I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences what I say. As always my opinions, while completely awesome, are also completely my own.
It is a funny story how I got this book. Many of my fellow reviewers had been posting that they received it courtesy of TOR and I am still a new blogger so not many of the publicity people have my address (Which I would be happy to give out to them!) but I made a post that I was sad I missed out on Skullsworn and like 20 minutes later the author Brian Staveley messaged me saying he had a few copies of his own and wanted to send me one. Needless to say, I was happy to except his offer. I have met Brian a few times before and he is a really nice guy. He always has taken the time to chat with me and sign stuff, even drawing me a sketch of an upcoming book cover once. But I was still thrilled when the book arrived and I saw that it was not only signed but personalized for me.
OK now let’s get to the review part of the review. I have an ARC so I didn’t keep track of any spelling errors, not that I recall seeing any. The one thing I did notice was a continuity type error where a guy has something taken away from him then a few paragraphs down he had it again. It was not even anything important though. I let Brian know about it. I expect the actual first edition to be just about perfect on release day. The cover has the same watercolor kind of feel to it as Brian’s other books, but I think I like it better than the previous ones.
Skullsworn is set in the same world as the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Trilogy, but is not part of that story. You don’t need to have read any previous books to enjoy this one. That being said you might enjoy it more if you have read them, because it is kind of an origin story for Pyrere. That oh so lovable priestess of death, the Skullsworn assassin from the original books. The story started off on a strange foot for me. There was a lot of action right out of the gate and I liked the character the book was about, but it still took me a bit to really get in to it. I think the main reason was my own busy schedule. The other reason it may have been hard for me to get into it, was that a major theme in the book was LOVE. I don’t mean it is a love story. It is not. But the questions of what love is and how it works are a major part of the story. Normally that wouldn’t matter to me at all, however I just went through a divorce with my wife of 20 years and felt a bit put off by that at first. But once I started to get to parts like this prayer to the goddess of love I was hooked.
That is some pretty great stuff right there. So, while it took me almost a week to get about 100 pages in, I read the remaining 218 pages in a night. I couldn’t put it down.
One thing I really liked about this was the way it is told. I said before that is an Origin story, and it is. But Pyrre is the one telling it to us. So, there are occasional side notes and explanations as well as changes in the use of tense and perfective aspect. I have read a few short stories that tried to do this and failed, but this was done very subtly and extremely well. Kind of like in The Princess Bride, but not so much. (Helpful, I know) At any rate it was done well.
I won’t go much in to plot but the jist of it is that Pyrre is ready to take the final test to become a true Priestess of Ananshael; the God of Death. The test is that she has to kill 7 people in 2 weeks but no one else. The people are not specific targets but are the paradigms from a song. Here is part of it so you get the Idea.
She sets off to the town she was born in with a full Skullsworn Priest and Priestess to witness her test and kill her if she fails. There is a whole big reason why she chooses to go there and the city itself is a major part of the story, so I won’t say any more about it other than it is a unique and volatile powder keg, and Pyrre plans to be the match.
A great read with tons of action and humor. A story that examines the multifaceted concept of love in some profound ways, without ever getting sappy. While not at all what I was expecting, it was better than I could have hoped. Written with a unique kind of prose that managed to pull me deeper in to the story. This is not a love story but a story about love (and killing people), and I loved it. I give Skullsworn 5 out of 5 stars. Use the links below to order a copy.