Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Skullsworn's narrative is set in the same world as Staveley's previously released Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy and it follows Pyrre, a character from those stories. However, it is being marketed as being a standalone adventure in the same environment. I, unfortunately, have to admit that this is the first book of Staveley’s that I have read so, whilst some of my Goodreads and blogging friends will not be overly pleased that I, new to the world he has fabricated, have been given the opportunity to read and review an advanced version, I honestly hope that I do it justice and influence people unfamiliar with the author, as I was, that they can start here and truly enjoy what happens within these pages. I will post this to Fantasy Book Review and I know that other reviewers and friends there have already read all of, and found Staveley's previous works highly enjoyable and I envisage, going forwards that they will post reviews from their points of view and then we would have covered the opinions of new and seasoned readers alike. I am intrigued to see how the statements differ.
As briefly mentioned, the story follows Pyrre, who is Skullsworn - meaning she is a priestess, who just so happens to be a double knife whirling assassin in the service of the God Ananshael (this empire's' Death) and the tale revolves around her traveling back to her homeland of Dombang, the destination chosen by her where she could complete her initiation trial to prove her credentials and worth to her sect, and to her God. She is shadowed by two experienced practitioners of their Lord, one being the charming, deadly sex addict Ela and another being the seasoned, sometimes blunt but undeniably devoted elder priest Kossal. They are her witnesses, judges, and jury with reference to how they perceive her trial transpires, and assessing whether she has ticked the metaphorical boxes presented. Her trial is as follows - she is destined to kill seven specific individuals in fourteen days as depicted by a composed song and to conclude, she has to fall in love within the designated timeframe and then, kill that person as one of her seven offerings.
I approached this novel with an open mind, however; I had the view that, if I couldn't follow what was happening in this narrative, did not understand the characters' actions and was essentially lost in an abyss of a misunderstood art after fifteen percent, I wouldn't have carried on and would have engulfed the trilogy first. I wouldn't have wasted my time, or the author's time posting a review that wasn't fair if the premise was that I needed to know the world already to appreciate it. After ten percent and taking a few notes, I was easily able to analyse the characters, the Gods they revered and the world that was frequented. I am glad my reading experience here did not end as the previous outcome suggested it may and that was half predicted, as I would have missed an entrancing tale.
Skullsworn is written in the first person perspective following Pyrre and her narrative bounces from current endeavours, to recollections of her colourful youth which ultimately has caused her to traverse back to her origin town and in addition; her descriptions of the world incorporating but not restricted to the Gods, religions, alliances and depicting her relationships and emotions with reference to each of the aforementioned and how they affect her world at this important time in her life. It is presented, I analysed, as either being a presentation of an internal monologue or a diary-esque autobiography and the writing showcases Pyrre's personality, highlighting the darker aspects a disciple of a macabre Lord would feel within themselves, as well as her acknowledging the beauty in the world showcased by some of her heightened and poetic descriptions of the environment and events. It is a pleasant juxtaposition. (Every university students favourite essay word).
It is intriguing that I, as a new reader, am not aware if this happened before or after the trilogy of Staveley’s. This didn't affect my enjoyment but may add extra layers when approaching Skullsworn, to a seasoned reader of this gentleman's' works.
This is not a very long book. Perhaps 350-400 pages and it has about 5 or 6 main characters always presented through Pyrre's mind and the views of hers acknowledging the looming pressure of her trials deadline ever lurking. Kossal and Ela, the two shadowing priests from the white sandstone fortress of Rassambur, where the Skullsworn prepare, train, and worship are a great duo. So different in personalities but their respect and "relationship" is intriguing. One of the major players in this story is not one of Pyrre's Ananshael respecting colleagues but is a gentleman named Run Lan Lac. Bare-knuckle boxer, leader of the cities alliance the Greenshirts and Pyrre's ex "lover" from an age long ago. The conversations between Pyrre and Run are integral to the story and together they discuss the past occasionally but are more interested in the potential rebellion and uprising which people say are revering three ancient Gods whose names have been banned from being spoken for many generations.
