161] and [b:The Rose and the Thorn|17163514|The Rose and the Thorn (The Riyria Chronicles, #2)|Michael J. Sullivan|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1362121827s/17163514.jpg|23589581], along with participating in all surveys, giveaways, promotions, etc. I've got your Hollow World poster framed and hanging in my apartment. I recommend you to others at every turn, pass out your signed bookmarks to my reading buddies as an incentive to buy your stuff.

What I'm trying to get at, is that I'm already a damn fan. You didn't have to go and write a book like The Rose and the Thorn. You didn't need to give me exactly what I want from an MJS book - likable, engaging characters. Plot twists and turns. Subtlety. Humorous dialogue. A variety of points of view and styles. And, above all, a healthy dose of Royce and Hadrian.

In short, The Rose and the Thorn was exactly what I wanted from a Riyria prequel.

It gave me a dose of "behind the scenes" Royce and Hadrian history. It gave a good chunk of Melengar/Medford history, background and groundwork. It introduced the "current" situation in the Revelations fairly fully, and the ending lead up and rolled into it brilliantly. It didn't focus too hard on any one area - there was ample POV from all over the board, from the King, to Vicount Winslow, to Saldur, to Gwen. Introduced Reuben, gave some access to the Pickerings, to the whores of Medford House/The Rose And The Thorn.

But, while providing all of this precious background, Sullivan kept the story lively, the characters active, the drama flowing at a political and personal level. The dialogue was spot on, and had a much more realistic, flowing feel than the early Revelations books had. There is a definite progression in the writing of the Chronicles books as compared to the Chronicles books - in addition to Michael clearly having grown as a writer and word crafter, the writing style of these books leaned a bit more adult. Not in a manner of graphic violence, sex or language, per say - but at the same time, exactly those things. Something as subtle as using the word "whore" more often gave the books a much more realistic feel, especially when it came to bad guys sneering it as an insult. At one point, Royce finally goes full badass. He hatches a scheme, pops a trap and is fully ruthless in revenge. He tortures, humiliates and kills multiple people, and unapologetically at that. It was perhaps the most rewarding and fulfilling piece of Royce writing so far, as it gave a real hard look at just what he was capable of and willing to do in the name of anger and hatred. Michael described the (fairly brutal) torture in a way that got the point across with just enough detail to make you really feel how brutal it was, but without being unnecessarily gory or gratuitous in it's violence.

I could rant on and on about this book - I found it extremely rewarding to read, and while [b:The Crown Tower|16043804|The Crown Tower (The Riyria Chronicles #1)|Michael J. Sullivan|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1375570227s/16043804.jpg|21821161] was a great book, The Rose and the Thorn blew it out of the water in my opinion. It stands up to the best of the Revelations books with ease, and feels like a very grown up Riyria. I think it also was a great success as a prequel - as much as I know Michael does not like prequels - because it not only gave the readers of the full series a great history and behind the scenes look, it kept things interesting, gave a full story that was fulfilling and exciting, yet didn't lean too heavily on what happens in the Revelations series, nor did it allow the series to spoil it too much. At this point, I'd almost recommend new readers to pick up the Chronicles books and read them first, do the series in chronological order. The setup for Revelations is perfect leaving this novel, and reading it in order would take away from some of the ("intentional") slowness at the beginning of The Crown Conspiracy, as you'd just be rolling right into the story, instead of working through some of the buildup.

The Rose and the Thorn is an excellent book, and one of the most enjoyable books I've read in 2013. I'm thrilled to see Michael having the success he's having with the series, and I hope these books sell well and continue to encourage him to keep writing, keep giving us Riyria books, and continue to keep his fan involvement and generosity at a high. I plan to recommend these books to anyone I can.