Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Series: The Riyria Revelations #3-4
Date Published: December 14, 2011
The adventure continues as Royce and Hadrian aid the struggling kingdom of Melengar as it alone stands in defiance against the newly formed empire. War approaches and a desperate gamble behind enemy lines is their only chance at forming an alliance with the Nationalists to the south.But Royce has plans of his own as he uses this opportunity to discover if an ancient wizard is using Riyria as pawns in his own bid for power. To find the truth, Royce must unravel Hadrian's hidden past. What he discovers will lead them to the end of the known world, on a journey rife with treachery and intrigue.
Rise of Empire is the second volume of The Riyria Revelations comprising of book III: Nyphron Rising, and book IV: The Emerald Storm. It starts where The Theft of Swords left off. The last book revealed the identities of the two protagonists Hadrian and Royce in terms of birth, which was pretty convincing. That leaves us with the question as to who the heir of Novron is. And hence, partly the journey of the two in this second volume.
Only an heir of Novron could kill a gilarabrywn, a beast of war conjured through magic or The Art by ancient Elves. Since it was Thrace who was able to dispell the gilarabrywn, Saldur grabbed the opportunity to introduce her into the world as the lost heir, now proclaimed as the Empress of the new empire, Empress Modina, as a puppet of the church. Thrace was left emotionally and mentally scarred with her demise in the last book, that in Nyphron Rising she was nothing more but an empty shell of a person. Because of her madness, she was kept isolated by the empire and showcased only during important events.
Meanwhile, Hadrian sort of suffered something akin to midlife crisis at age 35. As a child, he thought that his life was meant for something grand. He didn't know where the feeling came from but he wanted to live the kind of life that he believes in. And so, he ran away from his smith father, the only family he had. That was 20 years ago.
Now plagued whether to tell Hadrian of the truth of his nature, Royce accepted the last job for the two of them as partners in the Riyria with Arista in tow. He intended to set off their journey where Hadrian would eventually come back to his hometown, Hintindar so he may have a confirmation to Hadrian's identity before he tells him the truth.
Eventually, Hadrian gathered up the courage to face his past, spoke with the smith who inherited his father's possessions and saw the truth, which was kept in a letter by his father through a poem. For which none he understood. After Royce revealed what he kept from Hadrian, he got angry. But sure, that was a short-lived anger that no blood was spilled.
With the empire rising, pressuring the kingdom of Melengar to turn themselves, and after failing to gather an alliance for six months as an ambassador, Arista would muster all she could to convince the Nationalists to fight at their side that she arranged a job for Royce and Hadrian, unknown to her king brother Alric.
With the empire closing in Rhenydd to surrender, with the flame set ablazed by a youth to make the people of Ratibor fight against the empire, Arista was inspired to fan the flames and took the matter of securing Ratibor (Royce's hometown) into her own hands with the help of Hadrian as the commanding general while sending off Royce back to Melengar with a message to Alric.
Hadrian was so into fulfilling his destiny that after the battle, he came to know upon a woman who was able to convince him that her brother was the heir.
At the end of the second book, there was no denying that Hadrian was the guardian. He possessed the skill and discipline of a Teshlor Knight that was passed unto him by his father. No wonder the Pickerings couldn't beat him in a match. The identity of the heir on the other hand was vague. Blonde with blue eyes. Sound much like Westley to me, I could have been swooned. But I smell something fishy. Somehow, I find it too easy to identify the heir. There must be something more.
It sort of makes sense to me how Hadrian and Royce came to know each other. In a big scale, Hintindar and Ratibor seem close to each other. Oddly enough, both their names and their hometowns start with H and R respectively.
Hadrian's past sound like he had a lively and happy childhood. Deaf with the clash and clangs of swords in training with his father, Hadrian was bound to become a remarkable swordsman. Royce's on the other hand was disturbing. When asked where he used to live in Ratibor, he replied after a long pause:
This isn’t the first time I’ve slept in these sewers.
Ratibor has surpassing beauty when it comes to the sewers below but up above, the roads are full of mud. Everybody lives in struggle. It's clear that the King neglects his people and just focus on fattening his ass. It was already painful imagining the kid that Royce saw deftly stealing an apple but gets bullied in the end with three bigger kids for his price. In a fleeting moment, I thought that Royce was imagining himself but he was not. Struggling in the streets is an everyday business.
There's no wonder how Royce came to be. His elven roots is one thing—men believe that elves are a menace in Elan which is unfair considering that elves exist before humans even learn how to walk. His childhood experiences quite another. Others might mistake him for a cold-hearted person, his perspective sometimes are way beyond Hadrian. But between Hadrian and Royce, I could understand Royce better. I was not born an orphan nor did I used to live in the streets but I used to have a hard childhood.
Royce's character was tempered with years of hardship. Hadrian's on the other hand was founded with ease and a strong belief that he was given life with meaning. He has some kind of Messiah's complex in my opinion. He had this natural heart for wanting to save everybody. He's a hard man as a swordsman but deep inside, he's very soft. I can't blame him, he was born that way and he was meant to be along with his forefathers from 900 years ago. You might argue that blood inheritance doesn't matter for what is needed in a guardian are the skills and disciplines of a Teshlor Knight. But I believe in something else entirely about Hadrian (*fingers crossed*).
The ending was such a cliffhanger that I'm compelled to read the next book right away but not before I write this review. I didn't see Arista's professor of lore Arcadius as a friend of Royce and Hadrian coming. And I didn't see the ending coming like that either. The author really has a way of wrapping up his books that I'm craving for more. I find this book a good read for epic fantasy and my faith for the series has never once faltered.