Published: April 28, 2017
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 3.0/5.0
A COPY OF THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW.
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.