Age of Myth (Legends of the First Empire Series #1)

Age of Myth (Legends of the First Empire Series #1)

by Michael J. Sullivan

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101965344
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/28/2016
Series: Legends of the First Empire Series , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 9,708
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Michael J. Sullivan opened the first door to his imagination with typewriter keys found in a friend’s basement when he was just ten years old. Today he uses computer keys, writing classic fantasy with unlikely heroes, including the bestselling Riyria novels and his latest epic Legends of the First Empire.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Of Gods and Men

In the days of darkness before the war, men were called Rhunes. We lived in Rhuneland or Rhulyn as it was once known. We had little to eat and much to fear. What we feared most were the gods across the Bern River where we were not allowed. Most people believe our conflict with the the Fhrey started at the Battle of Grandford, but it actually began on a day in early spring when two men crossed the river.

—­The Book of Brin

Raithe’s first impulse was to pray. Curse, cry, scream, pray—­people did such things in their last minutes of life. But praying struck Raithe as absurd given that his problem was the angry god twenty feet away. Gods weren’t known for their tolerance, and this one appeared on the verge of striking them both dead. Neither Raithe nor his father had noticed the god approach. The waters of the nearby converging rivers made enough noise to mask an army’s passage. Raithe would have preferred an army.

Dressed in shimmering clothes, the god sat on a horse and was accompanied by two servants on foot. They were men, but dressed in the same remarkable clothing. All three silent, watching.

“Hey?” Raithe called to his father.

Herkimer knelt beside a deer, opening its stomach with his knife. Earlier, Raithe had landed a spear in the stag’s side, and he and his father had spent most of the morning chasing it. Herkimer had stripped off his wool leigh mor as well as his shirt because opening a deer’s belly was a bloody business. “What?” He looked up.

Raithe jerked his head toward the god, and his father’s sight tracked to the three figures. The old man’s eyes widened, and the color left his face.

I knew this was a bad idea, Raithe thought.

His father had seemed so confident, so sure that crossing the forbidden river would solve their problems. But he’d mentioned his certainty enough times to make Raithe wonder. Now the old man looked as if he’d forgotten how to breathe. Herkimer wiped his knife on the deer’s side before slipping it into his belt and getting up.

“Ah . . .” Raithe’s father began. Herkimer looked at the half-­gutted deer, then back at the god. “It’s . . . okay.”

This was the total sum of his father’s wisdom, his grand defense for their high crime of trespassing on divine land. Raithe wasn’t sure if slaughtering one of the deities’ deer was also an offense but assumed it didn’t help their situation. And although Herkimer said it was okay, his face told a different story. Raithe’s stomach sank. He had no idea what he’d expected his father to say, but something more than that.

Not surprisingly, the god wasn’t appeased, and the three continued to stare in growing irritation.

They were on a tiny point of open meadowland where the Bern and Urum rivers met. A pine forest, thick and rich, grew a short distance up the slope behind them. Down at the point where the rivers converged lay a stony beach. Beneath a snow-­gray blanket of sky, the river’s roar was the only sound. Just minutes earlier Raithe had seen the tiny field as a paradise. That was then.

Raithe took a slow breath and reminded himself that he didn’t have experience with gods or their expressions. He’d never observed a god up close, never seen beech-­leaf-­shaped ears, eyes blue as the sky, or hair that spilled like molten gold. Such smooth skin and white teeth were beyond reason. This was a being born not of the earth but of air and light. His robes billowed in the breeze and shimmered in the sun, proclaiming an otherworldly glory. The harsh, judgmental glare was exactly the expression Raithe expected from an immortal being.

The horse was an even bigger surprise. Raithe’s father had told him about such animals, but until then Raithe hadn’t believed. His old man had a habit of embellishing the truth, and for more than twenty years Raithe had heard the tales. After a few drinks, his father would tell everyone how he’d killed five men with a single swing or fought the North Wind to a standstill. The older Herkimer got, the larger the stories grew. But this four-­hooved tall tale was looking back at Raithe with large glossy eyes, and when the horse shook its head, he wondered if the mounts of gods understood speech.

“No, really, it’s okay,” Raithe’s father told them again, maybe thinking they hadn’t heard his previous genius. “I’m allowed here.” He took a step forward and pointed to the medal hanging from a strip of hide amid the dirt and pine needles stuck to the sweat on his chest. Half naked, sunbaked, and covered in blood up to his elbows, his father appeared the embodiment of a mad barbarian. Raithe wouldn’t have believed him, either.

