Posts Tagged: The Riyira Revelations

Michael J. Sullivan Portrait

Michael J. Sullivan is one of fantasy’s most prominent self-publishing success stories. His debut series, the Riyira Revelations, sold 90,000 units before Sullivan sold the publishing rights to Orbit Books in 2011. Since then, he’s been a poster boy for Hybrid Publishing, an approach that allows authors to leverage the strengths of both the traditional publishing model and self publishing to their advantage and the advantage of their readers.

Yesterday, Sullivan announced that he’s sold The First Empire, a new epic fantasy set in the same world as the Riyira Revelations to Del Rey. The deal includes the first four volumes of the series: Rhune, Dherg, Rhist and Phyre. I caught up with Sullivan to chat about the new series and his half-million dollar deal.

The First Empire series is based in the same world as the Riyria books, but it takes place several thousand years in the past,” Sullivan told me when I asked what the new series had to offer old fans. Read More »

The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan

From Orbit Books:

Hadrian, a warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with a thieving assassin, Royce, with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most prized possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels that the old wizard is after, and if he can just keep them from killing each other, they just might do it.

The Crown Tower is the first volume in a two book series (for ‘duology’ doesn’t seem the right term, given their nature, as explained by Sullivan below) called The Riyira Chronicles, and will be followed shortly afterwards by The Rose and Thorn, the concluding volume. Read More »

Rise of Empire by Michael J. SullivanStumbled across a an interesting nugget in a recent interview with Michael J. Sullivan on SFF World:

You’ve got some other stories in the works, do you want to let us know about any of them?

Well some are older pieces that I’ve resurrected, which means a complete rewrite from the ground up, but the seed of the story remains intact. If I try to talk about my books I end up rambling, so I’ll give you the “back of the book blurbs” which do a better job than I would if I just talked about them. The first is Antithesis:

Have you ever wondered about how the world would end?

No, well don’t sweat it, most don’t and those that do figure it will come about due to a dramatic change in climate, a widespread disease, or war. That’s what we’ve been taught to believe and our brains are always eager for a rational explanation, but our minds weren’t always so logical. There was a time when people believed in myths and magic, but in today’s scientific age if it can’t be proved, well it doesn’t exist.

I was the same way until I met Winston Stewart. That was the day I learned to believe in much more than I could see—not the least of which is fate. Fate is an amazing thing. It put Ghandi in South Africa, Nelson at Gibraltar, Newton under the apple tree, and Winston Stewart on that train in Alexandria Virginia. You don’t know who Winston Stewart is? You will.


I also have literary fiction piece which, in many ways is the antithesis of The Riyria Revelations. It’s the book that made me quit writing when I couldn’t get it published. Riyria is fast-paced, written in a simple style, and contains a sweeping epic involving likeable characters. A Burden to the Earth is a very simple tale about a complex man and his very small life. In this book I concentrated on constructing the prose and so it reads much differently than the simple, straightforward style I used with Riyria. Here is the blurb for it:

He learned values from Gunsmoke, ethics from Father Knows Best, and his place in the world from Ozzie & Harriet, but his life turned out much different.

A child of the fifties, Elliot Myers believed his parents, his teachers, his priest, and television when they promised him the American dream. Now at forty, and still living in his mother’s tiny condominium, he knows they all lied. Embittered by a world that moved ahead and left him behind, Elliot finds one last chance to free himself of forty years of waiting and makes his first, and final, grasp at life. Set in the early 1990’s A Burden to the Earth explores regret over lost innocence, nostalgia for the past, and the cost of dwelling on both.

I’ve seen Sullivan speak vaguely about some of the other projects he’s been working on since completing The Riyria Revelations (including a prequel trilogy that’s not included in the quote above), but never quite in so much detail. As I mention in my review of Theft of Swords, the first volume of Sullivan’s ‘trilogy’ (which is actually comprised of six volumes), Sullivan’s bread-and-butter appears to be his handle on Fantasy tropes and conventions and his ability to tell them simple, compulsively readable way that somehow manages to avoid feeling stale despite all the easy-recognized elements. These two descriptions are a step away from what Sullivan established with his Fantasy trilogy, most notably by both being set on Earth, rather than a secondary world and A Burden of the Earth steps entirely away from genre fiction. It’s nice to see authors diversify their library, but I’m sure that Sullivan fans (and Orbit Books, his publisher) would love to see him spending his writing time on the novels set in the world of The Riyria Revelations. It will be interesting to see which direction he goes.

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Theft of Swords

By Michael J. Sullivan
Pages: 704 pages
Publisher: Orbit Books
Release Date: 23/11/11
ISBN: 0316187747


Michael J. Sullivan has a story that every aspiring writer would love to tell. It’s not about trolls or princesses, vanquishing evil or finding treasure (at least not in the literal sense), but it is a tale of perseverance and personal triumph, of overcoming obstacles that prove impossible for so many others. See, Sullivan’s most interesting story isn’t that of Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn, the protagonists of Theft of Swords, which consists of Sullivan’s first two self-published novels, The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha, and the eponymous pair behind The Riyria Revelations, it’s the story behind his success, of his rocky and self-driven path to publication, first under his own publishing label (ostensibly a self-published writer) and selling several thousand eBooks a month to signing a full-fledged publishing deal with a major New York City publisher (and potentially leaving tens- or hundreds-of-thousands of dollars on the table.) Michael J. Sullivan is a self-made success story and it shows in Theft of Swords’ utter disregard for the current trends that are sweeping the Fantasy genre (and are so important in the minds of the major publishers.)

In this post-GRRM (George R.R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire) world, popular Epic Fantasy is dominated by so-called ‘gritty’ writers like Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch or R. Scott Bakker. Even the ‘good guys,’ like Brandon Sanderson, author of The Alloy of Law are known for attempting to subvert the tropes of the genre by taking common building blocks and flipping them on their heads in a way that’s supposed to upend the reader’s expectations. Theft of Swords, on the other hand, is a delightful throwback to the Fantasy of the ‘80s and ‘90s that took the concepts and thematic structures first popularized by Tolkien and helped solidify the genre’s place in popular geek culture. These days it’s cool to hate on Terry Brooks, David Eddings and Raymond E. Feist, but Theft of Swords proves that the building blocks used by those authors are still effective today when wielded by a careful author.
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Theft of Swords by Michael J. SullivanSome ideas have great power, and in fantastic literature, one of the mightiest of these is the idea of The Hero. The Hero is a very particular sort of creature: it (quite often “he”) is the protagonist of many stories and serves as paragon, savior, and metaphoric proponent/enactor of ideology. The Hero reflects aspirations and serves as inspiration both in the story and to the reader. This can be a useful, evocative device to employ in a story. The problem is, some of The Hero’s admirers use this device to constrain the idea of fantasy and limit the boundaries of imagination that writers and readers use in their engagement with fantasy literature.

Author Michael J. Sullivan discussed “Fantasy as Fantasy” on his blog recently, and after reading his opinion, I wanted to respond not as a proponent of “the other side” that he establishes, but as a critical reader of fantastika. I was perturbed not by his defense of The Hero, but by his assumption that his position encompassed all of “fantasy” and that fantasy should ideally be Just One Thing. This idea extended not only to the literary genre, but to the very notion of what “fantasy” means. I think that there is far more potential in both of these ideas when we open them up rather than try to set limits upon them.
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