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The Riyria Chronicles #2

The Rose and the Thorn

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For more than a year Royce Melborn has tried to forget Gwen DeLancy, the woman who saved him and his partner Hadrian Blackwater from certain death. Unable to get her out of his mind, the two thieves return to Medford but receive a very different reception --- Gwen refuses to see them. The victim of abuse by a powerful noble, she suspects that Royce will ignore any danger in his desire for revenge. By turning the thieves away, Gwen hopes to once more protect them. What she doesn't realize is what the two are capable of --- but she's about to find out.

347 pages, Paperback

First published September 17, 2013

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About the author

Michael J. Sullivan

114 books92.7k followers
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I'm a New York Times, USA Today, and Washington Post bestselling author with 9 Goodreads Choice Award Nominations.

I first opened the door to my imagination with typewriter keys while playing hide and seek and finding a black behemoth when I just ten years old. Serious writing started in my twenties, but after more than a decade trying to publish (and getting nowhere), I quit altogether. I returned to writing in 2004, and published my first novel with a small press in 2008. If you had told me that I'd be a New York Times Bestselling author, have 85+ novels translated into 13 languages, and sold more than 2 million copies, I never would have believed you!

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Profile Image for Petrik.
669 reviews43k followers
May 4, 2023
4.5/5 stars

The cover art to The Rose and the Thorn is atrocious, but let’s not judge a book by its cover.

“The right word, said at the right moment, can work magic, he was fond of saying. You merely need to understand power, where it comes from, and the direction it flows.”

Two persons genuinely surprised me. First, the cover artist has outdone himself; I thought the cover art he did for The Riyria Revelations and The Crown Tower was bad already. But no, he has created a masterfully inferior cover art; this is one of the worst cover arts I’ve ever seen. Who the heck are the two dudes in the cover art? That is not Royce; that’s Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Recreation. And that is not Hadrian; that’s Christian Bale, and I’m not sure he realized his left hand will bleed from holding the sword like that. I’ll have to give the benefit of the doubt here, the cover artist probably misheard The Rose and the Thorn as The Gross and the Thorn, and he successfully nailed it. But enough about that. Despite how much I want a new cover art to grace these books, I’m judging the book based on the content, and the next person that surprised me with this book is obviously Michael Sullivan himself.

‘“Because that’s what people do. They help each other. If you saw a man lying in the road with an arrow in him, you’d stop, wouldn’t you?”
“Of course… anyone would. A wounded man is easy pickings, unless you could see from your saddle that someone else has already taken his purse.”
“What? No! No one would rob a wounded man and leave him to die.”’

The Rose and the Thorn is the second book in The Riyria Chronicles series. One year has passed since the event of The Crown Tower, and upon their arrival back at Medford, Royce and Hadrian found out that their friend has been treated very unkindly. Remember that Royce and Hadrian don’t have many friends. Think about it; Royce and Hadrian becoming a duo is a miracle already. Now, imagine what happens when someone badly treats a rare friend they treasure; you can rest assured that these two will stop at nothing to make sure that the perpetrator received the retribution they deserve. This is undoubtedly another heartwarming and compelling volume about love, friendship, wealth, revenge, destiny, loyalty, and kindness.

“Even if you’re doing it for selfish reasons, you’re still helping to save his life. It just goes to show that good can come from helping a stranger, and it proves that the world isn’t so bad after all.”

I thought I couldn’t get more invested with these characters, and I couldn’t be more wrong, AGAIN. Entertaining dialogues are one of Sullivan’s main forte as a storyteller, and the banter between Royce and Hadrian continues to be delightful as always. It’s worth noting that unlike The Crown Tower where most of the story was told through Hadrian and Gwen’s POV, in The Rose and the Thorn Sullivan included more POV characters. Also, more important characters from The Riyria Revelations are here in their younger state. Initially, I did feel a bit impatient because I wanted more of Hadrian’s POV; this is more of a Royce and Reuben’s book, and the Riyria duo didn’t have as many appearances as I preferred in the first half of the novel. Fortunately, Reuben’s origin story ended up winning me over, too. The characterizations in this prequel series totally outshone The Riyria Revelations, and I wish I had read this prequel series first before reading The Riyria Revelations. The two books that I’ve read so far have given so much extra depth and background to the characters of The Riyria Revelations; this was especially evident for Hadrian, Royce, Gwen, and Reuben.

“In Royce’s eyes she could see the pain of struggling to survive reflected back. They were the same, two pieces of wood from different worlds but whose grain lined up, and it was then she knew she was falling in love.”

I mean, wow. With context, the passage above hits powerfully. I can’t believe Sullivan could write as good as that. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this prequel series is more well-written than The Riyria Revelations because The Riyria Chronicles is written after it. However, for an unplanned series, it’s astounding that it never felt like it. The plotting and character’s development felt like Sullivan has planned this since the start of The Riyria Revelations. The story in this book takes place eleven years before the events in Theft of Swords. And as I said, Arista, Alric, Albert, Reuben, and other characters and names we’ve seen in The Riyria Revelations made their appearances here; the progression felt so well-realized and related to the main series.

“One day you'll remember this moment. It will have faded to a mere wisp, a ghost of a long-forgotten past, but it will return to you.”