“See this?” his father went on. The burnished metal clutched by thick ruddy fingers reflected the midday sun. “I fought for your people against the Gula-­Rhunes in the High Spear Valley. I did well. A Fhrey commander gave me this. Said I earned a reward.”

“Dureyan clan,” the taller servant told the god, his tone somewhere between disappointment and disgust. He wore a rich-­looking silver torc around his neck—­both servants did. The jewelry must be a mark of their station.

The gangly man lacked a beard but sported a long nose, sharp cheeks, and small clever eyes. He reminded Raithe of a weasel or a fox, and he wasn’t fond of either. Raithe was also repulsed by how the man stood: stooped, eyes low, hands clasped. Abused dogs exhibited more self-­esteem.

What kind of men travel with a god?

“That’s right. I’m Herkimer, son of Hiemdal, and this is my son Raithe.”

“You’ve broken the law,” the servant stated. The nasal tone even sounded the way a weasel might talk.

“No, no. It’s not like that. Not at all.”

The lines on his father’s face deepened, and his lips stretched tighter. He stopped walking forward but held the medal out like a talisman, his eyes hopeful. “This proves what I’m saying, that I earned a reward. See, I sort of figured we”—­he gestured toward Raithe—­“my son and I could live on this little point.” He waved at the meadow. “We don’t need much. Hardly anything, really. You see, on our side of the river, back in Dureya, the dirt’s no good. We can’t grow anything, and there’s nothing to hunt.”

The pleading in his father’s voice was something Raithe hadn’t heard before and didn’t like.

“You’re not allowed here.” This time it was the other servant, the balding one. Like the tall weasel-­faced fellow, he lacked a proper beard, as if growing one were a thing that needed to be taught. The lack of hair exposed in fine detail a decidedly sour expression.

“But you don’t understand. I fought for your people. I bled for your people. I lost three sons fighting for your kind. And I was promised a reward.” Herkimer held out the medal again, but the god didn’t look at it. He stared past them, focusing on some distant, irrelevant point.

Herkimer let go of the medal. “If this spot is a problem, we’ll move. My son actually liked another place west of here. We’d be farther away from you. Would that be better?”

Although the god still didn’t look at them, he appeared even more annoyed. Finally he spoke. “You will obey.”

An average voice. Raithe was disappointed. He had expected thunder.

The god then addressed his servants in the divine language. Raithe’s father had taught him some of their tongue. He wasn’t fluent but knew enough to understand the god didn’t want them to have weapons on this side of the river. A moment later the tall servant relayed the message in Rhunic. “Only Fhrey are permitted to possess weapons west of the Bern. Cast yours into the river.”

Herkimer glanced at their gear piled near a stump and in a resigned voice told Raithe, “Get your spear and do as they say.”

“And the sword off your back,” the tall servant said.

Herkimer looked shocked and glanced over his shoulder as if he’d forgotten the weapon was there. Then he faced the god and spoke directly to him in the Fhrey language. “This is my family blade. I cannot throw it away.”

The god sneered, showing teeth.

“It’s a sword,” the servant insisted.

Herkimer hesitated only a moment. “Okay, okay, fine. We’ll go back across the river, right now. C’mon, Raithe.”

The god made an unhappy sound.

“After you give up the sword,” the servant said.

Herkimer glared. “This copper has been in my family for generations.”

“It’s a weapon. Toss it down.”

Herkimer looked at his son, a sidelong glance.

Although he might not have been a good father—­wasn’t as far as Raithe was concerned—­Herkimer had instilled one thing in all his sons: pride. Self-­respect came from the ability to defend oneself. Such things gave a man dignity. In all of Dureya, in their entire clan, his father was the only man to wield a sword—­a metal blade. Wrought from beaten copper, its marred, dull sheen was the color of a summer sunset, and legend held that the short-­bladed heirloom had been mined and fashioned by a genuine Dherg smith. In comparison with the god’s sword, whose hilt was intricately etched and encrusted with gems, the copper blade was pathetic. Still, Herkimer’s weapon defined him; enemy clans knew him as Coppersword—­a feared and respected title. His father could never give up that blade.

The roar of the river was cut by the cry of a hawk soaring above. Birds were known to be the embodiment of omens, and Raithe didn’t take the soaring wail as a positive sign. In its eerie echo, his father faced the god. “I can’t give you this sword.”

