Whereas the first book of THE RYRIA REVELATIONS, THEFT OF SWORDS, introduced us to Hadrian and Royce, RISE OF EMPIRE splits its efforts between exploring both men’s pasts and building up two female protagonists who split the time fairly evenly with Hadrian and Royce.
Sullivan tackles the challenge of the middle book of a trilogy by exploring his characters’ histories (we see where both Royce and Hadrian grew up); introducing new, more challenging villains such as Merrick Marius; and by spending time with female protagonists who I imagine will play a key role in the final book of the trilogy.
There’s still snappy dialogue between Hadrian and Royce, but much of the book focuses on Princess Arista, who’s almost a completely different character by the end of the book, and Amilia, a worker in the imperial palace who is tasked with helping Thrace (now Empress Modina) recover from her father’s death.
This book takes much more time to explore its characters than THEFT OF SWORDS did, and the more complex plot and the introduction of even more interesting characters made it a lot of fun to read. Sullivan has built upon the world he created in THEFT OF SWORDS and set things up for a very interesting final entry in the trilogy.