The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding

Rating 8.6/10
A soaring, good old-fashioned, rip-roaring adventure.

“All good things come to an end. And this is it: the last stand of the Ketty Jay and her intrepid crew. They've been shot down, set up, double-crossed and ripped off. They've stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a ten-thousand-year-old Azryx city and sort-of-accidentally blew up the son of the Archduke. Now they've gone and started a civil war. This time, they're really in trouble.

As Vardia descends into chaos, Captain Frey is doing his best to keep his crew out of it. He's got his mind on other things, not least the fate of Trinica Dracken. But wars have a way of dragging people in, and sooner or later they're going to have to pick a side. It's a choice they'll be staking their lives on. Cities fall and daemons rise. Old secrets are uncovered and new threats revealed. When the smoke clears, who will be left standing?”

Being a newcomer to this series, I was immediately taken by this books strong setting and its well-conceived world. There is an immediacy and urgency to proceedings, and I was soon invested in each character's fate. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the crew interacted with each other, particularly the use of sardonic humour and squabbling.

Captain Frey is the archetypal anti-hero: ambiguous, scheming and self-serving. It made a refreshing change to have a central character behave, well, like on of us. Too often in fantasy literature we have people always doing the right thing and acting nobly; here, there is no book of ethics and no rules, just survival and lots of sharp-tongued banter.

The story boasts plenty of action and incident, with the pacing spot on. Ancient civilizations are nicely juxtaposed with technology, so too is the corporeal with the supernatural. Chris Wooding allows his imagination plenty of free rein, and is clearly having a lot of fun in the telling of his story.

Against the backdrop of a Steampunk world, we have romance, horror and a surrogate family in the form of the crew of the Ketty Jay. There really is a minefield for them to navigate, and thanks to the break-neck, desperation of the action there is never a dull moment. This epic final instalment makes it clear that a big game is finally being played out; there is no certainty who will be left standing at the end. There are consequences, loss, regret and remorse.

The Ace of Skulls is a soaring, good old-fashioned, rip-roaring adventure. Fans of Steampunk and fantasy in general, are sure to enjoy this; Wooding has demonstrated a fine grasp of what makes for solid adventure and thrills.

The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding
Published 2013 by Gollancz

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All reviews for: Tales of the Ketty Jay

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The Ace of Skulls reader reviews

from UK

8-stars

Stealing priceless artefacts, discovering long lost cities, accidently killing the Archduke's son and kind-of starting a huge civil-war. Now everything Captain Fray and his crew have discovered, fought and exposed is going to collide together and Fray, despite all his best efforts, is going to be right in the middle of it. The Ace of Skulls has a lot to wrap up with the previous instalments creating enough content for a long and enduring series, but instead there are many different story lines that have to conclude. This means that at times the book does feel a little rushed and undetailed. However this book is a rush, the characters sprint to and from enemyies, constantly engaging in mid-sky dogfights or ground level shootouts, it’s quite literally none stop. Chapter after chapter of the Ace of Skulls is devoted to explosive, bullet spraying battles and shadowy, telepathic engagements. You will be on the edge of your seat and then clinging to pillows. Amongst all the action you continue to learn and love the Ketty Jay’s hap-hazard gang of ex aristocrats, slaves and witty rebels throughout. This time round Fray is trying to pick the right side to fight for all while not trying to fight at all, with the help of such friends as the century knights and of course Tracina Dracen they might just survive. Much like previous books the Ketty Jay takes you across vast landscapes and beautiful cities, low life bars and 100 acre manors. Despite some sad moments and some big casualties the book ends, after all the fighting, on a high. You may find yourself a little out of breath but you will be smiling.

8.3/10 from 2 reviews

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