Admittedly, the resolution to the conflict of The Rose and the Thorn felt a bit underwhelming to me; The Crown Tower has a memorably stronger wrap-up. But I want to make it clear that Sullivan shows great growth in his storytelling. Two things that bothered me several times in The Riyria Revelations were the foreshadowing and the lack of Royce’s actions despite his infamous name.
-On the first point, I found that Sullivan’s foreshadowing felt too obvious and predictable it felt like spoiling its own plot twist. Sullivan is much better at writing foreshadowing and prophecies to deepen the tension of the narrative now.
-On the second point, it’s a bit unbelievable how often people feared Royce, but we seldom get to see him displayed his abilities. Well, I certainly got what I wanted in the prequel series so far. The Rose and the Thorn was darker and more violent than The Riyria Revelations, and it felt good to finally really see him in action.

“If a bug bites you, you don’t bite it back… You crush the life out of the thing so it never bothers you again. And if you do that to an insect that can’t cause any serious harm, why would you do any less to an enemy who will almost certainly come back and kill if you don’t?

I still liked The Crown Tower slightly more, but I continue to enjoy this series immensely. Both The Crown Tower and The Rose and the Thorn just further established my point that this prequel series—on a first-time read experience—might be shaping up to be superior to The Riyria Revelations; at least on a single installment and feel-good basis. I don’t think the The Riyria Chronicles will ever reach the level of overarching satisfaction that The Riyria Revelations has, and I’m totally okay with that. Despite a few minor issues, I had so much fun reading The Rose and the Thorn; I smiled a lot, and I finished reading this novel in two days. That’s a rare occurrence for me now due to how busy I am this year. I’ve read so many fantasy books, and that urge of always wanting to continue reading a book is getting rarer now. But similar to The Crown Tower, The Rose and the Thorn gave me that urge again. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment, The Death of Dulgath, in August. I’m trying to prolong my read-through of this comforting series that’s starting to feel like home to me, and I’m sad that there are only two published books remaining for me to read. Until then…

“The place was sacred to him—something he didn’t realize until that moment. The room was a sanctuary of kindness and comfort. He’d stayed there only a couple months, but coming back he wondered if what he was feeling could be what others felt about places they called home.”

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Profile Image for Katerina.
422 reviews16.8k followers
October 3, 2016
It's Michael J. Sullivan.
It's Royce and Hadrian.
Of course it is phenomenal.

“Wait! What is it? What is Riyria? What does it mean?”
“It's elvish...for two.”

The Rose and the Thorn had been sitting on my bookshelf for months. Reading it was a physical need, but I kept postponing it because I knew that when I gave in, I would move one step closer to the end, and a point in my life when there wouldn't be any new adventures of my favorite thieves, and that was depressing. Two days ago, I finally caved in. And it was wonderful.
“I'll make a human being out of him yet.”

For those who haven't read Riyria Revelations, The Rose and the Thorn is the gripping story of two incredibly different men who became a team, a boy that was bullied but became a hero nonetheless and a conspiracy to get rid of the royal family that was uncovered by a young prostitute and led to great losses, violence and ashes. For those who have read Riyria Revelations, this is the story of how an awkward but brave young Hilfred saved Arista and became her guard, how Royce and Hadrian met their partner in crime, Albert, and established their reputation as creative problems solvers, and why Gwen named her tavern The Rose and The Thorn. Events that were mentioned in Revelations came in the spotlight and gave us a better understanding of how and why our beloved characters were made this way, we learned more about King Amrath and we witnessed the first attempts of the villains to shape the world to their liking.
“Even if you're doing it for selfish reasons, you're still helping to save his life. It just goes to show that good can come from helping a stranger, and it proves that the world isn't so bad after all.”

Returning to Melengar was bittersweet. I was content to revisit places and people that are now a part of me, but at the same time, knowing their fates and the suffering they would endure in the future made this experience painful, heartbreaking. I was overcome with melancholy and nostalgia, I wanted to spare them from all the ugly things and the hurt, but I was helpless. So I sat aside, and let Mr. Sullivan guide me, through dark alleys and dim-lighted corridors, stables and haunted towers. I let him show me how vulnerable Hilfred had been, and how Gwen wanted to protect Royce from the first moment she met him, how cruelty is a trait of poor and rich men and women alike, but so is kindness. I participated in swordfights and plots and hideous murders and I cheered for a noble swordsman and a cruel assassin that were unaware of their potential for greatness. And I could picture Michael Sullivan winking with mischief when a connection was made between the past and the present.
“I don't think you've lost enough blood that you'd be suffering delusions yet. You must just be confused. I'm not assaulting you. I'm murdering you.”

The dialogues were witty, as per usual, and sassiness and sarcasm were all over the place. Hadrian was a soft marshmallow, Royce the human equivalent of Grumpy Cat, which resulted in constant arguing and lessons, of humanity or cruelty, depending on the teacher. The things Royce did were disturbing, but I never believed he is soulless. He has a soul, but it's buried under thick layers of darkness, mistrust, anger, rejection and bitterness, and it needs patience and effort to dig though them and reveal what a great person he can be. And this person is Gwen. Her kindness was confusing to Royce, but she made him feel something good, something different that terrified him but also liberated him.
“One day you'll remember this moment. It will have faded to a mere wisp, a ghost of a long-forgotten past, but it will return to you.”

There is a chance I teared up a little (or a lot).
Michael J. Sullivan is indeed a master storyteller, and he created a vibrant world of action, adventure and friendship. Don't hesitate to give Royce and Hadrian a chance to steal your mind, your heart and your breath!
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,471 reviews9,637 followers
July 16, 2017
"What is Riyria? What does it mean?"
"It's elvish. . . for two."

The boys are back in town and I still love them. They are back after a year and set out to help Gwen. I really wish evil people would leave them alone!

Someone hurt Gwen and other deaths and beatings. It was probably not a good idea to pick on Gwen her girls!
Profile Image for TS Chan.
700 reviews868 followers
August 10, 2021
Third time reading The Rose and The Thorn, and it still felt just as wonderful to be back.

