- Author: Michael J. Sullivan
- Publisher: Riyria Enterprises LLC
- Published Date: 2017 [indie]; 2018 [traditional]
This is one of the easiest 5 stars I’ve given this year. The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter by Michael J. Sullivan is the 4th book in the Riyria Chronicles and the 10th book in the overall series. It also serves as a standalone and entry into the series. I personally had never read any of Sullivan’s works beforehand (although they had been on my radar for some time). This was definitely a case of Why didn’t I start reading these sooner?!
We follow Royce and Hadrian as they are hired to find out what happened to Gabriel Winter’s daughter, Genny, duchess of Rochelle. Is she dead? Is she missing? Who knows? What begins as a simple task soon turns out to be more than the pair bargained for.
Firstly, this book was excellently paced. There wasn’t a single moment where I felt things were dragging. Even in the “slower” parts, something was happening – be it plot development, character development, etc. This is a book you’ll pick up one afternoon and put down the next morning, finished and complete in one sitting.
Going off of the pacing, the writing/prose in general was very well done. Sullivan knows how to paint a picture, but he also knows when to punch you in the gut with his words. The imagery is, frankly, astounding. The sights, sounds, smells, and even tastes are all accounted for. We even get descriptions of touch, too! I felt like I was living in the bustling city of Rochelle. Every line felt necessary, so the amount of editing that must have gone into this book definitely paid off.
A major positive result of the writing is how it helps to convey the world-building. Royce and Hadrian enter Rochelle at the start of the busiest time of year: a festival in which a new king will be appointed. The streets never felt empty; I never had to remind myself that there were other people. We visit other communities, and they too feel real. You aren’t just reading about these places. You don’t just read about the pair finding a room with Evelyn. You yourself find a room with Evelyn. You yourself walk into the cathedral. The city, towns, buildings, outskirts…all of it…are just real (as are unicorns).
Speaking about unicorns, Royce and Hadrian are an amazing pair. Sure, on the surface it might just appear that Royce is the pessimist (excuse me, realist), and Hadrian is the optimist. But they’re so much more. They’re amazingly well-rounded. And it’s not just them. Even the most minor of characters have their own, distinct personalities. Something I greatly appreciated was that different species’ characters also felt distinct. For example, we meet different characters who are mir. There is no “mir personality.” There’s “this is Villar’s character, etc.” Another thing is that this book employs some strong, extremely well-written female characters. They’re each strong in their own ways. They aren’t the same character with different names and hair colors. They aren’t men with breasts. From Evelyn the homeowner, to Genny the duchess (whom we meet in the opening chapter), we see a variety of strengths from these women and more.
Have you been wanting to read Michael J. Sullivan’s books? (You should.) Start with this one. Prior knowledge is not assumed. You can read this and stop, or you can read the other books in the series. On the surface, it’s a very traditional (think Tolkien) type of fantasy, albeit with not too much magic. Where Sullivan shines, though, is his ability to make the traditional new again. He does this through excellent writing, character, world, and plot development. Should you read this book? Yes.
(I would like to thank the author for providing an e-ARC.)