Book Review for Michael J. Sullivan’s “The Age of Myth”

On a personal note, I must mention a few things before I get into what I think about “The Age of Myth”. As an aspiring author, there exist many bridges I have yet to cross. When people read my work they often mention they enjoy it, such success is what I can be happy with, for now, as I have yet to sell over a dozen copies of my first novel and am still working on its re-write and my next one (a fantasy novel). I critique literature all the time, for an annual story contest, and enjoy analyzing stories’ plot structure, character and scene development, over all delivery, literary techniques.

I think I first came across Mr. Sullivan when searching for fantasy titles on Amazon, however it may have been when I read an article he wrote for Writer’s Digest. Within the article he mentioned several great tips for authors and explained a few things writers can benefit from with Goodreads. He also mentioned his blog and I checked it out. I even dropped him a few lines and he communicated with me, to my surprise.

Since then he shared “The Jester” with me, which I read and gave him some feedback on, not that the story was in dire need of a grammatical redo. I purchased “Theft of Swords” and read, maybe, the first fourteen pages, and liked it. He accepted my friend’s invite on Goodreads and since then I have promised myself that I will impress Mr. Sullivan (as well as others) with my fantasy novel, by the end of 2016. He answered a few of my e-mails and even gave me advice from time to time on writing, so I appreciated the communication. He is and will remain one of my top five favorite authors; I like a lot of published authors, living and gone, so narrowing down my favorites is not always easy.

As I do what I can to learn what I want to know, in the real world, with science, and as I read, study writing techniques, write stories, and work a job which does not involve writing or any varied form of erudition whatsoever, my hobbies are important to me and keep me busy. Like many, I have my reasons for my own goals. These things being said, time continued to fly by during the last parts of 2015 and the first of 2016, and I really wanted to read and review a book written by Mr. Sullivan.

Already owning one or two of his books, they were the e-book editions, and I realized that I usually read physical books with much more fervor than e-books. I inquired as to which book would be  a good start to read out of the books Mr. Sullivan has written, and he let me know that he was working on a set of five books, the first one being a good one to read, as it was a stand alone novel of sorts. From what I understand, there may also be a sixth book of this series on the way, according to wiki.

Excited, I decided to get my very own copy of “The Age of Myth”, pre-ordered a signed copy for myself  and another copy for my alpha reader weeks before the book’s release date. I simply could not wait to get my hands on that book – June the 27th just could not have come any sooner. Low and behold, however, June the 27th did come, and I received the two books I ordered within good time.

I gave my buddy her copy and began reading mine, could not really put it down without at least finishing the chapter I was on. One thing I liked about “The Age of Myth” was the chapter setup. Each chapter was not too long yet usually nearly a story all its own. I am no speed reader, so to have already finished the book within a 6-month time frame is somewhat of an accomplishment, for me. I think I read about a chapter a night and maybe two chapters on some days.

Usually, when I do a book review, or when I read a book I know I am going to want to do a review on or for, I take notes while I am reading the text. Often times this is because of independent author books which can easily contain many stylistic and ‘flow of story’ questions. Knowing that this is Mr. Sullivan’s first book published by a major publisher, and congratulations to him for that, for we as fans are all happy for he and his wife’s success, I could not wait to see whether I would have much to say about the writing style or story structure.

Little did I know, beta readers read pre-release manuscripts and the publishing team considered their opinion before the book’s publication. It was not simply critiqued by an editor, re-written, and thrown on the shelves with a price tag; a great deal of work went into the final published manuscript of “The Age of Myth”.

I took notes, anyway, and they only spoil the story, which in many regards, impresses me. I found close to nothing at all that I would change within the confines of the book’s cover, and resorted to keeping a summary of events chapter by chapter. Awesome cover. The book painted a real world in my imagination, as if these events actually occurred during some time frame in geologic history. The sole thing I would mention on the text if I were a beta reader would be the double mention of the straw hat – I am not sure, yet I think we heard of the same hat twice or more, and the second time it could have been mentioned in a revised way.

Other book reviewers mention the impressive  ending – I could not wait to experience what they were talking about. I did. For me, the conclusion was like a grand finale in an action film. Magic meets science fiction with nature. Characters which are godlike and can weld the forces of nature go to war with each other, standing for and against the political demands of a ruler. Michael J. Sullivan uses beautifully created characters; the book presents many conflicts and dilemmas, all finding satisfactory solutions. The ending was very impressive, and I am amazed with the gifted talent and creativity of Mr. Sullivan.

One thing I enjoyed about “The Age of Myth” was the way the ‘good side’ won within nearly every conflict. Characters do incur tragic deaths, and there are things that happen or happened to innocent people, however as I clung to my favorite characters within the stories, they usually survived, after all.

