Skullsworn by Brian Staveley – Review

Cover- Skullsworn

Published: April 28, 2017

Publisher: Tor Books

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 304 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0



Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess attempting to join the ranks of the God of Death.

Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the word skullsworn. It fails to capture the faith and grace, the peace and beauty of her devotion to the God of Death. She is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer–she is a priestess. At least, she will be a priestess if she manages to pass her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. Pyrre has been killing and training to kill, studying with some of the most deadly men and women in the world, since she was eight. The problem, strangely, is love. To pass her Trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the ten people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one you love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre is not sure she’s ever been in love. If she were a member of a different religious order, a less devoted, disciplined order, she might cheat. The Priests of Ananshael, however, don’t look kindly on cheaters. If Pyrre fails to find someone to love, or fails to kill that someone, they will give her to the god.

Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to quit, hates to fail, and so, with a month before her trial begins, she returns to the city of her birth, the place where she long ago offered an abusive father to the god and abandoned a battered brother—in the hope of finding love…and ending it on the edge of her sword.

I was a big fan of Staveley’s trilogy The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, so I was delighted that he would be returning to that world for a standalone novel. When that standalone turned out to be about Pyrre Lakatur, priestess to Ananshael, I was marked my calendar. Pyrre was always a very intriguing character with a vague past, so a single novel dedicated to a slim segment of her life was something that I couldn’t say no to!

As it turned out, I liked the setting more than the actual story. Yes, the premise was awesome, but I just didn’t LOVE it the way I expected to. Dombang on the other hand was a sweltering cesspool of death and rot. Crocs, snakes, flesh-rending grasses, and spiders that lay eggs in dying flesh. God, it’s giving me hives just thinking about it. Also, did I mention the city is on the brink of rebellion again and that the old gods of the delta might still be around?

In comparison with this vibrant city, how could I really get into Pyrre’s seemingly unattainable quest for love? Typically, this whole concept would have me hooked in 10 pages, but it just didn’t jive with me. Ruc Lun Lac was bland in my opinion. Yes, he was a multifaceted warrior with jade green eyes and a mean right hook, but I was never convinced that he and Pyrre had any chemistry whatsoever. I suppose for two scarred killers their version of attraction was convincing. The secondary characters were also interesting in a superficial manner and contained only hints of depth. Granted, this was a shorter novel and the main focus was Pyrre, but still!

The way Pyrre’s trial turned out disappointed me in all honesty, though I won’t dare to spoil it. The final chapters were epic and fierce and they were the best part of the whole book. If not for all the Run Lun Lac chasing, deliberating, and elaborate semi-effective plotting, I would say this could have been told rather succinctly in 150 pages.

Overall, Skullsworn was not what I expected from Staveley, especially considering how much I enjoyed the main trilogy. A story of a certain famous Kettral wing probably would have suited my tastes more as a prequel novel. Skullsworn wasn’t a bad book, I just don’t think it was of the same caliber as the others and I still enjoyed it quite a bit and thought it had some really great quotes and philosophy-type segments.

11 thoughts on “Skullsworn by Brian Staveley – Review

  1. Good review, most people seem to love the book so it was nice to see a more middling review, I haven’t read this yet, but I did enjoy his trilogy so will probably give it a go at some point and the setting sounds great.

    And, yes! A prequel featuring the famous Kettral wing would be epic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Most people seem to have really enjoyed it and, for me, the setting ended up being one of my favorite things. Kinda makes me want to read the River of Teeth novella that’s coming out soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry it did not work out for you. Very honest and fair review, as always. I intend to read this one next week, but I can’t say I’m really excited, because (unlike so many others) Pyrre isn’t a favorite of mine. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m one of the lovers – in fairness this is my first book by this author so I don’t have anything that I’m comparing it against (whether favourably or not). In fact I do fancy going back to some of his other books now on the strength of this.
    I loved the setting – for me, it made the whole story. The swamp was so good to read about, just creepy and mysterious and definitely deadly. No need for armies rampaging around there’s enough natural predators to deal with anybody.
    For a while there I found myself being annoyed about the whole idea of the trial and I just couldn’t see how it would work out but I thought the ending was great. It just hooked me -line and sinker.
    It’s a shame it didn’t work as well for you
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • The setting was AWESOME and the deadliness of the delta was used really well in the story. Had this been my first Staveley book I think it probably would have garnered 4 stars from me.


  4. A fair review! Personally I loved it, but then I also loved Pyrre – the original trilogy had its ups and downs for me but she and Gwenna were two of my favorites. I hope he’ll consider writing more stories set in this world, there are so many places and cultures to explore 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley – Review | Powder & Page

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