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Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Viscount and the Witch, by Michael J. Sullivan, Reviewed


This short story, from the author’s fantasy series, Riyria Revelations, came to me via my Kindle as a free read. It features a couple of characters from the series but can be read as a separate tale, which is just as well, since I haven’t read any of the previous work by this author.

There’s almost no backstory detailing the fantasy world in which the story takes place and the details of the characters are cleverly woven into the fabric of the tale itself. I have a built in prejudice against stories in which thieves are the stars, feeling that glorification of thievery is not a good idea. But I accept that the thieves of most fantasy works are in that situation as a consequence of the society in which they dwell rather than as a matter of real choice, and I’m aware that there’s quite a body of work by a number of authors revolving around guilds of thieves.

This piece is well written and the characters are well drawn. I particularly like the Viscount, with his resigned air. The author has managed to convey the idea of a different world and time without actually describing the setting in great detail. It’s more a feeling derived from the interaction of the characters and the circumstances in which they find themselves. I enjoyed Royce, with his irritation, patience and worldliness that allows him to seem other than he is. Hadrian’s name was a little distracting for me, because of the association with the historical character, but the character was real enough and, once I understood we were not being told about the Roman Emperor, I was able to get on with him a lot better.

There’s humour in the story, which is told with a touch of ‘tongue in cheek’ that raises it above the level of many fantasy works. The author’s familiarity with, and clear love of, his characters comes across in the telling of the story and lends it some authenticity.

I enjoyed this brief insight into the world of Riyria and may well be tempted to investigate further (once I’ve read the 150 other titles lying unread on my shelves!). If you like fantasy or have an urge to try it, you could do worse than give this short piece a go. 

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