In my view, The Crown Tower together with the The Rose and The Thorn form the origins duology of the Riyria duo. It also seeded the conspiracy that was over ten years in the making, leading into the captivating story that started in The Riyria Revelations. As far as prequels go, The Riyria Chronicles were superbly well-written, and continues to solidify the reasons why Michael J. Sullivan ranks as one of my favourite authors.

“I never told you anything about my past.”
“Are you going to tell me now?”
“No. I am going to show you.”

Royce Melborn aka Duster - we haven’t seen how truly dangerous he could really be, until now. Throughout reading Riyria Revelations, it was mentioned numerous times about what Royce was capable of during his much earlier days, but by that point in the overall story, it was almost all tell and no show as he has been tempered by his many years of friendship with Hadrian. In this book, however, we actually got to see this complex and fascinating character live up to that reputation.

After being completely befuddled by Hadrian's actions during the Crown Tower heist, as well being on the receiving end of unexpected kindness from a stranger, we're beginning to see signs of humanity surfacing from within Royce. Yet, when hell bent on revenge on those who hurt the very rare few who were kind to him, the intensity and darkness emanating from Royce was frightening and not just a little disturbing. At the same time though, it was satisfying to finally be able to have a glimpse of what made him so infamously scary.

As such, The Rose and The Thorn was probably the darkest book yet of the two Riyria series. Aside from seeing Royce’s dark side, we also have the poignant backstory of Hilfred, and the treasonous plotting that was taking root within the courts of Melengar many years ago. Brutality and maliciousness abound in this installment - oh Bishop Saldur, how I loathe thee!! One minor warning there is that reading this prequel book before The Crown Conspiracy will give away some spoilers to the plot in the latter.

On a lighter note, it was delightful to meet other characters who we've come to know and love from the Riyria Revelations series, such as a much younger Arista and the Pickerings. The introduction of Viscount Albert Winslow was the icing on the cake for me. His POV was funny, entertaining and also distinctive in its voice.  And hence, with the viscount finally in tow, Riyria was born.

It’s really amazing how a prequel such as this can be such a page-turner given that one already knows what became of its characters in later books. I suppose that the key defining difference between merely knowing the outcome and being engaged by what actually transpired is how well the story is told. In this, Sullivan has yet again done a fantastic job.

P/S: Yes, it's another favourite - get used to it as long as it's a Riyria book. As Petrik once said to me, Petrik, once said, Sullivan could write a novella about Hadrian and Royce going shopping, and it'll also be my favourite. So long as their characterisation stays true, I'll shamelessly admit that it'll be so.

You can purchase the book from Blackwells | Bookshop.Org (Support Independent Bookstores)Amazon US | Amazon UK

You can find this and my other reviews at Novel Notions.
Profile Image for Samir.
111 reviews173 followers
November 8, 2016
It is always a joy to be back in the world of Elan and to read more about Royce and Hadrian. I’ve really enjoyed ‘’The Crown Tower’’ and thought it to be a prequel done right and expected no less from this installment and it was even better!

In the ‘’Crown Tower’’ we found out how Royce and Hadrian met and how they started to work together and here we get to see how their partnership is evolving into friendship and how they became the famous Riyria.

This is an amazing adventure with interesting story and great number of characters we already met in the Revelations series and we get to know some of them better, like the royal family of Melengar, Hilfred and Viscount Albert Winslow. Meeting of Albert Winslow is the funniest chapter in the book and conversation between Royce and Hadrian about helping people is hilarious:

‘’Because that’s what people do. They help each other. If you saw a man lying in the road with an arrow in him, you’d stop, wouldn’t you? Of course, Royce replied, anyone would. A wounded man is easy pickings, unless you could see from your saddle that someone else has already taken his purse.
What? No! No one would rob a wounded man and leave him to die. Royce nodded. Well, no. You’re right. If he has a purse and you take it, it’s best to slit his throat afterward. Too many people live through arrow wounds. You taught me that. No sense risking he might come after you.
Now it was Hadrian’s turn to sigh. Don’t mind him. He was raised by wolves.’’

If the first prequel was more about Hadrian this one was certainly more about Royce. We can see how his friendship with Hadrian is slowly changing him, we learn more about his history with the Black Diamond and we get to see his dark side and what happens if someone messes with people he cares about.

To sum up, I really enjoyed reading ‘’The Rose and the Thorn’’, it was fast paced, fun, intriguing, it made me happy and it made me sad and it does a great job of setting up ground for the ‘’Theft of Swords’’.

I strongly recommend you read the Revelations series first because it will make reading this series even better experience and you will enjoy these characters even more.
Profile Image for Anna [Bran. San. Stan].
262 reviews84 followers
October 10, 2022
“[Hadrian] was back in a serious drinking state of mind. He often got that way when he thought too much, when he took inventory and found his shelves bare.” This just makes me want to hug Hadrian, not just because I have a crush on him and I hurt when he hurts, but because I really felt that. But let’s start from the top.

This book is a lot grimmer than book 1 – be prepared for more cruelty and more tragedy. If you’ve read Revelations first – which you definitely should – you already know who the bad guys are, which just serves to show what an amazing writer Sullivan is: I was deeply invested in spite or maybe even because of all previous knowledge.

We are joining our dynamic duo a year after the beginning of their very reluctant partnership (which was forged in fire in book 1) – Royce, ruthless ex-assassin, and Hadrian, ex-mercenary and expert swordsman, are getting to know each other and are slowly set on their new, and ultimately successful, career path of “rogues-for-hire.”