Raithe couldn’t help but smile. Herkimer, son of Hiemdal, of Clan Dureya wouldn’t bend so far, not even for a god.

The smaller servant took the horse’s lead as the god dismounted.

Raithe watched—­impossible not to. The way the god moved was mesmerizing, so graceful, fluid, and poised. Despite the impressive movement, the god wasn’t physically imposing. He wasn’t tall, broad, or muscled. Raithe and his father had built strong shoulders and arms by wielding spear and shield throughout their lives. The god, on the other hand, appeared delicate, as if he had lived bedridden and spoon-­fed. If the Fhrey were a man, Raithe wouldn’t have been afraid. Given the disparity between them in weight and height, he’d avoid a fight, even if challenged. To engage in such an unfair match would be cruel, and he wasn’t cruel. His brothers had received Raithe’s share of that particular trait.

“You don’t understand.” Herkimer tried once more to explain. “This sword has been handed down from father to son—­”

The god rushed forward and punched Raithe’s father in the stomach, doubling him over. Then the Fhrey stole the copper sword, a dull scrape sounding as the weapon came free of its sheath. While Herkimer was catching his breath, the god examined the weapon with revulsion. Shaking his head, the god turned his back on Herkimer to show the tall servant the pitiable blade. Instead of joining the god’s ridicule of the weapon, the servant cringed. Raithe saw the future through the weasel man’s expression, for he was the first to notice Herkimer’s reaction.

Raithe’s father drew the skinning knife from his belt and lunged.

This time the god didn’t disappoint. With astounding speed, he whirled and drove the copper blade into Raithe’s father’s chest. Herkimer’s forward momentum did the work of running the sword deep. The fight ended the moment it began. His father gasped and fell, the sword still in his chest.

Raithe didn’t think. If he had paused even for an instant, he might have reconsidered, but there was more of his father in him than he wanted to believe. The sword being the only weapon within reach, he pulled the copper from his father’s body. With all his might, Raithe swung at the god’s neck. He fully expected the blade to cut clean through, but the copper sliced only air as the divine being dodged. The god drew his own weapon as Raithe swung again. The two swords met. A dull ping sounded, and the weight in Raithe’s hands vanished along with most of the blade. When he finished his swing, only the hilt of his family’s heritage remained; the rest flew through the air and landed in a tuft of young pines.

The god stared at him with a disgusted smirk, then spoke in the divine language. “Not worth dying for, was it?”

Then the god raised his blade once more as Raithe shuffled backward.

Too slow! Too slow!

His retreat was futile. Raithe was dead. Years of combat training told him so. In that instant before understanding became reality, he had the chance to regret his entire life.

I’ve done nothing, he thought as his muscles tightened for the expected burst of pain.

It never came.

Raithe had lost track of the servants—­so had the god. Neither of the combatants expected, nor saw, the tall weasel-­faced man slam his master in the back of the head with a river rock the size and shape of a round loaf of bread. Raithe realized what had happened only after the god collapsed, revealing the servant and his stone.

“Run,” the rock bearer said. “With any luck, his head will hurt too much for him to chase us when he wakes.”

“What have you done!” the other servant shouted, his eyes wide as he backed up, pulling the god’s horse away.

“Calm down,” the one holding the rock told the other servant.

Raithe looked at his father, lying on his back. Herkimer’s eyes were still open, as if watching clouds. Raithe had cursed his father many times over the years. The man neglected his family, pitted his sons against one another, and had been away when Raithe’s mother and sister died. In some ways—­many ways—­Raithe hated his father, but at that moment what he saw was a man who had taught his sons lessons to fight and not give in. Herkimer had done the best with what he had, and what he had was a life trapped on barren soil because the gods made capricious demands. Raithe’s father never stole, cheated, or held his tongue when something needed to be said. He was a hard man, a cold man, but one who had the courage to stand up for himself and what was right. What Raithe saw on the ground at his feet was the last of his dead family.

He felt the broken sword in his hands.

