This is my review of Age of Swords, by Michael J Sullivan.
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Here is my review for the previous book in the series, Age of Myth: https://www.braydensbookreviews.com/post/age-of-myth-review
Age of Swords is a fantastic second book that broadens the scope of the Age of Myth and Legends series. It introduces more point of view characters, bringing some of the side characters from the first book into the spotlight, diversifying the lenses through which we see the world of Elan. If you want to know more about the first book, Age of Myth, check out my review of it here: https://www.braydensbookreviews.com/post/age-of-myth-review
Wow Factor: 5/5
The characters in Age of Swords take the original cast and some of the side characters and make all of them point of view characters. This works well with the story, as it grows in scope and magnitude. Raithe, Malcom, Persephone, Mawndulë, and Suri are all still here, but now Brin, Moya, Roan, and Gifford are added as main characters. Each of their stories are compelling, making you feel and root for them. The story splits these characters up into two main groups, and I am glad they did this, as it allows for more room for each person to shine through. Their conflicts weave and crash together in ways that keep the tension but afford a satisfying conclusion. There were moments where I was genuinely shocked with how the characters are forced to grow and the decisions they make. It is in this book that the true main character, Persephone, is revealed, as she takes the front seat both in most gravity on the story and the most time on the page. In my opinion, the story benefits greatly from the switch away from Raithe, who, while important, still spends most of the time bemoaning his situation.
This is the book where the overall story of the series really begins to pick up. The story starts with the Fhrey retaliating against the characters and their village, Dahl Rhen, due to events in the end of Age of Myth. They are forced to unite with other tribes of humans, leading to tension from the other tribes and the looming threat of war with the Fhrey. The story revolves around the humans figuring out how they, who still use stone tools, can stand against the might of the Fhrey army. The story benefits from a deeper look into the world, this time digging into the culture of the Dherg, or dwarves. Persephone, Moya, Brin, and Roan all benefit from this trip, both plot wise and as characters. Michael J Sullivan does a great job of making each of them distinct, in who they are, their interests, and their voice. The story certainly has high points, such as sacrifices characters are forced to make, and how the conflicts of the story are resolved, but I can't really think of a low point. Each story beat feels interesting and needed for the plot. The only thing I take issue with is Raithe's storyline, as it serves as a contrast to Persephone's storyline. She spends the book taking action and finding answers, where Raithe spends his time bemoaning the situation and trying to run. He is both better and worse than he was in the last book, which can be annoying.
In Age of Swords, Michael J Sullivan takes the already solid worldbuilding of Elan and expands it. A lot of this worldbuilding comes from the exploration of the culture of the Dwarves, or Dherg. We meet three dwarves, Rain, Frost, and Flood, who join our heroes on their adventures. We learn more about the war between the Dherg and the Fhrey, one that the Dherg would have won, had the Fhrey not learned magic and ended it. We learn how losing this war has shaped them, how they have technological power not seen in the Fhrey or Rhune (human) societies. An easy example is the Dherg are in their own Iron Age, while the Fhrey are in a Bronze Age, and the Rhunes are still in a Stone Age. I like this distinction, dwarves are commonly advanced technologically compared to other races, but they are not often as advanced as those seen here in Age of Swords. The book also delves into the lore shared between Michael J Sullivan's various series. We begin to see the truth behind the mythos in the Riyira series, which takes place 3000 years in the future. Age of Swords benefits greatly from its expansion of the lore of Elan.
The magic is greatly expanded in this entry in the series. In Age of Myth, magic is used, talked about, and seen, but never spoken about in much depth, other than basic explanations of how there are chords the you tap into. In Age of Swords, some of the deeper concepts are discussed, as the Fhrey Magician, or Artist, Arion teaches Suri about the art throughout the book. This is pivotal to the plot throughout the series. As the characters delve deep underground, we learn that Artists draw strength from movement, from life, so it becomes very hard to use. We also learn about the ‘deep chords’, chords of magic used in creation. We learn about how artifical life can be created, along with the heavy cost associated with it. The explanations are complex, but retain a simplicity, and it is a joy to learn new concepts of how to use magic, or the Art, along with the characters.
Overall, I really enjoyed Age of Swords. I thought it took the series in a good direction that I wanted more of. Technological advances, advances in magic, and advances in human society were quite wowing and served as good high points throughout the book. I love how things as simple as weapons made from iron can have a big impact on the characters and the events of the story. Multiple POV characters outside of the normal archetypes was certainly wowing, especially the viewpoint of Gifford, who is fantastic. I love the transition in the humans from stone to iron ages, it is so satisfying to watch. The best part is certainly the end, when characters all get their moment to shine and the conflict is resolved in a surpising yet inevitable conclusion. The series gets great here and only gets better as it develops.
Overall Score 24/25
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If you haven't read the first book yet, read my review for it here: https://www.braydensbookreviews.com/post/age-of-myth-review