On their journey to a new calling, it was also really painful to see Hadrian continually putting his faith in the wrong people. He really does need Royce to temper his unquestioned trust in people who turn to him for help. At heart a compassionate, idealistic soul, he is deeply affected by this and all the killings on his conscience – including when Royce is quick to kill people.

Royce, however, learns towards the end that killing is not always “the easiest solution to many of life’s problems” – but don’t get me wrong, we are shown before what he is capable of. Let me just say: He really needs the human perspective Hadrian provides – even if Hadrian has trouble figuring out the enigma that is Royce.

“After a year, all Hadrian had managed to learn was that he needed to tread carefully when Royce raised his hood, that his friend disliked any beverage except an obscure and expensive wine, that his dagger had a name but his horse did not, that he was abandoned at a young age, and that he was indeed very good at stealing.”

Aside from Royce and Hadrian’s POV, Hilfred, a teenage castle guard, is a focal character. We know him and what fate has in store for him from the Riyria Revelations – but fear not, I shall not spoil. Seeing him as a 16-year-old and what he had to endure really pulls on your heart strings – MJS is just so good at that!

Overall verdict: Even though I figured going into this a prequel has to be less enjoyable than the original series, especially considering each novel is basically a stand-alone and not a series that leads to one big conclusion, I am glad to say I could not have been more wrong – such is the strength of Sullivan’s characters and his writing. I really hope he writes many more books in this series!! I am so here for them.

The Riyria Chronicles
1. The Crown Tower – 5 stars
2. The Rose and the Thorn – 5 stars
3. The Death of Dulgath (TBD)
4. The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter (TBD)
5. Drumindor (to be released)

To be read BEFORE the Chronicles:
Riyria Revelations
1. The Crown Conspiracy – 3.75 stars
2. Avempartha – 4.5 stars
3. Nyphron Rising – 5 stars
4. The Emerald Storm – 4.5 stars
5. Wintertide – 5 stars
6. Percepliquis – 5 stars
Profile Image for Jody .
201 reviews134 followers
November 29, 2017
Full review now up!

The Rose and the Thorn is the second book in the prequel series of The Riyria Chronicles. The story is set in the city of Medford a year after the events of The Crown Tower. MJS did a great job showing the growth in Royce in Hadrian's relationship. While it's still not to the level we see in the Revelations series, there is considerable improvement from the first book. For instance, they don't exactly loath each other anymore. Royce seems to have accepted Hadrian and his do good personality, while Hadrian is still trying to help Royce see the world from a more positive perspective. These two are definitely stubborn and not quick to give up in their ways, so these little conversations are usually quite hilarious.

"Something wrong?" Royce asked.
"What? Because I want a drink?"
"No, because your stealing one."
"The man is dead. I don't think he'll be too upset."
"Still, it's not like you."
"You're an expert on me now?"
"Getting there."

Apart from Royce and Hadrian, MJS has brought back some great characters from the Revelations series as well. Of course, they are a lot younger here, but it was still good to read about Viscount Albert Winslow, Princess Arista, Prince Alric, the Pickering's, and Hilfred. Besides the Riyria duo, Hilfred gets the most page time, and it was interesting to see how his story played out. The events in The Rose and the Thorn are mentioned several times in the main series, so if you have read that series you know what is going to happen. But to actually read the story was a treat in itself.

Speaking of the story, MJS has done it again. Woven a tale that takes the reader on a journey from the open countryside, to the city life of the middle and lower class, and then to the politicking of the Medford noble court. He really covered all of his areas in this book, and all while doing it from several different POV's. One of my favorite things about MJS's writing is he makes me care about the side characters almost as much as the MC's. Many authors have trouble telling stories inside of stories that can seem confusing to the reader, but that is not the case with the Riyria books. The characters individual stories are interwoven into the main story, and seem to fit perfectly.

So, there you have it. Great characters, diverse settings, and a compelling story. What else do you need in a great fantasy novel? If you haven't read any of Michael J. Sullivan's books before I urge you to give them a go. You're in for a treat!

"So I was thinking of giving you a name. How about the Two Phantoms or Specters - something like that?
"The Two Phantoms?" Hadrian asked skeptically.
Gwen shook her head. "You need something special, something unique. Something short."
"How about Riyria?" Hadrian said, climbing onto his horse.
Royce smirked.

5 stars *****

Profile Image for Conor.
148 reviews316 followers
June 27, 2016
Like with the main series this prequel was far more complex, and in many ways darker, than that which preceded it. It was also even more compelling. Several of my friends have recommended reading the main series first but I would actually recommend this one first. Overall I think it's better written and more engaging and while the first book was really just about developing Royce and Hadrian this one nicely sets up the main plot. Having read the main series already I knew how a lot of stuff would turn out and while there was still plenty of interesting elements I think it would have been better to have read this first. I also think this book did a great job of developing minor characters that weren't touched upon so much in the main series.

Royce and Hadrian were also central to this one, although not as much so as in the first prequel. I really enjoyed Royce's revenge spree as it drove home how ruthless and bloodthirsty Royce can be. This was often shown rather than told early on in the main series but in these prequels it's demonstrated emphatically. I also liked their budding partnership, which has developed quite a bit in the year since they first met. Their tense, adversarial partnership has been replaced by respect and trust although there's still tension caused by the clash of Royce's ruthlessness with Hadrian's idealism.

