Theft of Swords – a comparison review

So in general I read a lot of fantasy. Over my lifetime, I’d estimate that I’ve read a thousand fantasy books, maybe?
Rick, dear C.R. Francis of Epic Writer fame (not yet), writes epic adventure fantasy. What does that mean?
Epic – the story is not based in reality, like Jim Butcher’s Dresdon series, where a wizard solves crime in Chicago. That’s urban fantasy. Epic fantasy is set in Middle Earth or Earthsea or Elan. Or even places that don’t start with E.
Adventure – the fantasy equivalent of lots of fistfights, gunfights and exploding cars. Action, action, action.
Fantasy – there’s magic. It has some sort of internal consistency, but you could never make it work here in Portland.
Now we’ve got our terms straight, I can tell you that I’ve read a bunch of epic adventure fantasy recently to see where C.R. Francis’ work fits on the spectrum.  Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations is the closest I’ve found, so let’s start there.
Theft of Swords is the first book Michael J. Sullivan wrote in the series. It starts with a beautifully written scene where you are introduced to two guys: a tall sword master and a short sullen thief. They are best buds and they are DANGEROUS. But then they get conned into doing something they normally wouldn’t do. They are offered a lot of money to pull a simple job, but they have to do it right away. No time to prepare, check facts or generally make sure they will be safe.
They quibble about taking the job. The big guy (Hadrian Blackwater) is sorely tempted, because winter is coming (Ha! Fantasy joke!) and the money would get them through the cold weather in style, and also, he seems to be a nice guy who is pretty willing to trust people.  The other (Royce Melborn) is a lot more skeptical, but he goes along anyway.
I spent most of the rest of the book trying to decide if they had so stupidly taken the job because they have great confidence in their ability to get out of any situation, or if Mr. Sullivan just really needed them to get into the story, so he put blinders on them and pushed them in.
These two guys are in way over their heads throughout the book, but they take it all in stride. They don’t freak out, they don’t complain, they just competently deal. And of course they eventually come out the other side. They’re fun; you wish you could be like that. Well, I do. You already are like that, I know.
There’s a scene I really love, where a stonemason creates a trap that Royce has to escape, and the whole thing, from setup to the end, just delighted me. It was devious, and the thief had to be more devious. Great fun!
If you buy the book now, it is bundled into one volume with Avempartha, which is the second story in the series. It has a lot of the same characters, but it has a really different feel than the first. Instead of being a book about politics and intrigue and ancient mysteries and who’s backstabbing whom, it’s about an ancient monster that wants to kill everybody. Fair enough, I like monsters.
I liked Theft of Swords a lot. It’s well written and if it sounds intriguing and you somehow haven’t read it yet, I recommend it.
Now for the comparison. Let’s see, how shall I do this? Let’s go Old School for reals.

Comparing and contrasting Theft of Swords from Riyria Revelations to Forsaken Realm from The Summoner’s War

Things that are similar:
– Two main characters, who care about each other – though in The Summoner’s War series, they are two sisters, a thief and a wizard.
– Intrigue and larger mysteries the heroes stumble into.
– Lots of action. C.R. Francis’ writing makes use of cliffhangers a lot more. He just looooves to throw those guys over a cliff. (Literally. You’ll see.) But Mr. Sullivan has his share of hanging over certain depths, too.
– A breezy sort of tone. Both books are serious, but both have characters who don’t take their heroism too seriously and might be found bickering when things go sideways.
Things that are different:
– There’s a lot more dialogue in Forsaken Realm. They’re girls, they talk. Actually, Rick talks, but he is pretending the girls are doing it. ; )
– As mentioned, more cliffhangers. Rick has ADHD, so nonstop action means nonstop action. I haven’t counted, but I think eight to ten chapters of the first book end in a cliffhanger.
– More epic, in the sense of a giant overarching story unfolding. Rick has a twisty, twisty mind, and some of the stuff set up in part one (Forsaken Realm) won’t have a payoff for five or six more books. Seriously. I love that sort of stuff, and he’s got it all figured out, so it won’t be like Lost, where the final payoff was bitterness and pain. This will be E. P. I. C.
– More Young Adult/coming of age. The guys in the Riyria Revelations are grown up. You learn about them as you read, but they don’t really change. Meg and Jamine in The Summoner’s War are young, and they are going to learn a lot of stuff. They will be changed by what happens. You will go on that journey with them.

That’s it. Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom. You are a star! Have a random picture:

rock into mordor