Book Review: Nolyn by Michael J. Sullivan

Book Review: Nolyn by Michael J. Sullivan

Somehow I managed to squeeze Nolyn in with about 5 hours left to spare from midnight.
Sure is reminiscent of a few years back when I finished and met my 10ish yearly books goal with 12 minutes till the bells rung! Ahhaha.

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Michael J. Sullivan is one of my favorite authors of all time and fantasy was also my first ever favorite genre, but I had put leisure reading down during college and when I finally picked it back up, I just stopped reading fantasy, preferring, instead, the thrills of mystery thrillers, police procedural, spy thrillers, and forensic books.

I read a handful of Michael’s books and fell in love with Hadrian and Royce, from the Riyria series, immediately. I never finished the series (due to said break from reading) but I did pick up the first book Age of Myth from Michael’s second series, The Legends of the First Empire and I distinctively remember it was during my Hong Kong trip to visit my hometown and family, the summer after graduating from college.

And then I never picked up any of Michael’s books ever again. It was around that time that reading was still “meh” to me and when I was finally actually ready for books again, years later, I had branched out so wildly (new authors, new genres, new many things) that Michael was buried in the well-known “TBR mountain.”

So when I was given the chance to explore a new series, I was ecstatic!

Book Description

Title: Nolyn
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Edition: NetGalley > eBook
Length: 487 pages
Genre/s: Fiction, Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Adventure, Action
TW/CW: Violence, Blood, Graphic Injuries, Graphic Deaths, War, Child Kidnapping

Disclaimer: An eBook copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. This did not affect my review, and all opinions are mine.

Blurb (Goodreads)

After more than five hundred years of exile, the heir to the empyre is wary about his sudden reinstatement to active duty on the Goblin War’s front lines. His assignment to rescue an outpost leads to a dead-end canyon deep inside enemy territory, and his suspicion turns to dread when he discovers the stronghold doesn’t exist. But whoever went to the trouble of planning his death to look like a casualty of war didn’t know he would be assigned to the Seventh Sikaria Auxiliary Squadron. In the depths of an unforgiving jungle, a legend is about to be born, and the world of Elan will never be the same.


“Sitting snuggly between the Legends of the First Empire series and the Riyria books” this series had little “Easter eggs”, terms and phrases that I recalled seeing in both series. I’m sure there were some easter egg events and lore too, but I hadn’t read the second book of the First Empire series yet. Alas, being that it had been years since I last spent any time with either series, I might as well have read this as if I was coming across Michael’s works as if it were my first time, but then there were the occasional brief moments where I felt a smile creep onto my face because, “I know what they’re talking about!”

But there were also moments where where I felt like I actually needed to go back to (at least) the First Empire books to understand Nolyn; moments where I felt like I was missing something crucial. However, these were far and spare in numbers and in time, I was more focus with the plot than feeling like I needed the complete story. It stands perfectly fine on its own.

I loved this book. I loved all of the characters, the beautiful setting, the camaraderie, the relationships, flaws and all, the magic, gods, lore and all of everything else.

This book is split between three POVs, two main protagonists and a third occasional glimpse of the antagonist’s side of things. Two people with two stories and two different goals, all orchestrated and conducted by a terrifying foe. I recall screaming out loud, “How the f*** are our protagonists supposed to deal with THAT!”

The villain/antagonist was so strong and felt flawless in the beginning. There were no holes and he was god-like in abilities. I thought back to all of the Gods and “Gods” that protagonists have fought across different books and games and none of them could come close to the absurdity of how soul-shakingly horrifying the villain’s powers were here and that made everything feel worse, more terrifying, and so much more desperate. It felt like war had ended before it even started; lay down your swords, there’s no point in fighting.

The two main characters are Sephryn and the titular character, Nolyn, two descendants of a band of legendary warriors and people who, as told by stories, had descended into the afterlife and returned to the living. Their stories are not connected with one another until towards the middle and end where you realize that the events they experienced were part of a bigger plan, again, orchestrated by the big bad previously mentioned.

Of the two, I had initially enjoyed Nolyn’s story more because it had everything I have ever wanted. His band of Sik-Aux warriors, led by a (more modern) legendary leader was one of my favorite things about this book. The camaraderie, the way they joked with each other, mildly butt heads, but also deeply cared for one another, keeping dangers off each other’s backs. They all came from different backgrounds: a poor man who sends money earned from the army back to his mom, a man who was already headed to his grave, a murderer, a thief, a man on the run…the way they very quickly accepted Nolyn as their own. Oh, my heart.

Sephryn’s was more of a desperate storyline and it felt so hopeless from the start. Once things really got rolling on her end, I began to tear through her chapters much faster and with a clenched fist. Her fear was etched through the entire climax and how it ended was just so frustratingly awful, but the ending was amazing and, yeah, I cried. Points for tears. Always points for tears.

As with all of Michael’s books, I loved his storytelling, writing, and characters. I love all of his characters, regardless of series. The Six-Aux felt had the same bro-vibes as between Royce and Hadrian (only there’s many more of them). Though they did have their fair share of screen time, I wish I got to know them juuust a little more.

Now, in terms of characters, there were plenty of people I loved from the thief who could have asked/taken for more but settled for a hug in payment, to the friend of Sephryn, known to have gone mad in the head, the entire Six-Aux, and of course the two main characters. Relatively same in age, they were so vastly different. Sephryn, despite not succeeding the way she wanted, was still a leader of a council and so mature compared to Nolyn who, despite being hundreds of years old, still felt kind of naive? He did do his fair share of growing in a short span of two-ish weeks, so reading his interactions and development was another favorite thing about the book.

Overall, loved the book, and if you love fantasy with lore that spans across multiple series, I would highly recommend Nolyn. There’s witty banter, there’s great storytelling and dialogue, amazing and desperate plots, characters you love, hate, and feel lukewarm about, funny characters, scary characters, you name it. It’s fast-paced and there are some pretty graphic deaths. The chapter with the city invasion brought goosebumps to me. It was intense, and more than once I had to get up and process the twists that were being thrown in. The ending was pretty sweet, but it’s kind of heavy all the same.

As always, another amazing read from Michael J. Sullivan!
Now I REALLY need to reread his other works again.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: Nolyn by Michael J. Sullivan

  1. I definitely have to read this one. I reread all of Micheal Sullivan’s books last year during lockdown and am really looking forward to reading a new instalment.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lol! I always used to leave it until the eleventh hour to do my school homework, perhaps we’re people who enjoy living on the edge, Esther. 😘😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nothing is more motivating than staring at the backwards ticking clock…1 hour…30 minutes…and then staring wide-eyed at your very stuck loading screen while submitting at 11:59pm 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

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