In this one we got to see even more familiar characters with Alric and the Pickerings having strong turns while the King was extremely well developed from his brief mentions in the main series and this made his death at the start of the first book actually impactful. This book also made me want to re-read the parts in the main series where a certain pair of scheming dickhead villains met their ends and those passages were all the more satisfying after this one. However the breakout character of this book was Hilfred. A bit part player in the main series that I always found rather dull after a page of his first section in this one I already cared more about him than in the whole main series. His parts in this really made me think of the old saying that "everyone is a hero in someone else's story" as the previously uninteresting minor character was given an incredibly dramatic story with a tense relationships with his brutal father, an unrequited love for a woman above his station made all the more tragic by his inability to accept a good woman's love for him due to his obsession with a woman who barely knows he exists, his friendship with Alric and the Pickering's and his rising to a level of heroism that he never could have dreamed of.

(this is related directly to the spoilers, especially the second one) Mikey Sullivan gives 0 fucks when he's killing off beloved characters. It's an aspect of his writing that seems to be ignored for some reason but he's probably delivered more unexpected and saddening deaths than any other author. Even GRRM. Erikson probably has as many deaths but since most of them wind up being magically revived it loses a lot of it's impact. It's also interesting how Erikson really wrings all of the melodrama and pathos he can out of his deaths whereas Sullivan is pitiless and matter-of-fact about it. "Really liked that character did you? Hoped that he/she would realize their dreams and survive the series? Woops, I just had a shark eat their face."

Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,608 reviews1,481 followers
June 8, 2016
Another fantastic prequel of one of my favorite bromantic couples with Buddies Books and Baubles

Prequels, I’m usually not really interested in them. I mean once you know where the story goes do you really care about the origins of it? For most of the books I’ve read I’d say that it a big fat NO. But for Riyria and Michael J Sullivan the is a huge and resounding YES!!!!

Not only do we get to see how Royce and Hadrian finally solidified into a team and found their front man, we also get to see the beginnings of Royce and Gwen as a possible couple and a young Hilfred in the castle before the fire.

Since I read the Riyria Revelations first I know what a great team Hadrian and Royce are. But it is good to see some of the moments in the beginning. I thought that Royce was maybe a little tame for the dangerous killing assassin he was supposed to be. But after reading through this I can see where he got the reputation AND I can see how far Hadrian pushed him into being kinder later that is.
“So why are you helping her?”
“Because that’s what people do. They help each other. If you saw a man lying in the road with an arrow in him, you’d stop, wouldn’t you?”
“Of course,” Royce replied, “anyone would. A wounded man is easy pickings, unless you could see from your saddle that someone else has already taken his purse.”
“What? No! No one would rob a wounded man and leave him to die.”
Royce nodded. “Well, no. You’re right. If he has a purse and you take it, it’s best to slit his throat afterward. Too many people live through arrow wounds. You taught me that. No sense risking that he might come after you.”

There are some great scenes in this book with just how cruel and bloodthirsty Royce can be when he realizes the people he cares for are in trouble.

Hadrian on the other had is pretty naïve when it comes to people and he is always looking for the best in them. I love watching how each man tries to convince the other that people are generally all good or all bad. Neither is quite right but together they probably make a semi well-adjusted person….almost. We all know that Gwen has always only had eyes for Royce and why but it was cute to see that maybe Hadrian would have liked to have met her under different conditions, but there is no way that he will betray his bro.
“Anything you want to tell me?”
For one awful, selfish instant he imagined her saying something like, Hadrian, I’ve wanted to confess this to you ever since we first met, but it isn’t Royce I’m in love with… And what would he say? He knew what he’d like to say. He was just as smitten with her as Royce was, but he also knew that betraying Royce wouldn’t just be wrong or cruel—it would be fatal

This is so true and against Hadrian’s character anyway. I’m glad that he is happy for the small comfort Royce feels when around Gwen.

Other than that I was really excited to see Hilfred’s origins. They were so different than I expected them to be and a blend of sad and heroic all the same time. A young Hilfred just becoming a guard and stumbling on a secret he wasn’t supposed to find. A plot in the castle to kill the Royal family and seeing Arista, Oreck and the Pickering Boys as children was a lot of fun.

Even the plots in the palace turned out different than expected and bravo to MJS for taking a story that has been told in the Riyria Revelations and make it just as intriguing as if you didn’t know already what the end result was going to be. There were still enough surprises that I was entertained and engaged the entire story.
Profile Image for Deborah Obida.
673 reviews604 followers
July 2, 2022
The Rose and the Thorn is the second book in the Riyria Chronicles and the best Riyria book in my opinion. Just like the other Riyria books, the theme that stands out is friendship and comradeship. I also like the relationships between the other characters in this book. There were lots of new well written characters in this book, I didn’t expect that. I also love the fight scenes, though they weren’t many they were well depicted, same goes for the politics, that was unexpected, I didn’t expect the level of politics I got here and I love it.

World building and Writing
There was an improvement in the world building, the events in this book happened in Medford, the Kingdom that Gwen and the girls live. I love the description of everything, it was so well done. The book is written in third person multiple POVs, they were a lot of new characters in this book and most of them have POVs.

I’m really enjoying the character development in this book. Royce is less cynical and nicer than he was when they met and Hadrian changed a bit, he’s still too trusting but he is learning.

Rueben is a new character that also has a POV, he is sixteen and he works in the palace stable. He is kind hearted, brave and loyal.

Albert is also here, how riyria met him is so not how I imagined it. Gwen was here too but her POV was very small, she didn’t do much in this book so her character didn’t progress.

Arista, Alric and the Pickering boys were also here, though they were all children.

