Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

Long Review after the Jump:

Skullsworn is a stand alone novel in the same universe as Brian Staveley's "Chronicle of the Unhewn Thrown" trilogy.  Apparently it's a prequel and involves the origin of a character from the trilogy - I wouldn't know as I haven't read the trilogy (though now it's on my list).  The book reads perfectly well without prior knowledge, so it's not really an issue.

------------------------------------Plot Summary--------------------------------
Pyrre is an Acolyte to the God of Death, Ananshael, who has trained to become a priestess of the god.  Priestesses of the god are known as "Skullsworn" and well, as you might expect for priests of a Death God, their thing involves killing people.  Pyrre is really good at killing people, although not at the level of full priests of the God.  And Pyrre is one final test away from finally becoming a full priestess.  The Test: Killing 7 people in 14 days: One who is Right, One who is Wrong, A Dealer of Death, A Mother ripe with new life, A Giver of Names, A singer of songs, and finally....one who "makes your mind and body sing with love."  To Complete the test, she must kill a person who fits each of these descriptions within the time limit, and must kill no others before the test is complete.

There's just one problem:  Pyrre has never understood what it is to be in love.

As such, Pyrre journeys back to her home city with her two Priest-Witnesses who will watch her complete the trial, and seeks the one she feels to have come closest in the past to making her feel love, Ruc Lan Lac.  But Ruc is a commander in the foreign police force that now rules her home city, who wishes only to destroy the City's old gods and its dissent.  So Pyrre decides to forment such dissent to get close to Ruc once again....But will this truly let her not just get close to Ruc, but actually fall in love with him?  How can she know, when she's never understood what love was at all?

The story is really well done, except really for the framing device at beginning and end (note to authors: the framing device of the main character actually telling this story to someone else is VERY MUCH OVERDONE and shouldn't be used unless it really adds something.  Here, it just makes part of the conclusion predictable and doesn't add something).  The four real characters: Pyrre, her two priest/priestess witnessess Ela and Kossal, and Ruc are very well done, and the first person narration is excellent.

The story is naturally a little dark (again, our main characters are priest-assassins and our main character is questing to murder 7 people who haven't done anything wrong), and not really a funny story (there are some light parts), but it's not grimdark and works really well honestly.  And despite the framing device, the rest of the ending is very satisfying.

I enjoyed this one a lot, and look forward to someday reading the original trilogy in this universe.

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