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Age of Myth 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't wait for the next installment. Good character development and lots of action.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As usual, Sullivan's book has wonderful characters and an engaging story. Buy it now!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the imagination, the fast pace and the continuous surprises in plots. Was a joy to read. Cant wait for the next books to become available!
LuluRoadsideReader More than 1 year ago
It’s hard to find a title that actually lives up to the Epic Fantasy genre claim. Many try, and fall very short of reaching the standards some, possibly just I?, have when it comes to Epic Fantasy. Age of Myth by Michael J Sullivan, however, manages to take the genre and run with it, creating his own new and unique world that feels very epic and very fantasy, without falling into tired tropes. It is very fast-paced, possibly too fast, which is what I felt was its main downfall, knocking it down a star. There is so much new information packed into Age of Myth, it feels very dense at the start. I felt a bit bombarded learning all of this new information, new words, and having no reference point. It was a bit like being swept away with the current and just trying to enjoy the ride. Thankfully, about 20% into the book, I felt centered. I knew what was happening (or so I thought) and was excited, so much so that I finished the book that very sitting. Pacing was very fast. I think that was a greater problem for me than feeling lost by new words and new worlds. The author tried too quickly to create this world and prep the story, which is a common problem sometimes with introductory books in a fantasy series. Pacing is a hard thing to get right with long series’. Either they go too slow, trying to keep information for subsequent books, or too fast, which was the case in Age of Myth by Michael J Sullivan. Other than pacing, book was great! Characters were fantastic, especially Penelope and Suri! Raithe was well fleshed out, while Malcolm’s appearances were always fun. I’ll talk more about the characters during my spoiler vlog on the book tomorrow! More akin to George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, than Lord of the Rings at the moment, Age of Myth by Michael J Sullivan does an impressive job of creative a grand new world with fully fleshed characters, keeping fresh in the epic fantasy genre. // I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review //
Anonymous 7 months ago
Enjoyable political intrigue. Instead of the typical Hero's Journey, Mr. Sullivan provides an enticing tale of manipulation, misunderstandings, and power struggles all set in a world with magic and five races of creatures. Though the story is told from the perspective of multiple characters, each of the primary characters is unique enough that I did not find myself having to flip back through pages to determine who was speaking, a problem I have add with other novels of this type. Lastly, though it is the first book in a series, it has a satisfying enough conclusion that one can try it without committing to the entire series. There are enough open plot points, though, to entice me to continue the story arc.
WillKeats 10 months ago
If you have read Michael J. Sullivans Riyria Revelations or Riyria Chronicles, you may be familiar with how he tells the story of his fantasy worlds on both massive scales, but also through small personal narratives. This book is like entering into J.R.R. Tolkiens Middle Earth, but instead of being thrown into the epic scale of the fight between good and evil, you really get to dive into life in the Shire. Although the series, as a whole, ramps up quickly to a massive scale, in this first book you get to know the world of Elan during the Age of Myth, by seeing the dynamics of one village. By focusing on the Dal, you begin to understand the world's culture. Michael J Sullivan builds a vision of Elan naturally and seamlessly without the exposition you may see in other fantasy novels. Michael J. Sullivan's Age of Myth is one of effortless books to comprehend, read, enjoy, and think about, without feeling like you need a break. Jump into this book, and read Age of Sword and War too, as they are fantastic additions to the genre.
Anonymous 10 months ago
A new prequel series for the world of Elan. This novel introduces us to many characters that we have heard of before but only as legends and stories from the Revelations and Chronicles. You finally get to see what really happened and how many became the legends that they are now known for in the Revelations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first thing that jumped out at me was the gorgeous cover (I know, shame on me), but like its cover, the story within is captivating. While the story starts with an interesting and exciting hook, the narrative plods along for near the next two thirds of the pages. Here and there a few moments of surprise or excitement pop up, but overall the pacing is quite slow (which isn't necessarily a bad thing!). These moments tend to appear at the very end of a chapter or section, making the albeit slow progress to the next one worth it. The characters, while not as life-like as others have described, seem to come in two flavors: Extensively fleshed out, multi-faceted protagonists, and then basically everyone else. Those that drive the narrative [naturally] have great agency, but those that remain in the background act more as set pieces. Let's say that someone related to a protagonist dies suddenly, this event affects the character deeply, changing their viewpoint or course of action. The character[s] that died on the other hand? Hardly knew them (at one point I had to look at the book's cast of characters to see who actually died). The biggest positive for me is the setting. Rarely do you see a more mainstream title take place in a fantasy styled bronze age. Technology is limited and in-world conveniences aren't [always] immediately chalked up to 'because magic'. Overall this title, while not reinventing the fantasy genre or really doing anything new, is an enjoyable read. It sets up what is to be a series in a solid way and seems to know its scope. It doesn't feel as grandiose as the Lord of the Rings nor as expansive or gritty as A Song of Ice and Fire, but it strikes a nice middle ground.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Timely book of a country whose people fight to become free within bondage to an older society. Establishes several characters who will become more important to the story line as more is written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fun, well-crafted traditional fantasy. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad. There's no deep social or political subtext. It's pure escapist fun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waiting to read books two and three