The events in this book took place a year after book 1. Royce and Hadrian are on their way back to Medford, they haven’t gone back since they left. When they got there Gwen refuses to see them, they later realised that she was only trying to protect them. Of course Royce and Hadrian wouldn’t sit back and let her protect them.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,012 reviews1,333 followers
April 17, 2022
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me

“The world’s a miserable place, kid. Give it any chance and it will kill you and not always with a blade or a cough. You know, there’s a reason men prefer to die in battle—living can sometimes be worse.”

The Crown Tower ★★★★
The Rose & the Thorn ★★★★

I don’t know where to start this review from so I will do it with the cover which is one of the worst for this series! I stayed away from the series for a long time because of the covers and if it weren’t for my friends enthusiasm about the series, I would have kept procrastinating! To put it simply, this series deserves better covers that reflect that awesomeness inside!

I also don’t know how Sullivan is successful once again in capturing the spirit of the story! I can read endless stories about this duo and I won’t get tired! It is even more impressive given the fact that these are prequels written after the first story so the risk to ruin things is big and yet Sullivan keeps upping his writing game!

The story is told through multiple POVs and it does work although some times I would have preferred to stick with a couple of POVs like the first book in the series. The writing is not that serious and is humorous but is still very good. Not many authors are able to write in that way without overdoing and ruining it.

Royce and Hadrian are awesome as always and the interactions between them is just *Chef Kiss*. It is like we’re getting so much character depth and building but in retrograde and is a new experience for me as a reader. Royce can be brutal and we were always told that and that he has become so much more humane later so we finally get to see this brutality from the past. Sullivan also puts much effort in writing his secondary characters and it apparently pays off!

I think the beginnings and endings of his stories are always the best. I wanted more Gwen in this book because I really liked her in book one. I think we will get to see more in in the next books which is enough for me.

Summary: Another very good entry in this world. Things keep getting depth whether it is the world, the main duo or the secondary characters but it is happening in retrograde and I am living for that. Overall the plot was good but I was left wanting a bit more.
Profile Image for Jenna Kathleen.
117 reviews121 followers
July 16, 2017
It's been far too long since I've been in Elan. Lately, I haven't had much time for reading, but Riyria is one of those series that you unconsciously make time for. I read on the subway, as usual; I read when I arrived anywhere a few minutes early. I read when I was cooking (not the best idea) and I lost a bit of sleep because I was just so immersed in The Rose and the Thorn.

This book seemed to be focused a bit less on the actual events, but more on character development. Of course, Hadrian and Royce steal the show, as always, but seeing the background of Hilfred was definitely a highlight of this book. He's not a main character in Revelations, but his story in this book plays a major role and gives a lot of background to favourite characters such as Arista and Alric. Meeting Albert for the first time was also amusing and seeing how much he has changed since encountering Riyria gives him more depth as a character.

I read The Crown Tower and then the main series and now I can see when reading Revelations first is much better. There are so many little Easter eggs that make the book that much more enjoyable. I would definitely recommend starting with Revelations before reading Chronicles. I was too excited about starting The Death of Dulgath so I started the book before reviewing this one - it takes a special book to do that.
Profile Image for Orient.
255 reviews209 followers
June 10, 2017
A BR with my best BR partner, Craig, with me as a tail, traipsing in the back :D

Here I am, in Riyria again :)

One more great adventure with Riyria. It was so great to meet R&H and other characters I got to love, amazing backstories, cool action, nice fighting, some jokes. A bit predictable, but a great read nonetheless! :) The story of Reuben and the beginning of love between two main characters really touched my heart <3

Sorry for a short review, RL Ugh :O
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
May 27, 2015
Well it's officially 1:08am here and I just finished reading this. I am super tired, but I couldn't put this down and I utterly adore the characters from this series so I had to know what would happen.

This is book #2 in the Riyria Chronicles which I would advise you read after the whole Riyria Revelations series, even though the Chronicles are a prequel series. Basically in this series we get to see the backstory and various crazy adventures of the two main characters from Riyria Revelations, Royce and Hadrian. This book doesn't pick up straight after the ending of book #1 which was a slight disappointment to me to begin with, due to the craziness of the ending of book #1 and me wanting to know what would happen next, but I will admit I was hooked into the story very fast (pg. 3ish) and I fell in love with it straight away.

This book follows Hadrian and Royce as they journey towards Medford. Along the way they meet a man who is very much down on his luck, and they strike up a deal which could become very beneficial for both of them - if they can play it right.

We also have the other story which centres around Reuben and his coming of age story within the Castle of Medford. Every day that he sees the Princess he wishes she'd notice him, and when he's being bullied and picked on he really doesn't know how to turn things around - until events start to go his way and he becomes involved in a lot more than he bargained on.

On the whole this book was fabulous. Although it took me a little by surprise with the beginning not quite picking up from the ending of the first book, I loved the stories once I was into them and I found the characterisation of this book so natural and easy to adapt to. (Also, fear not, because the events after the ending of book #1 are indeed retold at a later point in this book so we do get to see exactly what went on there too!)

I absolutely adored seeing the backstory for Arista and Alric and also getting to know their father a bit more. The Pickerings too were fabulous as young boys and seeing the way that they lived and grew up was just magnetic (They just kept pulling me in!) The young versions of so many of the characters from Riyria Revealtions were just heartwarming and so amusing, knowing what we do about them by the ending of RIyria Revelations. They are all so fun and all individual which I really appreciated.

As for the foreshadowing and weaving of this book, let's just say everything works so well when Sullivan writes a book because he manages to weave in hints and suggestions that you don't even realise are there until they come back and you kick yourself for not realising. Seeing as this is a prequel series we get a lot hinted at which is to come, and there were a fair amount of very touching moments hinted at that gave me chills!

