Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Series: Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
Published by Tor Books on April 25, 2017
Format: ARC, print ARC
Buy on Amazon
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.
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.
"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets." —Library Journal, starred review, on The Emperor's Blades
“Music is inextricable from its own unmaking. Each note is predicated on the death of those before. Try to hold them all, and you have madness, cacophony, noise.”
I’ve made no bones about how much I love Brian Staveley’s writing, and when I saw he was bringing one of my favorite characters back for her own story I was overjoyed! The bad news is that this took a bit for me to feel pulled in, but full disclaimer – I have been in the most epic of epic reading slumps. Literally the worst slump since I learned how to read. I’m pretty sure that’s what my disconnect was all about but the start was a little heavy, a little purple-y, but that could just be me right now.
This story is about Pyrre, who became one of my ultimate faves in his Unhewn Throne series, and it was super awesome getting inside her head and learning some of her past. This story is set before the Unhewn series and is about Pyrre becoming a Priestess for her god (the god of death). She decides to go back to her homeland to carry out her Trial with Ela and Kossal as her Witnesses. Ela is enchanting and I would happily devour a stand alone or more of just her (please, Brian!!), and Kossal was the perfect compliment to both women. Pyrre, of course, knows that she must give to the god someone for whom she loves but she can’t quite decide what love is and how to get to that point. Ela and Kossal can only do so much to help her understand what love is, and there were some serious philosophical conversations within Pyrre’s own head on this matter. Her story is a tense waiting game to see if she’ll succeed or meet her god.
“The goddess makes us in endlessly different ways. Our Struggles are no more the same than our face.”
Pyrre is fascinating to crawl inside of: her childhood was shocking, her training relentless, her mind a warren of endless entertainment. I loved going between deep philosophical debates on love and worship to seeing her biting humor and adventurous spirit. Seeing her find the one person she might be able to love and going through that journey with her was tough. The synopsis tells us what she has to do so as I’m falling for Ruc I’m all upset that his death is coming and I would go back and forth between glaring at Staveley and feeling sad for Ruc and mad at Pyrre. Even in my horrific slump Brian Staveley knew just how to draw me in.
“All that they have is the old stories, stories of snakes in throats and violets in eyes – those stories are their only weapon, and stories are only weapons if you repeat them.”
“As long as they remained unspoken, they could be denied, disowned, but saying a thing gives it strength.”
This book is a true stand alone but I can’t recommend the Unhewn series enough, Pyrre is a supporting character there so you really can read this without them, but it’s the same world which always makes the reading that much more interesting I think. This book has all that I love in stories: action, adventure, love, sex, humor, myths, legends, and fun. It is an easy read being pretty short for a fantasy which is a great way to break into the genre if you’re not already a fan – or don’t like reading super long books. Brian Staveley is a must-read author.