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Age of War by Michael J. Sullivan
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Modest underrated genius

TLDR; Legends of the First Empire are magical pieces of art but accessible to everyone, created by an amazing author and you don’t want to miss out on any of his books if you even remotely consider reading fantasy.

I rarely feel compelled to write a review and it’s actually the first time ever I feel an obligation to write one.

Michael J. Sullivan is the creator of Hadrian and Royce, two unlikely heroes, put together by circumstance, fate or whatever you prefer. I enjoyed those novels greatly and can hardly wait for the next installment. They, both the characters and the books, are clever, entertaining and feature very unobtrusive yet important morals.
Those novel have always hinted at what Michael might accomplish and what, to me, seems to rapidly become his magnum opus: The Legends of the First Empire

Calling the books of the Legends a prequel would be unfair because even though their narration predates Hadrian and Royce by far, they shine on their own. In Legends, Michael narrates slowly and patiently (at first at least!) how humanity rose to power beyond the elves, dwarves and other races around in his world. Is it actually Michael’s world, though?

I would laud his world building as brilliant and hardly ever matched. That would be wrong, though, because Michael didn’t just invent a world and built upon it; instead he cautiously took our world and gave it a living, breathing history. I can imagine how my great-grandparents lived but that’s pretty much it. Everything that came before them is a rather murky affair; I have read about earlier times and while it (sometimes) sated my curiosity, I never really “connected”. In countless museums I’ve seen in great detail how people from pretty much any period lived and that, too, was interesting on an intellectual level but I never felt pieces falling into place.

And then Michael came along: Starting from the day-to-day life in a small settlement to leveling entire mountains using magic, he tells us how we might have come to be. While Micheal is certainly most capable of painting said history with broad strokes, he has an immensely human understanding when to apply the small brushes and use tiny strokes to unerringly add details that fit in so neatly that you might not even notice them.

Every little details has its place and its meaning. Every character is a small world in itself and fits into the big picture or, actually, the piece of art Michael created (did you try burning something with your mind yet, Michael? 😉 ) and you’ll understand them, feel with them, sometimes want to shout at them or grab and shake them.

Speaking of characters: Michael’s characters are far from Aragorn, Gandalf or any other heroic types. Michael’s heroes are you and me, everyone. Most characters actually do what they do because they simply have no viable alternative. They don’t want power, or lord over anyone or even create things – they just can’t help it.

Now, go and read those books – both you and they deserve it! ( )
  philantrop | Mar 4, 2019 |
Age of War is the third serial in The Legends of the First Empire series and you absolutely have to read these books in serial order. Each one is a journey forward on the bones of the previous story and to truly understand and appreciate all that has happened, and for what it to come, you need to have been there since the beginning. This was a truly amazing piece of fiction, I only wish that my heart could have made it through without the bruising that occurred.

This book starts on the cusp of a major war and once the war begins, wow, does it bring the battles. What an emotionally charged story! It took me some time to read this book because I had to keep setting it down after a betrayal or a sacrifice occurred. There were many shocking scenes and losses that I am still reeling over! There were also some heartwarming moments with a few characters that almost made up for the losses.

Speaking of the characters, there were a few that I really wanted to smack around – from both sides! Persephone being the one that I really, really wanted to have a good talkin’ to! I think I might even be holding a slight grudge against her, ha ha ha. I just loved reading Age of War because despite the major war angle (which I am not usually a fan of) there were some sweet moments between some unlikely couples as well as many twists and turns that have me keyed up to read the next installment in this series! This is a story and a series that I highly recommend. ( )
  TheGenreMinx | Dec 30, 2018 |
Age of War continues the events begun in Age of Myth and continued in Age of Swords. The humans, or Rhunes, have risen from warring tribes living a primitive existence to a cohesive force capable of confronting the elves, or Fhrey, in battle. Formerly believing the Fhrey to be gods, they now realize that Fhrey can die and view the humans as a threat to be exterminated. With the help of the Fhrey, Nyphron, the humans led by Persephone, see the great elven fortress near the border of human territory surrendered. This provokes the Fhrey leader, Fane Lothian, to stir and come deal with the human problem himself. Just as the humans have learned that the Fhrey are not invincible gods, Lothian must learn that humans are more than the animals he has believed them to be.

Age of War continues to develop strong characters both among the human and the elven cast. Politics play a role on both sides, although more so among the Fhrey, where there is something of a split both among the magic-wielding Miralyith and the non-magic Galantians. The humans and the Fhrey move closer to a battle in which the humans are horrible outclassed, dependent on superior strategy and a couple of secret weapons of their own: the invention of steel weapons and a human who can wield magic.

The humans have the more developed and sympathetic characters, from the mystic Suri, to the inventer Roan, the pessimistic warrior Raithe who is in love with their leader Persephone. Persephone herself is torn between her own feelings for Raithe and her duty to her people, which may be better served by the loveless marriage offered to her by Nyphron as part of an alliance between the humans and the Galantians. Sacrifice is a key theme in this book and this series, making the battle that the entire novel is marching towards even more fraught with tension. This battle may be the first step in redefining the power structure of an entire world, or it may be humanities last stand.

The audio version of the book is narrated by Tim Gerrard Reynolds, who does his usual outstanding job in breathing life into the material. Reynolds’ pacing is impeccable, bringing excitement to the action sequences and solemnity to the quiet moments. His voicing and inflection of the characters convey their distinct personalities, social standing and mood. Another superb job of narration.

This is not a jumping off point for anyone unfamiliar with the series, but it will be certain to entertain fans of the series.

I was provided a copy of this audiobook by the publisher. ( )
  tottman | Oct 16, 2018 |
The alliance between the humans and the rebel Fhrey is fragile. The humans are bickering and are only held together by Persephone’s kindness and iron will. The Fhrey are barely held in check by their leader, Nyphron, who has a nefarious personal agenda. All of this may depend upon an alliance between the two leaders which would force Persephone to choose between Raiths and what she feels her people need. (Somewhat slow at the beginning and the ending was an obvious cliff hanger to the next volume.) ( )
  creighley | Jul 31, 2018 |
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"What does it mean if the gods can be killed? The epic fantasy series that started with Age of Myth and Age of Swords continues. In Age of War, the battle between humankind and the cruel, god-like beings who once ruled them finally ignites. And it will be up to Persephone--the first woman to lead her tribe--to become the hero that the world needs"--… (more)

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