Literature / The Riyria Revelations

"There's no orphan destined to save the world, nor ultimate evil to be slain... just two guys in the wrong place at the wrong time trying to survive."

The Riyria Revelations is a six-book High Fantasy series by Michael J. Sullivan. Hadrian and Royce are a pair of good-natured thieves living a life of reasonable success in a continent full of Fantastic Racism, corrupt nobility, and manipulative clergy. When a deal to steal a sword goes disastrously wrong, Hadrian and Royce find themselves as part of a series of elaborate capers which plunge them ever deeper in unravelling a 900-year-conspiracy involving ancient gods and emperors.

     Books in the Series 
Five e-books were been published:
  • The Crown Conspiracy
  • Avempartha
  • Nyphron Rising
  • The Emerald Storm
  • Wintertide

The final book—Percepliquis—was originally scheduled for an April 2011 release. However, publishing rights were acquired by Orbit Books in early 2011. The entire series was re-edited and re-published as three two-book volumes; a standalone version of Percepliquis was released simultaneously with the final volume. The Orbit editions' titles are:

  • Theft of Swords (November 2011)
  • Rise of Empire (December 2011)
  • Heir of Novron (January 2011)

Two prequel books were published in 2013:

  • The Crown Tower (August 2013)
  • The Rose and the Thorn (September 2013)


