Epic in scale and execution, Peter V. Brett returns with a bang with his latest instalment of the Demon Cycle series entitled The Skull Throne. As a reader and reviewer I had been looking forward to this book for a long time. The final pages of Brett's previous instalment (The Daylight War) left me, like everyone else, hanging, and I just wanted to know what happened to Arlen and Jardir! Well The Skull Throne answers both this question and more, as the demon infested nights grow more dangerous and humanity fights both itself and the demonic threat from below.
I loved many things about The Skull Throne. The action was magnificently choreographed and written, and the epic and personal battles were once again grand in scale and riveting . Brett has a real knack for writing cracking action scenes, and I was mesmerised whilst reading the battles between characters like Arlen and Jardir and their demon opponents. I also thought the world building in this book was both grand and epic in scale, with a large swathe of this book being devoted to events occurring in places like Angiers, Docktown, Everam's Bounty and Hollow County. I adored learning more about the nuances of Krasian society (I loved this in The Daylight War as well), and whilst the Hollow County chapters got a little long at times I still was interested in how this former little village was growing rapidly into a major player in the region both politically and militarily. Brett's foray's into new locations really fleshed out the world for me, and it really set the stage for the final book in the series.
Brett's characterisation was again very solid in this book, with Abbhan, Rojer, Inevera, and Leesha all getting plenty of page time to shine and develop. I loved the machiavellian plots and counter-plots of the Krasians, and seeing Asome and Jayan grow and manoeuvre within the upheavals taking place in Everam's Bounty and other locations was both fascinating and enthralling. The character twists also left me stunned and shocked, with Brett weaving some massive changes into this book in the final third in Angiers that will have major ramifications on all of the players involved.
The Skull Throne also rockets along at a fast pace, and once I was able to sit peacefully and just read I found myself ripping through the pages at a rapid rate. I also appreciated the inclusion of a glossary at the back of the book in regards to the Krasians because at times it was hard to keep track of them all and their complex relationships with each other.
However there were some parts of The Skull Throne that left me frustrated. Where were Arlen and Jardir? I desperately wanted to see more of them, and their absence as the driving forces behind the story really prevented this book from reaching the dizzying heights that I thought it would at the start. I understand why Brett left them out, and I know the next book will be insane, but I still couldn't help feeling a little disappointed at their absence. I also thought that Brett could have spent more time delving into the demons and their society. The tidbits that I have gleamed from previous books have left me hungry for more, and I found myself frustrated at not really learning anything new in The Skull Throne (except for the final page... that final line from the Consort left me with goosebumps). That said, this did not detract much from my overall enjoyment of the book.
All in all The Skull Throne is another cracking instalment from Brett that should satisfy most fans and leave them hungry for more. Brett skilfully continues to build upon the layers of his world as he sets things up for the big finale in the next book. I for one cannot wait to see what is going to happen next, and I would recommend this book to anyone with even a remote interest in speculative fiction.
4 out of 5 stars!
A review copy was provided.