I've mentioned how much I enjoy the Riyria Revelations. They're a collection of fun books which are a breath of fresh air in the dreary darkness which is otherwise my kind of fantasy. As big a grimdark fan as I am, I don't mind taking a break in a land where good guys are good and bad guys are awful. It's a world with a lot of familiar elements (elves, dwarves, magic swords, lost lineages) but handles them in a way which is competent if not original.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and The Heir of Novron collects the final two books in the series (Wintertide, Percepliquis) with the exception of prequels. These bring the exciting adventures of Hadrian and Royce, the world's two greatest thieves to an exciting but bittersweet conclusion. The book also resolves the long-standing story about the Heir of Novron, a DaVinchi Code-like storyline regarding the church's suppression of their god's heir's existence.
Michael J. Sullivan one-ups Dan Brown in his resolution of the Heir of Novron plotline by giving legitimate reasons as to why the church would want the existence of their god's heirs suppressed. I won't spoil these reasons for you but it makes use of a nice little detail of how one can have true gods, false gods, and so on in fantasy worlds where the existence of the divine is an unquestionable fact.
The books lose some of their trademark humor as the situations become increasingly serious and there's an unexpected as well as unwelcome death of a major character which seems to exist solely to torment a protagonist. Even so, I'm going to say I appreciate the dramatic fallout from the event and how said character isn't immediately forgotten about or ever replaced. There's also a romance I feel was insufficiently developed but that sort of thing is part and parcel with the genre.
So what is the premise of the two books collected into one volume? Well, Empress Modina has recovered most of her wits and no longer suffers from insanity. Finding herself the puppet Empress of the Novron church, she starts to scheme in hopes of liberating herself from both their control as well as the oppressive regime they've created. Unfortunately, her two most natural allies in Royce and Hadrian are crippled in their ability to help.
Royce is suffering from suicidal depression following the aforementioned death of Gwen in the previous volume while Hadrian is obsessed with liberating Princess Arista from the Church's dungeons. For Hadrian, this potentially means breaking his code of honor to achieve the ends he requires. How does this all turn out? How does it tie into the mysterious lost city of Percepliquis? Well, you'll have to read the book to find out.
Ultimately, this collection is the grand finale to all the major plots built up across the series. We find out who the Heir of Novron is, what the secret of the lost imperial dynasty is, who has been responsible for manipulating the church for centuries, and also the mysterious origins of our main heroes. The ending is perhaps a bit too happy, even for a light-hearted series like this, but the emotional cost to our heroes is still considerable.
Honestly, I think the development to Royce and Hadrian is probably my least favorite part of the story as neither hero really needed to have their lives tied up in the grand conspiracy. They were perfectly enjoyable characters as two capable thieves blundering into world-changing events. I, especially, found the finale with Royce to be rather questionable as I enjoyed his every-man perspective on matters.
Instead, I'm inclined to say I was entertained by the side characters' stories better. Watching Thrace go from frightened peasant girl suffering catatonia following her father's death to becoming the Empress the continent needs is impressive. I also love how Arista comes to a conclusion she doesn't need to be princess or revolutionary, just herself. I also liked the world-building regarding elves, the former Empire of Novron, as well as the emerging character of the new Empire.
The villains are thoroughly hateable this time around with the Patriarch of Novron being particularly loathsome. Finding out his backstory makes his anger understandable even as it makes him no less despicable given the extraordinary lengths he's gone to in order to eradicate every single trace of the Old Empire's glories.
In conclusion, Heir of Novron is a satisfying if not spectacular ending to the Riyria storyline. Those who have enjoyed the series so far will, undoubtedly, continue to do so in the big finale. Some individuals may dislike a few unnecessary twists to the main characters' backstories but they remain recognizably the same lovable rogues we've loved all along. If you like your fantasy fun and whimsical with the occasional moment of bittersweet then you'll love this volume.