If so far, Skullsworn does not sound enticing, then I imagine you have internet fallen onto my review page by mistake. It is a concise narrative of the highest order. The politics and underground rebellions and factions reminded me of Scott Lynch's work to a degree. There are many breathtaking scenes. Collapsed bridges leaving 100's of people drowning in a miasma of sludgy nothingness, naked alliance battles against Croc's to prove their worth to a mythical age old faction and, in addition showcasing loyalty to a deadly macabre Lord that will set his priests against potentially undefeatable mythical races of old.
About 30 pages from the finale of the book, I had no idea how it could come to closure in that short timeframe. It did, and it was highly unpredictable. Quite tragic too. In fantasy these days, most of the stories present a relevant level of grimness and this overcame the acquired amount. If you do not like swear words or depictions of a sexual nature, then you may be too young to truly appreciate this. The word cunt is used here occasionally. The sexual nature bizarrely sums up the corruption and ill-advised happenings of the world but also the beauty in certain segments. Hopefully, you will see what I mean. I am happy to admit that this is a highly engrossing fantasy world even in this slightly streamlined presentation limited to few, albeit, amazing characters. This is a great entry point for this gentleman's' work and truly I wish to check out the rest of his stories.
This Skullsworn book review was written by James Tivendale
Have you read Skullsworn?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Skullsworn reader reviews
8.4/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear while the Lord Ruler reigned with absolute power ...
Half a King
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it al...
The Faithful and The Fallen
Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will...
The Farseer Trilogy
In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma. Born on the wrong side of the sheets,...
The World Tree rises up out of the seething clouds like a green mountain, lifting its children up to the light. All creation nestles in its gigantic branches: all take shel...
Hope and Red
In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two people find a common cause. Hope, the lone survivor of a village massacred by the emperor's forces, is secretly tr...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...
In the cramped west end of Sharakhai, the Amber Jewel of the Desert, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall...
The Black God's War
Moses Siregar III
Against the backdrop of epic warfare and the powers of ten mysterious gods, Lucia struggles to understand The Black One. Her father-king wants war. Her messianic brother wa...
Wall of Night
The violence of an age-old war casts a long shadow. It falls on a world where mercy is weakness and conflict is a way of life. Young Malian is being trained to rule. Her pe...
Long ago, the evil God Torak fought a war to obtain an object of immense power - the Orb of Aldur. But Torak was defeated and the Orb reclaimed by Belgarath, the sorcerer. ...
The Emperor's Soul
Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skilful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emper...
Hunt for Valamon
When Crown Prince Valamon is impossibly taken from the heart of Algaris Castle, the only clue as to motive or culprit is the use of unknown sorcery. Reclusive cleric Seris ...
Four millennia have passed since the gods came to Myrillia, creating the nine lands of peace as a haven from the nightmarish, accursed Hinterlands. In all this time nothing...
A Trial of Blood and Steel
Spurning her royal heritage to be raised by the great warrior, Kessligh, her exquisite swordplay astonishes all who witness it. But Sasha is still young, untested in battle...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
- Recommended high fantasy books/series
- Recommended books/series featuring royalty, monarchy and empire
Best of 2016
Hope and Red
In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two people find a common cause. Hope, the lone survivor of a village massacred by the emperor's forces, is secretly train...
The Star Touched Queen
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more ...
The Pagan Night
Ruling with an iron hand, the Church has eliminated the ancient pagan ways. Yet demonic gheists terrorize the land, hunted by the Inquisition, while age-old hatreds rage betwe...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's just about surviving, so long as he only takes his beloved plane for short journeys, and saves his remaining fuel. But, just once, he picks up a message from another pilot, a...
Beren and Luthien
Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien wil...
Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall - named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn h...
While honeymooning in the Tower of Babel, Thomas Senlin loses his wife, Marya. The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel of the Silk Age. Immense as a mountain, the ancient...
The Ninth Rain
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the real...
The Court of Broken Knives
Anna Smith Spark
They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we pi...
With Blood Upon the Sand
Ceda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further t...