Ironically, I purchased THE ROSE AND THE THORN based upon the Hadrian/Royce dynamic I was introduced to in THE CROWN TOWER, the first book in THE RYRIA CHRONICLES. While THE ROSE AND THE THORN relied less upon Hadrian and Royce, I actually found it to be a stronger novel as Michael J. Sullivan utilized a variety of voices and viewpoints to tell a story that seemed more complex — and more interesting — than THE CROWN TOWER.
THE ROSE AND THE THORN introduced a larger cast of characters (at least to me — I have no idea who appeared in THE RYRIA REVELATIONS, which were published before CHRONICLES but take place after the events I’ve read so far). THE CROWN TOWER was a pleasant read, but didn’t really give me any clue as to what the plot of future stories might be — it merely told the story of how the two main protagonists met. Fortunately, the story’s brisk pace, characters and action propelled me forward, as THE ROSE AND THE THORN gave me a much better glimpse of the world these characters live in and what challenges they could face in THE RYRIA REVELATIONS.
Reuben was an especially likeable character, and I hope he plays a role in future books. It was his storyline, rather than Hadrian and Royce, that carried the story.
It’s nice to see that Sullivan doesn’t pull any punches with Royce — it’s easy to create a character as deadly as Royce and then pull back, and refuse to show just how dangerous and bloody he can be. Sullivan makes no effort to castrate Royce, and as events reach their climax he not only kills people, but does so in a way usually reserved for the baddest of bad guys.
Now that I know more about the political forces at play, I’m really looking forward to reading THE RYRIA REVELATIONS next.