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
hectorcartel More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good read. Well developed characters, fast moving storyline, and surprises in action and direction.
SmalltownSR More than 1 year ago
Amazing, a great read. I don't usually reread books, but I am seriously considering rereading the previous books. I'm finding more interesting connections in the prequel books.
TimothyCWard More than 1 year ago
Age of Myth is a story set far enough back in the world of Sullivan's Ryria Revelations series world that you can read it as a stand alone series without spoiling anything. This is a very interesting plan, and as a fan of that series, I enjoyed seeing the history of this world. The set up has a son and father crossing a river that breaks the laws of their people and the gods on the other side. I enjoyed the immediate empathy we get with our main character and the suspenseful twists that will follow. All of the characters were relatable in a way that made me glad to have discovered this new cast of heroes and heroines. The basic story line is how our young hero crossing the river sets off a war with gods. I'm not great at summarizing plot, and it has been a few months since I read this, but my general take was that I enjoyed the story, but the plot line about who would be the new chieftain of one of the featured villages wasn't as entertaining as the story's other aspects. Sullivan weaved in some nice twists, and a strong emotional climax. The narrator is top notch, and overall, Age of Myth is a great example of fantasy that can bridge the gap between young readers and adults alike.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Connie57103 More than 1 year ago
Michael J. Sullivan has done it again with his new five book series, "Legends of the First Empire." It has that L.O.T.R. vibe that I just cannot get enough of! This series is more of a prequel to his "Riyria Chronicles" and "Riyria Revelations" series, as it is set three millennia before the Chronicles. Mr. Sullivan calls this fantasy series "a separate entryway into the world of Elan." Indeed, this series dives right into an entire world of characters, plot lines, and settings. The book starts out on the very first page with its first myth. The Fhrey are Elves. Men (or Rhunes) think and believe that they are immortal Gods that can bring wrath and destruction to anything and everything inn their way). They cannot be killed nor defeated in battle. This segues into the beginning of the book. Raithe and his father are out in the woods hunting deer with their spears. They follow the wounded deer until it collapses and dies. They then begin to dress the deer, only they don't know that they have crossed the river into Fhrey territory, which is punishable by death. This causes one of the Fhrey to kill Raithe's father on the spot. Raithe, then, kills the Fhrey who killed his father and sets him on the run. He soon gets the nickname "God killer" (something no man is ABLE to do). Like L.O.T.R., this book is gritty but is great for children old enough to read all the way into adulthood. It has something for everyone. From an ancient, majestic old tree that answers questions, to a six pack of wolves that could tear you to shreds, a demonic huge bear, two young girls (that are as different as night is to day) that could become our heroines. It has swords and also lethal rocks when thrown the right way. It has the greatest people, settings, and plot lines. I will be reading this series and the prior series to see what there is yet to learn about them. You will highly enjoy this one as well. Thank you, Michael J. Sullivan, Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine Del Rey and NetGalley for giving me a free e-ARC of this book to read and give my honest review.
ToManyBooksNotEnoughTime More than 1 year ago
I would like to thank Del Rey & NetGalley for a copy of this e-ARC to review. Though I received this ebook for free, that has no impact upon the honesty of my review. Goodreads Teaser: "What does it mean if the gods can be killed? The first novel in an epic new fantasy series for readers of Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, Peter V. Brett, and Scott Lynch. Michael J. Sullivan's trailblazing career began with the breakout success of his Riyria series: full-bodied, spellbinding fantasy adventures whose imaginative scope and sympathetic characters won a devoted readership. Now, Sullivan's stunning hardcover debut, Age of Myth, inaugurates an original five-book series, and one of fantasy's finest next-generation storytellers continues to break new ground. Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between men and those they thought were gods changes forever. Now, only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer, Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom, and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over; the time of rebellion has begun." Unfortunately I found myself struggling so much with this book that at about 3/4 of the way through I finally stopped trying. I almost never mark a book as Did Not Finish (DNF), but in this case after trying numerous times I simply thought it best if I stopped torturing myself. I was unable to connect with any of the characters, and thus their plight held no interest for me. I certainly hope others fared better than I with this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Typical Michael J. Sullivan book... Fantastic
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great read. Don't start until you have the time to read through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have rarely bee draw into a book so fast and it stayed strong the whole way
Anonymous More than 1 year ago