Age of Empyre is the culmination of a six-book epic fantasy series written by Michael J. Sullivan. It's been a long journey from the first book, Age of Myth which was released in 2016. (I didn't start reading the series until 2017, but have enjoyed every entry since then. The other books in the series are Age of Swords, Age of War, Age of Legend and Age of Death.
The series is officially known as Legends of the First Empire. It is set a few thousand years before the events of the Riyria stories featuring Royce and Hadrian that are told in Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire, Heir of Novron. Those books are some of the most enjoyable epic fantasy books I have ever read, and has permanently affixed the name Michael Sullivan to my list of must-read authors.
So, I was very excited to hear about and read the Age of books and quite anxious as the end of series approached in Age of Empyre. Another interesting aspect of Sullivan's books is that he basically writes all the books in a series before he self-publishes them, so there really wasn't any doubt that the entire six-book series was going to be available to be read. (Take that, George R.R. Martin!)
The main characters in the series have been Persephone, Brin, Raithe, Suri, Arion, Nyphron, Mawyndule and Malcolm. The primary story is about relations between the various inhabitants on the world (which they call Elan). Those species are humans (called Rhune), elves (called Fhrey) and dwarves (called Dherg or Belgriclungreians). Basically, the Fhrey are the most powerful, because they have access to magic, which they call The Art. The Art uses the energy of the world to can re-channel it to do incredible things: move heavy objects, change the weather, set things on fire or make things very cold, etc). There are different "tribes" of Fhrey, and only one of the tribes, the Miralyith have the power to do the Art, but all Fhrey are extremely long-lived. In fact, some of the Fhrey from this series are still very much alive in the Riyria Revelations series and part of the fun in reading these books is seeing how events and people depicted in the ancient past in one series are similar/different than how they are portrayed in real time.
And by relations between the species, I really mean "war." The Rhunes basically thought that the Fhrey were gods, and the Fhrey thought that the Rhunes were basically dirty animals. The Rhunes vastly outnumber the Fhrey and their lives are a fratction of a Fhrey's. However, in Age of Myth a Rhune kills a Fhrey (mostly by accident) and when that information gets back to the main group of humans where Persephone, Suri and Brin live it changes everything.
The main tension in the series is between the Fhrey and the Rhunes. The first surprise is that the Rhunes actually have a chance to survive. In the earlier books, the Rhunes' ingenuity (invention of the wheel and steel) are able to balance out the Fhrey's magical powers such that for a very long time the wars that they fight against each other result in stalemates.
In Age of Empyre the tension between the humans and the elves are resolved in various ways that are surprising. It's hard to say which side "won" the war. What happens is that the relationship between humans and elves is resolved in such a way that the future existence of humans is assured, and there is "regime change" at the head of the elves so that the policy of Rhune extermination is rescinded. The borders of where each of the species (humans, dwarves and elves) should live are clarified and agreed to. I don't want to say more than that or else I will be including too many spoilers.
I do want to remark on another aspect of the books, which is its mythology. In the 5th book, Age of Death, there are several characters that "die"--by this I mean that they go into the afterlife. It turns out that there are three afterlives and our characters have to make it through all three in order to find a macguffin. Not all the characters make it through all three afterlives, and there is a great deal of thoughtful (and thought-provoking) rumination on the nature of life and death and teleology (fancy word for purpose and the meaning of life). That Sullivan can include these elements successfully in the middle of a rip-roaring, action-packed epic fantasy is a testament to his skills as a writer. Even a jaded atheist as myself was willing to go along with the worldview the author promulgated in the last two books.
Overall, I felt that Age of Empyre was a suitable and well-done conclusion to the Legends of the First Empire series of sux books, with multiple, satisfying payoffs for readers who had made it through all six books (and even more for readers who have also read the other six books of the Riyria Revelations and Riyria Chronicles). Interestingly, Sullivan has announced a new epic trilogy called The Rise and Fall which will bridge the thousands of years between the events of the Legends of the First Empire series just concluded and the Riyria stories which were published first but are far in the future. I am definitely looking forward to reading those!
Title: Age of Empyre (Legends of the First Empire, #6).
Author: Michael J. Sullivan.
Paperback: 395 pages.
Publisher: Riyria Enterprises.
Date Published: May 5, 2020.
Date Read: August 10, 2020.
GOODREADS RATING: ★★★★★ (5.0/5.0).
OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).