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The Crown Conspiracy
Michael J. Sullivan
AMI, 308 pages

The Crown Conspiracy
Michael J. Sullivan
Born in Detroit Michigan, Michael J. Sullivan has lived in Vermont, North Carolina and Virginia. He worked as a commercial artist and illustrator, founding his own advertising agency in 1996, which he closed in 2005 to pursue writing full-time. The Crown Conspiracy is his first published work. He currently resides in Fairfax, Virginia with his family.

Michael J. Sullivan Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Tammy Moore

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The Riyria.

Most thieves steal jewels and coin; the Riyria prefer to focus on the theft of reputation and power. Last port of call for the wealthy and powerful of Medford, the small, secretive group make a profitable living off the social and political machinations of their country's elite.

Need someone to steal incriminating letters so you can blackmail a Duke? Contact the Riyria.

Need someone to steal back those same letters? Contact the Riyria.

They are thieves after all, and owe no allegiance to their clients. Something that doesn't bother the majority of the members: ex-guild thief Royce Melborn; prostitute, madam and businesswoman Gwen, impoverished noble Viscount Albert Winslow and the bitter, alcoholic but talented blacksmith Mason Grumon. Royce's partner, the mercenary Hadrian Blackwater, finds it harder to ignore the prodding of his conscience or his desire for a more noble calling. So when the dandy Callan nobleman Baron DeWitt begged for the Riyria's aid to survive a deadly duel -- Hadrian ignored all the Riyria's laws and agreed to it.

Only what seemed like a simple job swiftly became far more dangerous than any of them could imagine. Accused of the foulest of murders, pursued by the Royal Army and with a rescued (or kidnapped, depending on your perspective) prince in their care, the two thieves must unravel a continent-wide, century-old conspiracy before their past sins catch up with them.

The Crown Conspiracy is a well-written and enjoyable novel. I was invested in the characters and their travails. Royce and Hadrian's friendship was particularly fun to read, utilising the banter and familiarity of buddy cop movies but placing it in a fantasy setting. For example, their ever-changing plans of what lawful profession to take up when they retire and their practiced poking of holes in the ideal. I also suspect Michael J. Sullivan of being a GM in the Forgotten Realms at some point in his history, with echoes of my own old GM's convoluted traps neatly captured in Sullivan's prose. Michael J. Sullivan is an appealing writer and I'll be interested to see where he goes with his writing in the future.

His only problem, and it's not the worst problem a writer can have, is that he bundled too many appealing ideas together in a relatively short novel. As a result some really interesting aspects -- how the Riyria worked together, Gwen's business dealings, the hugely enjoyable Pickerings and the desperate machinations of the witchy Princess Arista -- were neglected for the more archetypal quest romp through the countryside. And since I cut my fantasy teeth on Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser -- it's hard for Sullivan's main characters to compete.

Still, Sullivan is a solid writer and, with five more novels in the series to come, he has plenty of time to explore all the elements of his world to my satisfaction.

Copyright © 2009 Tammy Moore

Tammy Moore is a speculative fiction writer based in Belfast. She writes reviews for Verbal Magazine, Crime Scene NI and Green Man Review. Her first book The Even -- written by Tammy Moore and illustrated by Stephanie Law -- is to be published by Morrigan Books September 2008.

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