One thing I did not see the book portray was an in-depth relation to Old English or rhunic-like writing, and not too many poems. The hard, honest truth has been, and probably will be, that close to no one will ever actually ‘out do’ professor Tolkien, his studies with the origins of English, his historical contributions to fantasy which has inspired us all for decades.

A more positive look upon this work has to do with its readability. If you enjoy the writing style of John Grisham, you will absolutely love this book (given you are wanting to read about magical gods and prehistoric survival stories as well as court-room thrillers). It was simple and straight-forward enough for reading within a small amount of time, while still being able to present an intriguing world with life-like characters.

In regards to the characters, as said, they seemed real. The book uses three main groups of characters including people (Rhunes), god-like people (Fhrey), and god-like people who weld the forces of nature with magic (Fhrey which are Miralyith). These three groups do not always get along, due to territory and social reasons, yet witnessing their interactions was a fun and enjoyable experience.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a fantasy novel. As far as comparing it to other fantasy tales goes, I hope people read it for what it is and appreciate it for the value it holds individually. I think of it as separate from other fantasy stories and I like it that way. I also enjoy the works of Margaret Wise and Tracy Hickman and plenty of other famous authors, however I like to think of “The Age of Myth” as separate from other works and styles. I like it for what it is, all by itself, and cannot wait to read the next four or five books in the series when possible.

The map in the first book is somehow helpful to visualize where the humans and gods travel. The book also includes an Author’s Note before the first chapter and a Glossary of Terms before the Acknowledgements section in the back of the book. The glossary is helpful and worth reading before reading the book, as the characters and places are easier to understand with even more ease that way.

Without further ado, I will share my chapter by chapter summary of the book’s entire text. If you are planning on reading “The Age of Myth” and do not want to spoil the story, skip over the blue text. If you have already read the book and want to read a quick summary of events before reading the next book during the summer of 2017, come back and read the blue text (all hypertext in this review, burgundy). I may do such a thing, too.

Chapter 1, “Of Gods and Men”

Incredible. A father and son duo are presented with a dilemma and tread on forbidden soil to find better ground for hunting and farming and are found by a group of characters. The son is Raithe, and his father is Herkimer. A god, a Fhrey, sees the two men, or what the Fhrey call Rhunes, and order them to drop their weapons. There are two slaves with the Fhrey. Herkimer would not drop is sword even after pleading to leave, and one of the Fhrey kills him. Raithe attempts to avenge his father and is able to do so when one of the slaves, Malcolm, bonks the Fhrey over the head with a big rock. The other slave leaves with the dead Fhrey’s horse to go speak of these events to his brethren, so Malcolm and Raithe now have met and will endure many adventures together. They spend the rest of the day giving Herkimer a proper burial and flee by swimming across a cold river to hike through a dark forest.

Chapter 2, “The Mystic”

The story introduces Surri, the mystic, and Minna, her large white female wolf. Surri meets Persephone, a major character in the tale. Surri informs “Seph” (Persephone) that a wave of death of sorts is on the way. The reason Surri traveled to Dahl Rhen, a Rhune village surrounded by a large wall, was to relate this information. When Seph asks of Tura, the ancient mystic, Surri informs her that Tura is no longer living, that by Turra’s request Surri cremated her.

Chapter 3, “The God Killer”

When Raithe avenged his father, killing Shegon, word spread and he was known as the God Killer. He and the ex-slave, Malcolm, travel through the dark forest living off of bugs and tree bark or the occasional rabbit. After a week or so, while starving in front of a fire, the two hear noises far into the woods. Somewhat alarmed, they search out the noises, thinking it could be leshies (forest spirits). They find a travelers’ lodge and smell cooked food. Of course they would take their risks – they were hungry. In the lodge, Raithe admits to avenging his father and Malcolm tells a fancy story. A large man challenges Raithe. Raithe wins the fight, and he and Malcolm eat cooked food.

Chapter 4, “The New Chieftain”

Within Dahl Rhen, a man named Konniger challenges Seph’s husband, Reglan, the current Chieftain of the Dahl, and wins, killing the man. In doing so, Konniger disappoints Padera, the oldest woman of the Dahl.

Chapter 5, “Before the Door”

Fhrey which practice magic are Miralyith who learn the Art. In this chapter, Nyree, a Miralyith, speaks with her daughter, Arion, also a Miralyith. Students of the art play a prank, flooding a celebration with a great deal of water. Arion is to train the son of the Fane, prince Mawyndulë, in the ways of the Art. It is a prestigious invitation for her to do so. Upon her departure she meets Trilos and converses of the door to a garden which protects the oldest tree. We learn later that Trilos has a special connection with those whom can use the Art.

