The Skull Throne by Peter V Brett (The Demon Cycle #4)

7/10 Beautifully written story set in a world with complex and varied themes and people

To start with I want everyone to bear in mind that The Warded Man and The Desert Spear were and are great books. They have a texture, colour and vitality that entranced me in a new world so completely that I rushed through both instalments in a matter of days after purchasing them. However, The Daylight War was a dilemma for me, it was a lacklustre edition to the series that centred too much on certain characters that I could neither like nor dislike but only offer an irritated ambivalence towards. The Daylight War felt more like a pale recurrence in theme from the previous two books, the result of which I found it hard to commit to the story. I struggled through three quarters of the book before I really could find the joy in its reading, something that I had found in the previous two instalments easily.

So it was with apprehension and anticipation I awaited The Skull Throne release, hoping and longing for a return to the feel of the first two novels. Unfortunately, while I could not fault Peter in his writing skills, composition and imaginative flare The Skull Throne has fallen into the same routine The Daylight War succumbed to, a sidestepping of the focal point from the characters we (or just me) wish to read about, spotlighting supporting plots and narratives at the detriment of the main ones.  Do not get me wrong - Leesha, Inevera, Renna, Roger and others are integral and solid elements of the story, with strong and vibrant personalities, written by an author with mastery of the craft, but they do not need their own novels.

What we wanted was Arlen and subsequently Jardir, what we received was a book outlining a dramatic and complex story involving people surviving without their saviour and struggling to come to terms with their apparent deaths, which is all and good *** spoiler *** but Arlen and Jardir aren’t dead, so why leave them out of the novel for the most part, when it's these too dynamic characters people want to read about.

This leaves us with an issue, there is only one book left in the series and this approach really only works if 1) The series continues on after the fifth and final instalment and 2) You actually kill Arlen and Jardir, which will be needed I feel to close off the series and justify the point of the secondary characters getting their own novels in the first place.

The focus on side stories and secondary characters across a series is a great addition to any plot, it highlights and elevates, and there are great examples of these, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time or Raymond E Feist's Riftwar Cycle. These authors took us away from the main protagonist time and time again, detailing the exploits of others but the one thing they always remembered to do was to return to the main character(s), the one true constant in the story and the reason we read a novel in the first place. Ultimately, I feel this is where the story falls down. The Daylight War and The Skull Throne blend together into a one moderately paced story, not really reaching its full potential, a potential I feel was simmering just under the surface.

If I had a wish, I think these last two books would have been better suited to a single volume. There are key elements from each of these stories which are excellent: the strengths of the people of the Hollow, the dispute for the Skull Throne and the guile and intelligence of Abban. Roger, while getting a good showing, needed more page time but maybe that’s because I like the character. Inevera, well, I could have done without her as a main or secondary character. I would be happier reading a four book series rather than a five if we could have just had more Arlen and Jardir.

The Skull Throne is a beautifully written story set in a world with complex and varied themes and people, but the contour of the story is not true to the first books in the series with the consequence being a lesser story is presented to its reader.

For the mastery of his writing style I give this novel 5/5, for the story offered I can only give 2/5.

Review by


Peter V Brett's The Demon Cycle series

The Painted Man

The Demon Cycle #1

The Desert Spear

The Demon Cycle #2

The Skull Throne

The Demon Cycle #4

The Skull Throne reader reviews

from Switzerland

I couldn't exactly figure out what I felt was wrong with this book - or the previous one - and this review was like a little burst of sunshine through the clouds. Now, it appears to me more clearly, that's for sure. Don't get me wrong. I love the universe that Brett created. I like this idea, I like the settings. But what I like the most are his heroes. Warning, spoilers ahead. As always, it's well written. But I'm getting tired of seeing the apparently unstoppable power of the Krasians. I'm getting tired of their greed, their need for power, their betrayals, their arrogance. I don't want to follow Abban for ever. I don't want to follow Inevera for ever. I love Roger, I love Leesha, I really like all those characters. But I'm getting tired of seeing this story unfolding itself without its heroes. Book 3 ended on a massive cliffhanger. Why didn't Brett choose to follow Arlen and Jardir in the fourth one ? Why not stick with the two most powerful and impressive characters, with some chapters dedicated to the others ? Instead of this, we see months passing, with just two or three chapters given to Arlen/Jardir/Renna... Some time has passed, some events happened, but the story feels incomplete. And the death of yet so many characters in the very end is unexpected, but doesn't fix the fact that now, I'm convinced that in book 5, we'll see more of Abban/Hasik, Asome/Inevera and some more Miln, and I already hate that. I still love the style (despite reading it translated - ah !) and the universe, but the storytelling didn't convince me, this time.

6.5/10 from 2 reviews

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