Explore how Michael J. Sullivan’s “The Riyria Revelations” has left an indelible mark on modern fantasy. From character dynamics to moral complexity, discover its lasting impact.
Ah, The Riyria Revelations—a series that tiptoes between traditional fantasy tropes and contemporary storytelling like a ballerina on a knife’s edge.
It’s no secret that Michael J. Sullivan’s dynamic duo of Hadrian and Royce has garnered a dedicated fanbase.
But let’s discuss the larger influence this series has had on modern fantasy, shall we?
A Return to Simplicity: The Quest Narrative
At a time when fantasy was fast becoming a tapestry of intricate political manoeuvres, Sullivan took us back to basics: a quest.
Yes, that age-old formula of heroes embarking on a seemingly impossible mission. It’s not a step back, but a refreshing counter-narrative in an oversaturated market of complex plot lines.
The Duo Dynamic: Reimagining Character Relationships
Hadrian and Royce—the optimist and the cynic, the sword and the shadow.
This dynamic partnership doesn’t just entertain; it revises the age-old trope of the adventuring duo.
Their rapport explores the nuances of friendship, trust, and mutual respect, all while executing heists and slaying beasts.
In doing so, they set the bar for character-driven narratives, pushing modern fantasy to prioritise individuals over epic scopes.
Moral Ambiguity: No Black and White Here
One of the series’ most significant contributions is its approach to moral ambiguity.
Gone are the caricatures of unadulterated evil and untarnished good.
Instead, Sullivan presents a world where characters exist in shades of grey.
The “bad” guys have redeemable qualities, and the heroes are flawed.
This multi-dimensional approach to morality has set a precedent that resonates deeply within modern fantasy storytelling.
The Art of Accessibility: Who Said Fantasy Must Be Inaccessible?
Some modern fantasy reads like a philosophical treatise interspersed with sword fights.
Sullivan’s writing is accessible, giving newcomers a gateway into the genre.
Yet, for seasoned veterans, the series doesn’t lack in thematic depth or complex characters. It’s a delicate balance that makes the series appealing to a broad audience, further fuelling its influence.
Self-Publishing: Breaking the Norms
Sullivan was initially a self-published author, and his success story is a beacon for many aspiring writers.
He proved that you don’t need the backing of a corporate publishing house to succeed, inspiring a new generation of authors to take the indie route.
In essence, he’s helped democratise the realm of fantasy fiction.
The Lasting Legacy
The Riyria Revelations may not have reinvented the wheel, but it certainly added some much-needed flair.
Its influence is nuanced, manifesting in various aspects of modern fantasy—from character dynamics and moral ambiguity to accessibility and publication routes.
As Hadrian and Royce continue to capture imaginations, they also reflect the ever-changing landscape of fantasy literature, proving that sometimes, all you need to make an impact is a sword, a cloak, and a friendship for the ages.
Embark on a journey through fantasy literature’s memorable bromances, from Gentleman Bastards to the unforgettable duo in Stormlight Archive.
As avid readers of fantasy literature will attest, there’s little in this genre that captures our hearts and imaginations quite like a good bromance.
These intimate friendships, often between two (occasionally more) men, present an opportunity for deep character development, exhilarating adventures, and emotional resonance that many of us can relate to.
But fear not, this isn’t a dissertation on the sociological aspects of male bonding in fiction.
Think of it as a merry skip through the flowering fields of fantasy bromances, occasionally stopping to point and exclaim, “Look at those guys, aren’t they just great together!”
The Greatcoats themselves—Falcio, Kest, and Brasti—have a friendship that can only be described as…well, coat of arms deep.
They squabble like schoolboys one moment and are ready to take a sword for each other the next.
Not to mention their synchronised cloak-swirling—that’s some real friend goals there.
Clay and Gabriel
But hold your horses…or should I say wyverns?
Nicholas Eames’ ‘Kings of the Wyld’ series boasts Clay Cooper and Gabriel.
These two old warriors come out of retirement for one last hurrah, enduring all manner of beasts and bedlam.
Their banter will have you chuckling like a goblin on giggleweed, but at the same time, their loyalty will make you sob like a heartbroken dragon.
An emotional rollercoaster, isn’t it?
Jon and Samwell
Next stop is at the frosty wall of Westeros.
If you listen closely, you might just hear the sound of Jon Snow and Samwell Tarley’s friendship, a heartwarming chord that rings true even amidst the incessant chill.
In George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ Jon and Sam start as green boys at the Night’s Watch but soon develop an enduring friendship that weathers both White Walkers and the politics of the realm.
