Book Review: "The Skull Throne" by Peter V. Brett
It's been a hectic while that's kept me from completing and reviewing this book, but finally, the time has come, and I'm ready to dive right in. As always, here's our spoiler warning as this a book from the latter part of a series and avoiding spoilers will be impossible.
The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty. Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all. But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart. In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing one another and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne. In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late. Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton—rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest. All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared. . . .
This latest installment of Brett's Demon Cycle Series was a whirlwind of emotions in a very unexpected way. I admittedly had mixed feelings when I initially began the book as Brett had seemingly taken on a very different, but necessary pace when it came to the adventures our characters found themselves on.
This particular change of pace focused more on the politics surrounding of both the Angerian and Krasian thrones. From where the previous installment had left us, both "deliverers" Arlen Bales and Ahman Jardir had gone missing from their respective positions of leadership, rendering both ends of the warring nations completely leaderless. As a result of this, it was exhilarating to see new partnerships form like the one between Abban and Inevara, not to mention the heartwarming romance between Thamos and Leesha.
The immediate criticism I would have for this book stemmed from the amount of time spent focusing on alliances forming and the politics around usurping and solidifying rule. Every second of these moments were necessary and exciting to a point, but the amount of time spent on the "chessboard" seemed a bit uncharacteristic for Brett's usual pacing and flair for the dramatic. I found it odd especially since it appeared the focus on court politics tabled the looming threat of the Corelings preparing for the new moon. This choice led to an unfortunate occurrence where the book felt as though it began to drag.
Even so, the benefit of this slower paced focus did offer an opportunity to test the loyalties of our main characters. Thankfully, once past this part of the books, the pace resumed its familiar Brett fashion of blood-pumping excitement. The war between Angiers and Krasia began and ended with horrifyingly tragic results. The battle between Krasia and Angiers ultimately claimed more than one of the main character's lives claimed in the worst possible way.
The Skull Throne started out dragging its feet ended up being a devastating, heart-breaking tragedy that will leave me grieving until I read through my list and eventually circle back to The Core. Bravo on this deceptively paced installment and I wish my own aching heart a speedy recovery.