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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley review

Order Skullswon over HERE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: BRIAN STAVELEY is the author of the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne series, starting with The Emperor's Blades. He has taught literature, religion, history, and philosophy, all subjects that influence his writing, and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. He works as an editor for Antilever Press, and has published poetry and essays, both in print and on-line. He lives in Vermont, and divides his time between running trails, splitting wood, writing, and baby wrangling.

FORMAT: Publisher - Tor Books Publication date - April 25, 2017 Print length - 449 pages Cover by Richard Anderson

OVERVIEW: I knew I would love this book even before opening it. Staveley‘s Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne rocked my world. The only issue I had with the series? Not enough of Pyrre Lakatur. I guess more people, the author included, felt the same way - Skullsworn is all about her.

Skullsworn follows the history of Pyrre becoming the priestess of Ananshael. To get promoted from an acolyte to a priestess, she needs to pass a trial - offer seven people to her God. There‘s a song specifying who needs to die. Killing is not an issue for Pyrre. Love is. The future priestess of Ananshael has to offer someone she loves to her god. Pyrre has loved no one so far. The situation gets tricky, and she needs to come out with a plan. She does. Together with her Witnesses Ela and Kossel, she travels to Dombâng, where she had spent her youth.

Presumably there were other ways to fall in love, ways that didn’t involve wading through a pile of dead bodies, but in all the long trek from Rassambur, I hadn’t managed to think of one. Call it a failure of imagination.

I love Pyrre. Here, I said it. I can’t help it. She fascinates me. Sure, in real life I would be shit-scared of her, but we’re talking books. Her alien morality allows her to kill innocent people with no regret. That’s part of who she is and what she believes in - Ananshael comes for everyone, regardless of wealth or station, and it is death, ultimately, who frees people from suffering. 

Instead of writing an adventure book on killing seven people in 14 days, Staveley’s created another fantastic, and layered novel. I love the way he mixes action, mythology, and philosophical commentary making all elements as important as the main plot. In Skullsworn, Pyrre is trying to fall in love with her old flame Ruc Lan Lan, now Commander of the Greenshirts. The city of Dombang is close to civil war and ancient “evil” (I won’t spoil it for you) awaits in the delta.

The story is imaginative, beautiful, and cruel. Staveley is an amazing writer whose writing skills develop from book to book. His prose is spectacular, rich and imaginative, poetic and precise when needed. Just check the way he describes Quey - alcoholic liquor: 

“The liquor looked like water. It smelled like hate. It tasted like velvet fire on the tongue.”

He brings all characters to life and gives them clear voices. If, after finishing Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne, you thought Pyrre was crazy, wait till you meet Ela. Compared to her, Pyrre is just an innocent child. Kossel and Ruc Lan Lan too stood out as characters. 

If you like Staveley’s prose, don’t waste your time and read this book. If you didn’t like Pyrre or his writing style, chances are Skullsworn isn’t for you. For me though, it’s one of the best books I read this year. I’m not a fan anymore. I’m a believer in Staveley’s talent :)

Also, you’ll want to know to whom and in what context Pyrre is telling this story. There’s a nice final twist (of sorts).


Morgyn said...

Since reading Skullsworn, I've yet to topped saying, if you want to have your socks absolutely blown off, one, read this book. It's the only book I've ever read that throughout I kept asking, how the hells is he going to pull this off? And when he did, picture a reader with, mouth hanging open in amazement.

Łukasz said...

Yep, felt the same :)


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