This series provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Saldur is polite, cultured, and fatherly- as long as you do what he wants. Interfere with his plans, though, and he will show his temper. Becomes Faux Affably Evil when he says he's going to have Arista repeatedly raped unless she reveals who her co-conspirators were in trying to free Degan Gaunt.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Goblins are considered to be this; their showing in the novels largely bears it out (though admittedly, we only see them at war or raiding, never at home).
  • Ancestral Weapon: Hadrian possesses one of these.
  • Ancient Conspiracy : the Nyphron church's nine hundred year plot to take over the human kingdoms and found the New Empire
  • The Atoner: Per legend, the god Erebus/Kile/Nimbus.
  • Bad Ass: Hadrian definitely counts, along with Breckton and, to a lesser degree, the Pickerings.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: Pretty much the entirety of Empress Modina's reign.
  • Big Good: Esrahaddon appears to be this. He's not. Empress Modina plays this straight.
  • Berserk Button: Don't ever hurt or insult Gwen when Royce is around. If you kill her, Maribor help you. Subverted, ironically, by her actual murderer as Arcadius dies due to reasons unrelated to his role in murdering her.
  • Big Bad: The Patriarch aka Mawyndule, the Exiled Prince of the Elves.
  • BFS: Hadrian's longsword. It's by no means the largest of BFSes, but when it gets drawn, things are gonna get messy.
  • The Chess Master: There's a pretty stiff competition between Mawyndule and Esrahaddon, but all competitors fall absolutely short in front of the incredible magnificentbastardness of Arcadius. Subverted as all of his efforts result in the Heir of Novron ruling over the elves instead of the Empire.
  • Church Militant: The Seret knights are the Nyphron Church's (and eventually, New Empire's) enforcers-cum-inquisition, beholden only to the Patriarch and Sentinels.
  • Corrupt Church: The Church of Novron. Of course, it's led by- and was largely created in its present form by- the Big Bad.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Church of Novron is basically the worst elements of the Medieval Catholic Church filtered through a hefty dose of Dan Brown.
  • The Cynic: Royce thinks the worst of people and is usually right.
  • Disc One Final Boss: Percy Braga. Archibald. Merrick.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Saldur and Ethelred, Co-Dragons to the Patriarch, are primarily concerned with rebuilding the Nyphron Empire. The Patriarch himself just wants the human kingdoms weakened so he can take them over after seizing the elven throne.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Luis Guy, Knight Templar, major villain, and all-around evil Badass, gets offed unceremoniously in the first chapter of the last book.
  • Dual Wielding: When Hadrian's not using his longsword.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Gwen is dead, half of the human kingdoms have been flattened including Melengar, and countless knowledge from the Old Empire is gone forever. However, the Empire has been restored with elves and dwarves are now equal citizens with humans. Arista and Hadrian are married with both wizards as well as the Teshlor coming back. Royce is king of the elves with his daughter as princess.
  • Enslaved Elves: Elves (or at least, those with Elf-blood) are at the bottom of the ladder in most human kingdoms. Dwarves have it a bit better, but not by much. About the only nonhuman race that humans haven't tried to enslave are goblins, who are honestly just too mean for that to work in the first place.
  • Evil Counterpart: Luis Guy to Hadrian, Merrick to Royce, Mawyndule to Esrahaddon.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Mawyndule, as well as any of the oberdaza, the goblins' mystical/shamanic caste.
  • Fantasy World Map: Fairly bog standard
  • Faux Affably Evil: Mawyndule is a genocidal psychotic elf Manipulative Bastard who has destroyed entire swaths of knowledge as well as kingdoms in the name of Fantastic Racism.
  • Final Solution: Mawyndule plans to eliminate all half-breed elves then humans then dwarves.
  • God of Evil: Uberlin is considered one of these, though he never actually shows up to do anything particularly evil.
  • God Was My Copilot: Nimbus is incredibly heavily implied at the end to be Kile.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Practically all "elves" living in human lands are actually hybrids, including Royce. The Tenkin are thought by some to be Human-Ba Ran Ghazel hybrids, but are actually fully human Calisians who adopted much of their invaders' culture- cross-breeding between human and goblins is explicitly stated as biologically impossible.
  • Handicapped Badass: Esrahaddon is a wizard with no hands.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Magnus has one of these due to a Because You Were Nice to Me in the final book.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Thrace/Modina falls into one after her father dies and her village is essentially destroyed. Amilia helps pull her out of it.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Royce tries to pull one of these on the Emperors' Tomb, but in the end it becomes unnecessary
  • Hired Sword: Hadrian.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Ghazel will eat just about anyone and anything, but have a special fondness for sentient beings.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: Teshlor. The Pickering and Killdare families each uncovered a Teshlor discipline, which made them the foremost swordsmen in Elan. Hadrian, who was trained in the full range of Teshlor skills and techniques, is simply undefeatable in single combat, barring tricks.
  • Jeanne d'Archétype: Deliberately invoked with Thrace/Modina- the church capitalizes on the idea of the beautiful peasant girl who killed a terrible monster and saved the land in order to get a biddable Empress they think.
  • Knight of Cerebus: In-universe; the stories involving goblins are explicitly said to always be very dark and never end happily.
  • Knight Templar: Sentinels, as well as most seret knights.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Esrahaddon has this reputation. With good reason.
    • Mawyndule a.k.a the Patriarch potentially tops them all.
  • Master Swordsman: As a fully-trained Teshlor, Hadrian definitely counts.
  • Meaningful Rename: Thrace Wood to Empress Modina.
  • Miss Kitty: Gwen. Her efforts to become this is the secondary plot of the The Crown Tower.
  • Mugging the Monster: The Theft of Swords opens on bandits trying to mug Royce and Hadrian. They wind up giving them pointers on the proper way to mug someone instead.
    • In The Crown Conspiracy a press gang tries to, well, press Hadrian into service aboard a ship. It goes about as well for the gang as you might expect.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Rose and the Thorn tells the story of how Royce and Hadrian inadvertently helped a conspiracy to murder the royal family. They end up killing the people who could have stopped the assassination attempt and it's only through sheer luck and the heroism of another character that the king and his children survived. In addition, Royce's poorly thought out actions almost get Gwen and her girls executed. Things work out in the short term but in the long run the bad guys escape punishment and are thus able to try again in The Crown Conspiracy.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Saldur unintentionally sows the seeds of his own downfall simply by appointing Amilia as the Empress' tutor. Amilia brings Modina out of her catatonia with kindness and compassion. Later she moves Modina to a different bedchamber, unknowingly placing her right below Saldur's office window, allowing Modina to listen in on Saldur's secret meetings and slowly conceive a plan to remove him from the equation, immediately turning the Empire from the heroes' greatest enemy to their greatest ally. Honestly, the heroes should be thanking him.
  • Odd Couple: The central premise of the series. A cynical thief and a cheerful optimist swordsman go on adventures.
  • Oh Crap!: Merrick suffers a big one of these when Gwen is killed as part of his prisoner exchange plan.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Yep; though only one dwarf, Magnus, is a main character, he and his people fit the standard pretty well.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Full-blooded elves are nigh-immortal, masters of magic, and incredibly Badass- but they're also xenophobic and want little to do with humans until they invade in the last book. When most people in this world think of elves, they think of mir, mixes of human and elf blood who are at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: The Ba Ran Ghazel.
  • The Pollyanna: Hadrian. To almost Carrot-like levels. It gets to the point he stops enjoying thievery because it hurts people.
  • Puppet King: Modina is a Puppet Empress; this works fine when she's essentially catatonic after her battle with the Gilarabrywn, but when she comes back to herself, she takes the Empire in her own right. Awesomely.
  • Rebellious Princess: Arista.
  • Rags to Riches: Amilia goes directly from scullery maid to Empress Modina's personal tutor, secretary, and confidant.
    • Also, Modina herself, who started out as being peasant girl Thrace Wood until she killed an invincible monster and got hailed as the Heir of Novron. Rather cruelly deconstructed, as initially she's little better than a prisoner and puppet for Saldur and Ethelred. Amilia helps her find herself again.
  • Rags to Royalty: Thanks to Deacon Tomas spreading word of Thrace's little stunt, the Church didn't have much choice but to recognize her as Empress. That she was all but comatose and the Church was expressly looking for a puppet definitely helped.
  • Regent for Life: Saldur from Nyphron Rising through Wintertide.
  • The Reveal: Novron wasn't actually a demigod but a pure blooded elven warlord. The reason the Church is, ostensibly, trying to eliminate all of his descendants.
  • Royal Brat: Around the beginning of The Crown Conspiracy, nineteen-year old Alric is... not exactly the picture of maturity.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Merrick is rather fond of the game and uses it at various points to explain his actions and/or make veiled threats.
  • Standard Fantasy Setting: There's no obvious Dark Lord or other evil threat, but otherwise a pretty straightforward one.
  • Stuffed In A Fridge: Gwen suffers an unexpected and distressingly straight version of this in the penultimate book.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Of all people, Myron gives one to Mawyndule in the last book, basically telling him that his grand plan 900 years in the making was wasted time, given that, since he's already very old, even for an elf, he's not going to live long enough to enjoy his victory.
  • Tailor-Made Prison: Esrahaddon is in one.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The first book's tagline is "There's no orphan destined to save the world, nor ultimate evil to be slain... just two guys in the wrong place at the wrong time trying to survive." Turns out one of those two guys actually IS an orphan destined to save the world.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: How Saldur rationalizes his actions.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: A lot of these.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Much of the book is related to a Dan Brown-esque series of conspiracies relating to the heir of Novron/Fantasy Jesus.
  • Wizard Classic: Esrahaddon looks like this.
  • Zerg Rush: How humans eventually defeated the elves in the first war. For all their awesome powers, the elves' low birthrate proved their undoing. As one of the heroes puts it, "The elves were drowning in a floodtide of humanity."

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