Book: “Age of Empyre” by Michael J. Sullivan
Publishing Info: Grim Oak Press, May 2020
Where Did I Get this Book: own it
Book Description: A door opens. An army of dragons advance. And the fate of the living rests with the dead.
After obtaining the secret to creating dragons, the leader of the Fhrey has turned the tide of war once more—but gaining the advantage has come at a terrible price. While Imaly plots to overthrow the fane for transgressions against his people, a mystic and a keeper are the only hope for the Rhunes. Time is short, and the future of both races hangs in the balance. In this exciting conclusion to the Legends of the First Empire series, the Great War finally comes to a climactic end, and with it dawns a new era in the Age of Empyre.
Review: I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to finishing up this series, but…well, it did. I was really enjoying the audiobook versions, and I had half a mind to wait for the library to have a copy. But over a year later, it looked like that wasn’t going to happen, so on to my purchased copy! The last book ended on a pretty big cliffhanger that I still remembered vividly over a year later, so I was pretty excited to see not only how that was resolved but how the entire series was going to be wrapped up.
The war is coming to a head. With the secret to creating dragons now known to the Fhrey, the Rhunes one real advantage has been crippled. But all is not lost and those who set out on a quest into the heartland of the Fhrey people still have hope to cross the realms of the dead. But all who started out will not return, and the future of both races hang in the balance.
This was a bit of a tricky read for me, the first of its kind in this series which, overall, I’ve greatly enjoyed. I did start having a few questions around the midpoint of the series. The author surprised me with some sudden swaps in main characters and removal of other, previously central, figures. For the most part these played well and I remember praising the Sullivan for breaking some tried and true fantasy stereotypes and not getting precious with his characters. But around this point the story also started to feel meandering and lacking in the tight pacing and focus that I saw in the first three books. This was most noticeable in the last book, which had previously been one book that was then cut in two. And it showed. It really felt like the author simply gave himself a page count and then just ended the book when he reached it. Because of that, this book has similar problems in that it feels like the second half of the first book, rather than a story with its own unique arc.
I also struggled with a couple of the character actions (some carried over from the previous book, choices made there that made little sense that then had massive repercussions in this book). It felt like Sullivan had to quickly tie up the many loose ends left, but this resulted in several characters with arcs that, over the entirety of their story told over multiple books, felt ultimately rather pointless. Why were some of these characters even introduced if it feels like their story really didn’t go anywhere in the end? It was very disappointing.
I especially struggled with Persephone’s story. She was one of the strongest characters in the first several books, but in the last few, it feels as if she’s barely on the page. And if she is seen, she feels aimless and without agency. I get that Sullivan is trying to tell the story of many characters, some of whom played bigger roles in certain parts of this grand tale and less in others, so perhaps it was simply the manner in which some of them (particularly Persephone) rose and fell out of prominence felt clumsy. This book also tied up a few characters’ stories in ways that I felt undermined much of their previous journey, making it feel like much of it was for nothing. I can’t name names without spoiling big reveals, but you’ll know them when you see them.
It’s tough, because I still enjoyed the general experience of reading this book. Sullivan has an engaging, approachable style of writing that makes the process of reading his stories fun and easy. It was only when I sat down after the fact and reflected on this series as a whole that I truly began to feel disappointed. I would still ultimately recommend this series and this author to epic fantasy fans. Even though I had some quibbles with this ending, it wasn’t a dumpster fire by any means and was largely satisfying (even if I had personally wanted different endings for a few characters/aspects). I’m excited to check out the other series by this author, however. Technically, they were written before this series but, chronologically, happen afterwards. Should be a fun reading experience!
Rating 7: Solid enough as its own book, but lacking a bit as the conclusion to the series as a whole.