I read through this super fast and found it so easy to race though once I was fully into it. The pacing is fab and the two stories bounce so well off of one another.

Another excellent book of the same quality I have come to know, expect and enjoy from all of Sullivan's books. A solid 5* read and I fully anticipate book #3 (coming out later this year) to continue to be awesome!!
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 114 books92.7k followers
February 1, 2014
As the author of this book, I won't add a rating but I will take the opportunity to talk a bit about this book.

In combination with its predecessor, The Crown Tower, this book pretty much wraps up the forming of Riyria. I was really happy to provide some of Hilfred's backstory as he is a character that really didn't get much spotlight in the Revelations series.

It also was good to see Gwen and her girls again. I especially like Rose the titular character who was introduced in the early book, but who we got to know much more in this one.

Technically, this book completes "The Chronicle" tales. But as I mentioned when I started the series, I would write more if it seems like people aren't tired of them. I've not made an "official" determination but based on feeedback that has come in so far I do think I'll be writing at least one more Riyria book, and we'll see how things go from there.

As for timing. Well, my current work in progress started out as a trilogy that I was expecting to have finished in April...but after completing the second book, I now realize that it has to be four books so I probably won't be able to start until late this year or early next.

In the meantime...I just released the audio version of The Jester which is posted on audible for free. Enjoy!
Profile Image for Bookwraiths.
698 reviews1,045 followers
October 21, 2013
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths Reviews

The Rose and the Thorn is the second book in the Riyria Chronicles by Michael J. Sullivan. It - like the previous book, The Crown Tower - is a prequel to the Riyria Revelations. But unlike most prequels, Mr. Sullivan has done something absolutely superb here: created a tale that both satisfies as a back story and excels as a stand alone, page turner.

As the novel begins, a year has passed since the events in The Crown Tower. Royce and Hadrian have been working together during this time, pulling small jobs and becoming better acquainted. Naturally, their relationship has changed, becoming less antagonistic, but they still have huge differences in their outlook on life. Hadrian is less naive about people but still retains his innate goodness of heart, and Royce, though still one careless insult away from unleashing his inner sociopath on someone, has begun to understand that killing is not the only solution to every problem. But even with their differences, they are obviously much more comfortable with one another, and together, they decide to return to the city of Medford for a visit with Gwen: the woman who so unselfishly provided them with succor at the end of The Crown Tower.

But while Hadrian, Royce and Gwen are the “stars” of the show in The Rose and the Thorn, the novel is about so much more. We are given intertwining tales about Viscount Albert Winslow, the royal family of Medford: King Amrath, Queen Ann, Prince Alric, and Princess Arista, the Pickerings, Bishop Saldur, Percy Braga, and even Reuben Hilfred – who was a minor character in the Riyria Revelations but whose story comes to life before our reading eyes. And as Mr. Sullivan slowly reveals all these amazing plots, his rare, writing brilliance becomes clear to see, for each of those lovely, individual stories begin to mesh together, creating a single, overarching tale. A yarn that not only encompasses this novel and the Riyria Chronicles but also the Riyria Revelations as well.

And somehow while juggling plot lines, Mr. Sullivan also finds time to gift each character with his or her own unique personality. There are no cookie cutter characters in this novel. Each character is well rounded, having their own unique history, problems, hopes, and fears that foreshadow their future selves but does not lock them into a particular role. Indeed, even those characters a longtime reader knows will one day be revealed as “evil” are so life like that you will find yourself hoping that somehow they will see the error of their ways and change before their fate closes around them.

But what about Hadrian and Royce’s hilarious camaraderie, I hear many of you asking?

It is there. But it is developing gradually in a realistic way, not springing forth fully grown. And when that camaraderie does rear its head in this story, it is always amazing to see the unlikely pair slowly becoming the Riyria we all love.

Overall, this is a wonderful, entertaining fantasy, worthy of inclusion into the ranks of the best novels of 2013. While some readers call Hadrian and Royce and their adventures simple, uncomplicated fantasy, if this is an example of “simple fantasy” novels then I would label it simply brilliant and ask every writer out there to begin to emulate it. It quite frankly is just that enjoyable to read.

Now, those of you that have read my reviews know I always find something to critique. (It is a “review” after all, which means you want to hear the bad with the good, right?) So I’d feel remiss if I did not mention a few, minor issues I had with the novel.

So here goes . . .

I really do not have any complaints worth writing about. Obviously, the tale is lacking some sense of suspense; it is a prequel after all. However, even though a reader of the Riyria Revelations already knows what happens, Mr. Sullivan does an excellent job of circumventing this problem and penning a rousing adventure that presents enough new insight into characters and plots to make you enjoy finding out how it all happened.

Go get this book and enjoy it!

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank Netgalley for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Profile Image for Eon ♒Windrunner♒  .
423 reviews468 followers
June 11, 2021
Another fantastic prequel.

I think I'm running out of ways to praise this series, so suffice it to say that I will re-read these many times over the years to come.

If you have not yet read Michael J Sullivan, you are missing out!
121 reviews57 followers
May 23, 2018
This book was everything that you want a prequel to be and more. Following a relatively "Okay" but still good first book in the Chronicles, I wasn't expecting much from this, but was extremely pleasantly surprised.

Plot was well developed and interesting, as it tied in with many elements we got to know from Revelations. Character development was just fantastic, with a particular emphasis on Ruben Hilfred (our favorite body guard), giving us his backstory along with details about an event that will be very familiar to readers of Sullivan's original series. It was also great getting some more insight into Royce and Gwen's relationship.

