Age of Death is The fifth and final cliffhanger in the Legends of the First Empire series by Michael J. Sullivan. The idea that most of the characters in this installment spend their time behind the vale of death is pretty cool. It turns out that in this story what happens after you die is far more complicated (and interesting) than the traditional notions of the afterlife most readers may be familiar with. Going in, all we know is that many of the most prominent couples in the last few books, Roan and Gifford, Brin and Tesh, Moya and Tevchin are going to be ‘dead.’ And that includes Tressa, who is obnoxious and nearly universally disliked by everyone, but who has been given the key to unlock the gates between the three(!) different places humans, dwarves and elves can end up when they die.
Not all the action is in the afterlife, however, because another one of my favorite characters (Suri) is captive in the land of the Fhrey, where my least favorite character (Lothian) rules supreme. Suri knows the secret of how to create dragons, which could be the super weapon to determine the result of the war between humans (Rhunes) and elves (Fhrey). Suri was betrayed when she was sent to negotiate a truce between the warring parties as the first Rhune who can practice the Art (i.e. do magic like the Fhrey). However, she’s also on a (probably more important) mission to demonstrate to the Fhrey that humans are not merely short-lived, fecund, animals but potential equals worthy of respect.
Back at the battlefield, Persephone is starting to worry about her friends whom she agreed to let go on a quest, not realizing it would actually mean their deaths. Her husband, Nyphron, who is a Fhrey and the head of all Rhune forces is frustrated by the stalemate that has prevented any progress in the war for over a year. His motives for fighting the war are murky, but primarily rooted in revenge for his class/tribe of Fhrey who Lothian, the current head (or “fane”) had slaughtered and exiled.
There's a heckuva lot of adventure, and quite a lot of mythology and teleology (perhaps too much?) in Age of Death. Overall, these elements combine to make a compelling and thought-provoking read. I’ve already bought Age of Empyre, the sixth and last installment in the series and look forward to reading and reviewing it soon!
Title: Age of Death.
Author: Michael J. Sullivan.
Paperback: 342 pages.
Publisher: Riyria Productions.
Date Published: February 4, 2020.
Date Read: July 26, 2020.
GOODREADS RATING: ★★★★★ (5.0/5.0).
OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).