Jon, the brooding bastard, and Sam, the self-deprecating scholar, are as different as ice and fire, but they stick together like two wights in a snowstorm.
Kaladin and Adolin
Our next bromance takes us to the ‘Stormlight Archive’ by Brandon Sanderson, where we meet the mighty Kaladin and the charismatic Adolin Kholin.
Although their friendship starts on rocky grounds (and who can blame them—class tensions, haunted pasts, and all that), they grow to rely on each other.
Adolin might be the charming prince, and Kaladin a brooding ex-slave, but their friendship shines brighter than a Shardblade in battle.
Plus, nothing says ‘bromance’ quite like fighting an ancient, desolate evil together, does it?
Harry and Ron
Harry Potter and Ron Weasley from J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series undoubtedly deserve a mention.
Despite the magic and mayhem of Hogwarts, these two chaps stick together through thick and thin (and troll encounters).
0They’re the epitome of childhood friends turned lifelong companions.
It’s a true bromance when your mate is willing to face down You-Know-Who and play life-threatening chess for you.
Kvothe and Simmon
Turning the pages to Patrick Rothfuss’s ‘The Kingkiller Chronicle,’ we find the bond between Kvothe and Simmon.
Kvothe might be the protagonist, the dramatic hero with a tragic past, but it’s Simmon’s steady loyalty that lights up their friendship.
Sim is there through Kvothe’s ups, downs, and frequent tavern brawls.
Sure, Simmon might not be a legendary hero or a magical prodigy, but he’s a bloody good made, and isn’t that what counts?
Kennit and Wintrow
Next, we whisk ourselves to the high seas of Robin Hobb’s ‘Liveship Traders.’
Here, we witness the understated, deeply emotional bond between Captain Kennit and his shipmate Wintrow Vestrit.
Their relationship may start with coercion, but it evolves into an unexpected friendship full of emotional depth.
It’s a rare bromance, crafted masterfully by Hobb, and one that’s hard to forget.
Frodo and Sam
And of course, how can any discussion about bromances in fantasy literature be complete without mentioning Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins from ‘The Lord of the Rings?’
Their enduring, pure, and simple friendship as they journey through Middle Earth is stuff of legends. Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom is nothing short of bromance in its most epic form.
“I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”
If you’re not a tad teary after that, well, I’m afraid you might just be a stone troll.
Honourable mention: FitzChivalry and Nighteyes
Our exploration of bromances in fantasy literature would be woefully incomplete without delving into the peculiar, profound relationship that transcends the barriers of species: FitzChivalry Farseer and Nighteyes from Robin Hobb’s ‘Farseer Trilogy.’
You see, the ‘bromance’ that Fitz, the royal bastard, shares with Nighteyes, his wolf companion, is quite unlike any other we’ve discussed so far.
It’s not just friendship, it’s a ‘soulship’ if you will, a bond of minds and spirits.
Through the Wit (a form of magic that allows telepathic and empathic bonds with animals), these two are bound together in ways that redefine the traditional concepts of friendship.
Nighteyes isn’t just Fitz’s pet or even his sidekick—he’s his confidant, his moral compass, and quite frankly, the sensible one in the pair (and yes, we’re talking about a wolf here).
When you have a wolf advising you on your love life, you know you’ve got something unique.
Their banter (if you can call telepathic wolf-human conversations that) is full of playful humour and wisdom.
It’s touching how Nighteyes, the wolf, often ends up being the one teaching Fitz about loyalty, courage, and living in the moment.
One might even say he’s the real hero of the story—Fitz certainly wouldn’t be the same without him.
But it’s not all sunshine and howls—their bond carries a profound sense of melancholy too.
As readers, we’re reminded of the fleeting nature of Nighteyes’ life compared to Fitz’s, a fact that lends an additional depth to their relationship.
It’s this blend of love, wisdom, and impending heartbreak that makes their bond feel so real and resonates with readers even after they close the book.
And in the echoing words of Nighteyes, “We are pack.”
It’s friendships like these that teach us the true magic in fantasy isn’t always about casting spells or slaying monsters—sometimes, it’s about having someone who’ll stand by your side, laugh at your bad jokes, and help you pick yourself up when you’ve had one too many pints of dwarven ale.
And aren’t those just the best types of friendships?
If you love a good bromance in fantasy, you might enjoy my Dawn of Assassins series which centres around the friendship of Fedor and Lev.
Read the prequel novel Birth of Assassins for free as part of your starter library.