Highly recommend this. I was completely invested from page one. Even if you don't continue reading through the Riyria Chronicles, getting to this book is well worth it! Sullivan has impressed me yet again.
Profile Image for Gavin.
863 reviews393 followers
January 9, 2015
This was a super enjoyable installment in the Riyria series. It covers a whole bunch of stuff including why Hadrian and Royce chose the name Riyria to represent them. It mainly focuses around the plot to kill the Royal family of Medford and Royce making sure that the ladies of Medford House are safe from harm. We also get to met Albert Winslow for the first time. His first appearance is definitely a memorable one!

This was filled with all the action and humor we have come to expect from the series, but was also slightly sadder than normal as we meet a few old friends who have lead somewhat tragic lives.

Rating: 4.5 stars.

Audio Note: Another excellent performance by Tim Gerard Reynolds. He has now joined my list of favorite narrators.
Profile Image for Lau ♡.
376 reviews290 followers
December 5, 2022
A new comfy Hadrian-Royce mission to relax during the summer

Following the line of the first book of the series, The Rose and The Thorn is a slow paced adventure that reads as a historical fiction with some paranormal elements. They can be read out of order, although I recommend to read #1 first because all the characters are introduced there and you’ll appreciate this more.

“Why are you helping her?”
“Because that’s what people do. They help each other. If you saw a man lying in the road with an arrow in him, you’d stop, wouldn’t you?”
“Of course,” Royce replied, “anyone would. A wounded man is easy pickings, unless you could see from your saddle that someone else has already taken his purse.”
“What? No! No one would rob a wounded man and leave him to die.”
Royce nodded. “Well, no. You’re right. If he has a purse and you take it, it’s best to slit his throat afterward. Too many people live through arrow wounds. () No sense risking that he might come after you.”

Hadrian and Royce haven’t changed much in one year: Hadrian keeps being too naïve to be left alone and Royce too skilled in killing for his own good. Royce seems to have learned what caring about someone means, though. The action felt even more slow burn than in book #1, but I ended up liking it more for how beautifully everything came together at the end.

My favorite feature about the series, besides the bromance, it’s how refreshing it is to read “fantasy” books that can be read as standalones, enjoying them the same whether one day or several years have passed in between.

↬ The Riyria Chronicles (prequel):
1. The Crown Tower:3 stars
2. The Rose and the Thorn: 3 stars
3. The Death of Dulgath: tbr
4. The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter: tbr

↬ The Riyria Revelations: tbr
Profile Image for Mili.
389 reviews33 followers
September 11, 2017
Another great story and insight on how Royce and Hadrian grew into becoming Riyria. Shed a tear, felt anger and had a laugh. Wonderful book! But definitely read Riyria revelations first!
Profile Image for ❄️BooksofRadiance❄️.
603 reviews736 followers
November 22, 2017
4.5⭐️ (Very close to 5)

Even better than the first book.

There’s something so addictive about the Riyria books.
Hadrian and Royce never disappoint. The dialogues, the hilarious back and forth, the story overall - I live for them!
The cutest, most adorable bromance next to Locke and Jean.

If TCT was more about the introduction of Hadrian and Royce, this one was more about their friendship and them becoming the bona fide team that is Riyria.

There was a lot more action and drama here, and answers to some of my most pressing questions from the first series were finally revealed.

Love my boys. 😍

Profile Image for Zoe Artemis Spencer Reid.
491 reviews104 followers
December 11, 2021
Have given it all the stars before even turning the first page. Michael could have written some crap for all I care, I will still give it 5 stars just pure out of blinded love for Riyria at this point. But it turns out I am amazed to no end, of how he could turn quite simple story to such entertaining, thrilling and splendid, touching and relatable as this book.
Profile Image for Zero.
441 reviews20 followers
February 22, 2023
I liked reading this book. It's a good part of the series and I loved seeing Hadrian and Royce. I didn't love this book as much as The Crown Tower though.
Profile Image for Michael of Solace.
43 reviews34 followers
November 21, 2016
I really hope Mr Sullivan never stops writing about Hadrian and Royce. What a wonderful world he has built full of political intrigue, betrayals, dastardly plots, magical places, and beautiful ladies. There's so many characters that are easy to love, easy to hate, or easy to sympathize with. I'm saddened by the fact that there's only one more book left in Chronicles but honored that I've had the opportunity to read and love them.
Profile Image for Jonas.
Author 1 book14 followers
May 24, 2018
Quick paced, real tension and character development. Hadrian & Royce were not the real big roles in this one. While they are still a big chunk of the story, Hilfred really takes the center role. The story is quick to unfold and while some parts were foreseeable, they still delivered. The danger is real, as the protagonists and antagonists both show. While Hadrian is rubbing off on Royce, he can still show how ruthless he was/is. One of my favorite books from this universe so far
Profile Image for Lee.
351 reviews192 followers
July 15, 2014
Short review, busy yada yada.

Ok, so in my review for The Crown Tower I was mentioned that I think I would recommend the Revelations first. After reading this book I am changing that to; I strongly recommend you read the Revelations series first.

Whilst I loved this book and was completely and utterly immersed in it once again, it did give out way to many story spoilers that would change the way you read the first two books of the Revelations series. Part of the mystery of who's who, their history, whether they have good or evil intentions, plain mean or doing what they think is right is spread over a period of the story and you are introduced to it in a nicely paced way. By reading this book first all of that mystery will disappear.
So read in published order!

Once again. Sullivan writes a gripping yarn. There is so much to like about the characters and their interaction with each other.

To keep this brief, I say one more sentence.

I could read this stuff all day long.

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