As far as recent fantasy titles go this is a fine fantasy novel. However as I was reminded in my literature tutorial today often novels can be caught up by their classification into certain genres. For instance I am often loathe to go near the genre of romance because of the amount of smut that I've noticed often filters through. However I'm sure there are good romance novels out there (look at the classics for instance) but more often many novels have romantic elements in them. As such I want to take a step away from looking at this as a swashbuckling fantasy romp and looking at it as a story in general. Just a chance to remove the titles and look at it as a book.
I'd like to give you my own personal reference point for this novel. I started thinking of it and the series as Mission Impossible style action meets the fairytale elements of The The Hobbit. But that's merely because of the mix of daring plans and magic that was so addictive and appealing. but as I said I want to step away from titles and even me saying it's like M.I and the Hobit is a poor representation of this book. There's a little of everything from political meandering, to magic, to fun banter, to moral dilemmas and even romantic entanglements. To ignore this book because it is labelled as part of the genre of fantasy would be a mistake in my opinion. I found that it was not the magic of the novel that appealed to me but rather the characters - and usually the magic is what interests me the most. But in continuing his series Michael J. Sullivan creates characters who act in ways which are rational and not merely driven by the laws of the story. Royce and Hadrian may be master thief and soldier with near paranormal abilities but the situations they face make them as human as any person I know. Sometimes even more so. I also must mention that I love the female characters in this series whether it's Arista, Amillia or Modina and the fact that they have story arcs to themselves. I also appreciate that even minor characters are utilised further down in the story. A kind of Chekhov's gun perhaps? Either way it is well constructed and a fun read.
I'm going to compare Michael J. Sullivan's work to another writer I love despite the various differences in their writing styles and that is Brandon Sanderson (see Mistborn: The Final Empire,The Way of Kings and Warbreaker etc.) The similarity I see between their writing is not in the worlds they create but the stories they tell. Each are natural storytellers as I view it. They may be considered as part of the panoply of fantasy but their stories go beyond merely being about magic. They are about good versus evil, right over wrong. They are not gimmicky stories which rely on magic systems despite having them or upon various races they are stories with hidden and visible truths which should be accessible to all readers. As such I highly recommend this series and am currently racing through the last book.