Michael J. Sullivan
Orbit, 2012 (In The Heir of Novronfrom Orbit Books)
The concluding novel to Michael J Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations, Percepliquis, is available as part of Heir of Novron (along with Wintertide). I was graciously sent a copy of the book by the author. If Winteride is the Empire Strikes Back of the Riyria Revelations, then Precepliquis is Return of the Jedi. Indeed much The Trilogy, Riyria Revlations wraps up in a similar manner things are tied up nicely and neatly. This series has always been of a more traditional bent hearkening back to the classics of the genre so the fact that the novel and series wraps things up in very neat package. There are twists and turns on the journey, surprising revelations on the way and while the finale might lack the grit and menace of more modern subversive fantasy there is a welcome heft to the ending that left me feeling satisfied and hopeful the Sullivan may one day explore future adventures in this world.
Wintertide concluded on a dark note. Things were looking grim, our heroes were split apart, and a shadowy threat was emerging out of the chill winds of winter. In the opening pages of Precepliquis that threat is revealed in all its might and as the novel progresses you begin to wonder if our heroes can manage the Hail Mary save. What I love about Precepliquis is that it could have easily been a gritty fantasy had Sullivan wished it to be. The fledgling Empire is hopelessly outmatched, winter beats down on Aquesta, and humanity stands on the precipice of destruction. It’s hard to get darker than that. There is plenty of room in Percepliquis for long, bloody last stands, for really hammering home in agonizing detail precisely how bad humanity has it near the end. Sullivan offers brief glimpses of that dire position but never goes overboard. As the Empire’s back is pushed ever closer to the wall the threat of annihilation places greater and greater importance on Royce and Hadrian’s quest to uncover a mystical horn.
I love the classic dungeon delving feel of the search for the titular city of Percepliquis, ancient seat of Novronian Empire. As I’ve stated in the past I’m a sucker for the exploration of things in my fantastic literature. Haunted houses, ancient ruins, and derelict spaceships are always an easy sell for me and so the journey to Percepliquis was quite an awesome moment for me. While I do wish we could have seen more of the city, Sullivan does and excellent job of stringing you along with a bit of mystery. Arista’s flashbacks were also rather neat and it was fun to get a brief glimpse of the ancient empire.
While Royce and Hadrian are in top form (more or less, poor Royce) in this novel not enough is said about the supporting cast. The arrogant and haughty Deegan Gaunt makes for great comic relief and constant source of frustration. The bookish monk Myron, blessed with eidetic memory, makes for some of his own rather comical moments (his encounter with his sister in particular) while also serving as a surprisingly apt spiritual guide for those questing for the horn. Wintertide saw Modina finally come out of her shell and Percepliquis sees that trend continue as she proves that she is not just playing the part of the Empress. Even some of the less than noble knights glimpsed in Wintertide get some redemptive moments in Perceliquis.
There are some elements with characters that didn’t work as well as I would have liked. The growing romance between Arista and Hadrian could have used more time. It works well enough as is but I would have liked to see more groundwork laid earlier in the series; it would have made for a slightly more believable pairing. I was also disappointed with Nimbus at the end of the novel. I don’t want to spoil things but I sort of wish that part was left more open to conjecture and interpretation rather than outright explanation. I think there were enough hints dropped to draw the proper conclusion.
Percepliquis provides an appropriately thrilling conclusion to the grand adventure that began in The Crown Conspiracy. The climax of the novel offers several expected and unexpected twists and includes some moving character moments (particularly Magnus). There are some truly great moments over the course of novel (Royce’s “escape plan” from Percepliquis, everything with Myron, and Hadrian’s fight come to mind) that will have readers shouting for joy, cursing in anger, and maybe even shedding a tear. Moreso than in Wintertide, Percepliquis brings a certain joyousness back to the series and the more humorous elements seen in earlier novels definitely return to the fore here. While the novel’s denouement may tie things up a bit to prettily for some readers it leaves room for exploration in future volumes (maybe with future generations). An excellent conclusion to an entertaining series.