Chapter 6, “Rumors”

Seph talks with Surri about speaking with Magda, the large oak, on the cover of the book (again, nice illustration), for advice. The Fhrey have supposedly attacked and burned two other Rhune villages; Konniger decides to keep the inhabitants of Dahl Rhen there.

Chapter 7, “The Black Tree”

Seph, Surri and Minna trek to Magda. Raithe and Malcolm hiked through the forest and found Dahl Rhen. Seph and Surri were found and attacked on a steep, slippery waterfall by three men from the Dahl. Raithe and Malcolm defend the women; two of three men die; and the last one returns to the Dahl.

Chapter 8, “Asking the Oak”

Seph, Minna, Surri, Malcolm, and Raithe make it to Magda. Surri says the tree says three things. They are to follow the wolf, heal the injured, and welcome the gods.

Chapter 9, “Tight Places”

After leaving Magda, Surri and Minna leave the others to go home. Seph, Raithe, and Malcolm attempt to follow a ridge back to the Dahl and get lost and attacked by a pack of black wolves. Surri and Minna come back and help fight off the wolves and lead the other three to a big water fall where all five leap. They find an old Dherg cave with a hard-to-open door and stay there. The wolves find the door but cannot get inside. The big bear, Grin, a possible demon or symbol of Death, tears three of the big wolves apart, including the pack’s leader, which Surri seemed to know, Char, and leaves. The cave includes Dherg writing and a glowing emerald, along with an old shield Raithe trades for the one he had. Raithe continues to carry the sword he attained from avenging his father, made by Fhrey, as well as the halved copper sword of his dad.

Chapter 10, “The Galantians”

Seph, Raithe, and Malcolm make their way back to the Dahl to answer questions about the two dead men on the waterfall slope, and the Galantians, a rebel group of Instarya Fhrey, come to the Dahl in search of the God Killer. Raithe explains to their leader, Nyphron, that he avenged his father. He and Nyphron have a sword fight, and one of the Fhrey puts a stop to it. Seph welcomes the gods.

Chapter 11, “The Tutor”

Arion tutors prince Mawyandulë with juggling rocks to teach him the Art. He seems to miss the point as he has trouble juggling them even when he can command them with the Art. Gryndal, a pompous Miralyith, is introduced. Lothian, the Fane, sends Arion to retrieve Nyphron, and he sends Gryndal with the prince to secure the frontier, eventually.

Chapter 12, “Gods Among Us”

This chapter is where I had the ‘hat question.’ On page 176, ‘a big’ could have been ‘the big,’ if the straw hat was the same hat as mentioned before. Nyphron and the Galantians are in the Dahl with Surri, Minna, Raithe, Malcolm, and Seph. Seph speaks with Konniger in a lodge meeting. Seph tries to give good advice and Tressa, Konniger’s wife, and others, think Seph is trying to take over. Seph denies the orders of the Chieftain to ask the Galantians to leave.

Chapter 13, “The Bones”

An important chapter, woman speak about the politics of the Dahl together in a round house. Raithe and Malcolm are there, as well as Surri, and all are sewing wool. Surri asks for bones of a chicken to attempt to predict what may happen. She burns them at dusk and reads them. The bones seem to indicate that a wave of death is on the way. Surri thinks Grin is coming to kill off the Dahl, or maybe worse. She hears a big bear scare a flock of birds.

Chapter 14, “Into the West”

Arion travels with Thyme from Estramnadon to Alon Rhist. Thyme is her guide to get there. She, at one point, falls off her horse into a pool of water, proving that even a Miralyith can experience physical harm. Thyme stays there and Arion departs alone with no soldiers, as she has mastered the Art. She burns a lock of Nyphron’s hair to find is local and soon finds Dahl Rhen.

Chapter 15, “The Lost One”

Women organize to go to the well in the Dahl, as Galantians camp out near the water. The sexy, well-endowed Moya meets Nyphron. More Fhrey arrive in search of the God Killer; Nyphron sends them north. The Fhrey let Nyphron know Arion is on her way to retrieve him. Surri enters the lodge to ask Konniger about Grin, as she intends on performing an exorcism to release a Morvyn (evil demon). Surri is told to leave before she has a chance to speak with Konniger.

Chapter 16, “Miralyith”

Arion travels to Dahl Rhen. She finds Nyphron and he will not return with her to the Fane. Arion bonks other Galantians into an invisible wall and binds Nyphron with the Art to bring him to the Fane. Malcolm bonks her head with a large rock from behind and she falls to the ground bleeding. Seph tells Nyphron not to let his giant kill the Miralyith (heal the injured). People bring Arion to a bed to heal in the lodge. Surri bandages Arion’s head while Arion is sleeping.

Chapter 17, “The Boulder”

Imaly speaks with Fane about Fhrey upheval. Fane sends Gryndal and the prince on a quest to secure the frontier. Gryndal speaks with Trilos about the Art, the door, and a boulder.

Chapter 18, “Healing the Injured”

Arion awakens in bed to learn of the woman caring for her and has lost her powers with the Art. The women care for Arion in shifts. Arion holds conversations with Surri.

Chapter 19, “Waiting on the Moon”

Gifford, the cripled man, gives Roan a nice clay jar. Moya, not wanting to marry a certain man, tries to convince Seph to become Chieftain. By the rules, a woman can become Chieftain so long as a man can represent her for battle. The woman have a long conversation and Raithe and Malcolm learn more about sewing wool. Raithe goes to the forest to chop down a tree, and the Instarya Fhrey, Sebek, challenges him to a sword fight. Sebek uses two swords in combat. Sebek won the sword fight three times, leaving Raithe alive. Raithe goes back to working on the tree with a real axe, something he had yet to use before, as back in Dureya Rhunes only had sticks with rocks on them for felling trees.

Chapter 20, “The Prince”

Gryndal and Mawyndulë set out on the frontier. They discuss politics and the practice of the Art. Gryndal speaks of Mawyndulë’s father, the current Fane, Lothian, and speaks of his possible assassination. Upon finding the extinguished grounds of a Rhune Dahl, the two discover a few men and a woman, hiding under some boards. Gryndal uses the Art to knock the boards away and snaps his fingers, exploding and killing what was left of that Dahl’s clan. Gryndal and Mawyndulë travel on toward Dahl Rhen.

Chapter 21, “The Full Moon”

Surri and Arion talk about Grin. Arion sees Surri light a candle with the Art, something Arion thought was impossible for a Rhune to do. Surri leaves Minna with Arion and departs to perform an exorcism on Grin, to remove the morvyn from the bear.

Chapter 22, “Curse of the Brown Bear”

Surri and The Keeper of Ways, Maeve, set out to find Grin. Konniger and Seph have a long conversation on Maeve’s daughter with Reglan, Seph’s deceased husband. Later we figure that Maeve’s daughter was probably Surri; Seph had no knowledge of her husband’s being unfaithful. Therein lied the reason the baby was left in the forest; people thought the baby may have turned into a bear. Maeve had previously taken dead bodies to the bear, as people died during a hard winter. Seph, Raithe, and Malcolm follow Minna towards the cave to try to save Surri and Maeve.

Chapter 23, “The Cave”

Surri and Mauve make it to the cave.  They wait for him, and Surri puts salt on the ground to deflect the demon. Arion wakes to exit the lodge and is sore. She finds Nyphron and bargains with him, forgiving him for her head injury, sending him and the other Galantians to save Surri and Maeve from Grin. The Galantians agree to go, as it will keep Arion from trying to bring them back to the Fane.

Chapter 24, “Demons in the Forest”

Maeve and Surri wait in the cave for Grin. Maeve thinks Surri is her daughter. They talk about the hard winter and continue to wait for Grin.

Chapter 25, “Trapped”

A great deal of action occurs in this chapter. As Seph, Malcolm, and Raithe are running through the night, Minna breaks free and runs to the cave. Konniger and a bunch of his drunk men ambush and surround the other three. ‘Stuby’ tries to save Seph and Konniger kills him. During the attack, Malcolm delivers a blow to Konniger with a shield, and Seph flees by Raithe’s recommendation to the waterfall cave. Konniger chases her all the way there in the darkness.

As Malcolm and Raithe fight off the attacking men, the Galantians enter the scene and annihilate the attacking Rhunes only to travel down a path to Grin’s cave. In the cave, Grin knocks Maeve into a wall hard. The bear tries to get Surri but she is too close to the wall. Minna enters the cave and bites the huge bear in the rump; Surri calls the fire spirits with a clap of her hands, setting Grin on fire. The bear flees; we eventually learn that she jumps off the waterfall burnt and stinky.

Once the Galantians get to Grin’s cave, Maeve is for sure deceased and Surri and Minna are okay. Malcolm and Raithe try to find Seph in the waterfall cave. The chapter ends with only Seph and Konniger behind the waterfall in the darkness, him trying to find her while she is both exhausted and terrified.

Chapter 26 “Beneath the Falls”

Surri and Minna check on Maeve who speaks and dies. Raithe, Malcolm, and the Galantians find Surri who agrees to lead them to the Dherg cave to attempt saving Seph. Grin finds Konniger and tears him to pieces. She tries to enter the door of the cave. Seph finally figured out how to open the cave’s stone door, and Grin gets trapped in the door as it is closing. The huge bear would have been able to open the stone door, however Seph beat the bear repeatedly with a shield. Grin died, staring into the emerald of the Dherg cave. Seph sleeps on the shield.

The Galantians, Raithe, and Malcolm find Seph. Raithe finds Seph sleeping on the shield and thinks she is not alive, kisses her on the forehead waking her up. Nyphron and the other Galantians marvel at the inscriptions in the cave and their small goblin creature acknowledges the markings as old Dherg inscriptions.

Chapter 27, “When Gods Collide”

The grand finale of the book is within this chapter. The final events take place in Dahl Rhen. Seph, Malcolm, Raithe, and the Galantians return to the Dahl to find the Rhunes organized in a group in front of the lodge dismally. Gryndal steps out with  Mawyndulë to face Arion and the Galantians. Gryndal brings Nyphron to his knees with the Art and orders the Galantians to slay the rhunes. Arion uses the Art to protect Seph and the others. Gryndal uses the Art to kill the Nyphron’s small goblin creature. Gryndal and Arion battle each other with the forces of nature. Surri catches Gryndal on fire, which distracts him. Minna attacks Gryndal, tearing his facial piercings, distracting him more. Raithe saves Minna from Gryndal’s ‘ground magic’ move. Gryndal attempts to strike Raithe with a bolt of magic from the sky; Raithe deflects the bolt with his shield, directing it to Gryndal. The bolt paralyzes Gryndal, and Raithe chops of Gryndal’s head. Arion forces Mawyndulë and his troops to return to Estramnadon. Nyphron’s giant was placed in a magic bubble and Arion had forgotten to release him. After Gryndal was dead, Arion released the giant. Malcolm had thrown a spear towards the prince which stuck into the front of the lodge. Surri thanks Raithe for saving Minna and Seph hugs Raithe.

Chapter 28, “The First Chair”

The inhabitants of Dahl Rhen were without a Chieftain, Shield, or Keeper of Ways. Persephone (Seph) declares herself Chieftain to the crowd, which approves, and Raithe as her spokesperson for battle. Seph announces Brin as the Keeper of Ways, Raithe as the shield, and grants Malcolm full citizenship of Dahl Rhen. Seph declares Surri the Mystic of Dahl Rhen. Seph requests the Galantians to stay in Dahl Rhen, as well as Arion, once she was awake. Malcolm was the slave of Nyphron’s father, Shegon, who Raithe killed. Malcolm admits to Nyphron in the conclusion of the book that he attempted to throw the spear into the lodge five feet to the right of the prince – the spear jabbed into the lodge a foot to the left of Mawyndulë.

Chapter 1 of the “Age of Swords”, book two of “The Legends of the First Empire”, “Broken”

This chapter contains the bonus text from the book to be released in the summer of 2017. Roan tries to make a brace for Gifford’s week leg. It fails and he falls. A terrible storm comes to the Dahl and people hide in the food storage. Seph, Arion, and Surri had traveled to Magda for advice. The storm passes and people come out of the storage hole. Something outside of the Dahl is bombarding the barricade/front door.

The people involved with the publication of the final draft of “The Age of Myth” clearly passed the ‘high bar,’ they set for themselves in regards to the book’s publication. A wonderful book, I could not put it down while reading page after page, chapter after chapter, of events involving conflicts with Fhrey, Rhunes, and other characters.

One thing I would like to mention before concluding this review are the quotes preceding each chapter from “The Book of Brin”, written by the character Brin, who has historical insight throughout the tale. She learned many things from a woman and possesses a notable memory. They offer intriguing insight on events and are a wonderful addition to the beginning of each chapter, as readers try to consider what is going to happen next. Each quote is like a deep thought or maxim, and I looked forward to reading each one. Also, there is a note about Mr. Sullivan and his family in the back of the book, with information on how to contact him on the web. His blog is here. E-mail Michael J. Sullivan at michael.sullivan.dc@gmail.com. Find him on facebook at author.michael.sullivan and on twitter via @author_sullivan.

All in all I give this book five of five stars, as nine out of ten readers probably will or already have. I cannot imagine the amount of work that went into its final presentation. I am happy I read it and will enjoy thinking about the exciting story for a long, long time. I am happy Mr. Sullivan has achieved his goals and hope he continues to find success, am sure he will. Amazing. Awesome. I am very impressed.

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