Fantasy-lite at its most mediocre.
My lord, that thing was long! Two books in one volume is just too much when the exposition is this dry. On top of that, whoever edited the audiobook decided that splitting chapters up into several smaller, shorter chapters was a good idea. Honestly, I think it just contributed to the feeling of "this is never going to end" that I started getting about halfway through.
I like the characters, and the stars are mostly for them. Hadrian and Royce have good banter, and Arista, Amelia and Modina have some interesting conflicts and personal journeys to go through. Really, the women do have the better part of the story here. The problem I'm having with these is the execution. Characters speak the exposition in the most expositiony way possible. Instead of aiming for subtext and intrigue, the characters continue to spew every thought to their enemies because of course that's the smart thing to do. There are no twists or attempts to subvert tropes. There is an attempt at a cliffhanger at the end of this one, but let's face it - everything will be fine, so I'm not worried.
I'm rewatching Buffy: The Vampire Slayer right now and recently got through the season two episode "Lie to Me." At the end, Buffy asks Giles if life ever gets easier and tells Giles to lie to her. He answers:
"Yes. It's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true. The bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies and... everybody lives happily ever after."
Sullivan seems to be writing his stories with this sentiment in mind, only he forgot the part about it being a lie (with one or two minor exceptions). This is very "what you see is what you get" and maybe it's just the wrong series to be trying to read alongside A Song of Ice and Fire and Young Wizards.
Since I did like the first of the prequels, I think I'll go back to those and see if that was one-time fluke or if Sullivan just got better with time. I'll have to debate with myself if I want to bother finishing this original series though. It's just not holding my attention - though that's no fault of the narrator, whose doing the best he can with the material he's been giving and he's probably the only reason the story even has some semblance of life to it.