Book Review – Skullsworn

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Genre – Epic Fantasy
Excitable Rating – 9/10

If you have yet to read The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Staveley’s first foray into this world, then go forth and buy it now it’s pretty much the best epic fantasy series I’ve ever read.  His world-building skills easily rival George R. R. Martin and come close to matching Tolkien.

The main character in Skullsworn Pyrre, played a small but vital role in the plot of Staveley’s epic trilogy.  In Skullsworn we get to see some of Pyrre’s origins, and the major events in her life that shape her into the character that appears in TCotUT.

First of all a little basics about Pyrre, she is an acolyte in the priesthood of Ananshael – the God of Death.  Ananshael is very different to Meshkent the God of Pain.  To the order of priests and priestesses who worship the God of Death, death is nothing more than the sweet release at the end of the pain of life.  Because of this theological element to his writing Staveley’s book is peppered with philosophising about life and the nature of death, but like the condiment this only serves to better flavour the narrative as Staveley manages to utilise it just the right amount.  In her training to become a fully qualified priestess of Ananshael Pyrre has to complete a certain number of specific sacrifices to her god, i.e. kill some people.  One of these is a person she loves, unfortunately Pyrre is not in love.  The plot therefore mainly revolves around her trying to spark affections between herself and another character.

Pyrre and her two Witnesses, the people who make sure she successfully completes the sacrifices, travel to Dombang – the city of Pyrre’s birth.  Her two witnesses are Ela and Kossal, the first a beautiful, beguiling and lethally quick woman, the second a quite grumpy but equally deadly older man.  It is easy to see how both characters are large influencers on Pyrre’s outlook, in Staveley’s other titles she appears with the barbed sarcasm of Kossal and the flippancy of Ela with the deadliness of both.

I really loved the relationship between Ela and Kossal, they both clearly loved each other yet it was such a hugely unconventional relationship by most western standards – which is always nice to see in fantasy, or any writing for that matter.

Pyrre’s constant internal conflicts throughout the novel as to whether she is worthy of love, or even capable of it, outside of the relationship with her god are excellently written by Staveley – I really identified with her very universal (I feel) and therefore very human struggles.

All in all this is a really exciting edition to this very engaging fantasy world, I can’t wait to read more of Staveley’s work in the future!

Exciting Features:

  •  Very socially awkward character who is still highly skilled and competent – just not at conversation…
  • Bisexuality! YAY!
  • Sexually promiscuous female character who is in no way shamed for this by the narrative (possibly by some characters, but in a way that makes them the shitty ones).
  • AWESOME twist, I feel bad even putting in that there is a twist it’s just that good.

Sorry for the long delay between posts!
Thanks for reading

~ The Excitable Feminist

 

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