Release: April 25, 2017
Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess attempting to join the ranks of the God of Death.Review:
Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the word skullsworn. It fails to capture the faith and grace, the peace and beauty of her devotion to the God of Death. She is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer--she is a priestess. At least, she will be a priestess if she manages to pass her final trial.
The problem isn’t the killing. Pyrre has been killing and training to kill, studying with some of the most deadly men and women in the world, since she was eight. The problem, strangely, is love. To pass her Trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the ten people enumerated in an ancient song, including "the one you love / who will not come again."
Pyrre is not sure she’s ever been in love. If she were a member of a different religious order, a less devoted, disciplined order, she might cheat. The Priests of Ananshael, however, don’t look kindly on cheaters. If Pyrre fails to find someone to love, or fails to kill that someone, they will give her to the god.
Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to quit, hates to fail, and so, with a month before her trial begins, she returns to the city of her birth, the place where she long ago offered an abusive father to the god and abandoned a battered brother—in the hope of finding love...and ending it on the edge of her sword.
I'm going to be honest and admit that I haven't finished the last book in Staveley's Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne trilogy yet. I adored the first two books but I can't bring myself to read The Last Mortal Bond because I'm not ready for it to be over. One of my favorite characters from that series is Pyrre! She's the character that the others are wary of in a series full of badasses and professional killers.
Skullsworn is a standalone that takes place in the same world as Staveley's Tang Era-inspired debut trilogy. It works as a prequel that focuses on the origin story of my favorite Priestess of Death.
Pyrre Lakatur, as an acolyte of Ananshael, has been training with some of the most deadliest men and women in the world to become a deadly assassin since she was eight. She's now ready to attempt her final trial that will allow her to become a full-fledged Priestess of the God of Death.
It won't be easy. To complete her trial, she must kill seven people in fourteen days, all of whom are tied to an ancient song, which includes “the one you love/who will not come again”. If she fails, she'll be put to death at the hands of her witnesses, Ela and Kossal, as an offering to their God. The problem is that Pyrre has never been in love. The only solution she can come up with leads her back to her hometown and the only man that has ever caught her attention.
This book was everything I wanted it to be! We learn of Pyrre's humble beginnings and even though she escaped once, she ends up back in a place she never wanted to be. We meet the man, Ruc, that she intends to fall in love with.
I just... loved every damn thing about it this book. It was full of conflict and macabre humor. And I loved how we got to be in Pyrre's head for the whole story! I didn't think I could love her more but I do after this book! I went into this book expecting blood and gore but I wasn't expecting it to take a philosophical approach to trying to define what love is but I'm so here for it! I'm here for all of it!
I devoured the book in one sitting. It was a fast-paced and masterfully told story. It was full of twists and turns that I had no hope of predicting the ending. This book was also wonderfully diverse and body and sex positive. I loved that it was delightfully feminist in a story filled with killing and death. Like the original trilogy, I found this refreshingly original and loved how it deviated from how a lot of fantasy books portray women. I would love to see more books like this in the genre.
The book comes to a satisfying conclusion but it still left me wanting more. I want a series chronicling her life up until she shows up in The Emperor's Blades. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!?
If you haven't read the original series, you can easily pick this book up first. I loved it and I can't wait to see what Brian Staveley writes next! I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that we'll get a standalone book about the Flea at some point.
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley