Skullsworn by Brian Staveley – Book Review


Skullsworn by Brian Staveley (Pan Macmillan, Tor)

Review copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi

RATING: 4/5

 

The Story

Pyrre is on trial. She has committed murder. But she isn’t a criminal. She is Skullsworn, acolyte of Anashael, the God of death.

To become a Priestess, she must complete the trial, a 14 day long mission to fulfil the words of a song. The song is a list of offerings to the god, victims of the acolytes training in death. One such offering must be “the one who made your mind and body sing with love”, and so Pyrre travels to Dombang, town of her birth, in search of a man from her past.

If she can fall in love with him, and then kill him, she is certain she will pass her trial. What awaits her in Dombang, however, is much bigger than her trial, and the requirements of her trial may not be as easy to fulfil as she believed. If she fails, all that awaits her is a violent death. She must not fail.

 

The Review

Phew! I feel like I need a breather.

Brian Staveley’s novels are truly epic. He has an uncanny ability to create entire worlds with a vast array of characters, religions and cultures. I was first introduced to Pyrre when I read the Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne series. Skullsworn is a prequel to those novels, and works brilliantly as a stand-alone story, so is perfect for readers new to Staveley’s work. Pyrre was always an intriguing member of the Unhewn Throne cast, however, so I’m delighted to learn more about her story.

She’s different in Skullsworn, though I can definitely see how she’ll evolve into the gruff, ferocious woman from the Unhewn Throne series. She’s a little more uncertain but I think she’s also more willing to take risks and accept and experience her own emotions. She’s a refreshing take on a female protagonist. One of the things I love about Staveley is that you’ll find no stereotypes in his work.

In Skullsworn you’ll also find no black and white. Each individual could be considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but there is always something sympathetic to create a bit of tension and interest. It would be incredibly easy to view Pyrre and the other Skullsworn as evil murderers with a vile and depraved religion, but when Pyrre explains how she feels about Anashael and death, it kind of makes sense! Anashael is not a malicious god. Death should be painless and quick, the furthest from suffering. His followers also accept that there is no sacrifice in death without having known the beauty and wonder of life. Many of Anashael’s followers are great lovers of the arts, in particular music. It is these intricate details, so thoroughly explored, which take Staveley’s novels from the run-of-the-mill fantasy adventure to the masterclass in expert story-writing.

Skullsworn, at its centre, feels like an adventure novel. There are plenty of swashbuckling action scenes, intriguing plot twists and warring cultures to stop the novel from being a bit of a slog – it’s a big book! The novel is certainly not for the faint of heart, and I think to really enjoy it you’ve got to love reading. It’s long and involving and there are complex themes which can take a bit of thought to wrap your head around. Luckily, Staveley is great at knowing how to get this information across. He tells you what you need to know and when, but doesn’t rely on giving the reader too much description at any one time. By the end of the novel you’re left with the feeling that you really understand the world he’s created.

You’ll also be left with the satisfying feeling of a story well-finished. He really knows how to end a book. So often, novels fall at the final hurdle. The longer the book, the greater the build-up, and often the finale can seem a little lacking in comparison to the rest of the story. In contrast, I think Staveley’s novel is weakest in the middle. We’re met all of our characters, Pyrre is well into her trial and at times I feel the story may have been progressing a little too slowly for my liking. I do wonder, however, whether a faster pace would have made the ending a little less enjoyable.

Skullsworn is a great adventure with a dash of romanced, wrapped around a core of characters who will play with your emotions (and even your moral compass), I can’t recommend this novel enough. Just make sure you’re not going to be too busy for the next couple of weeks.

Skullsworn is released on 20th April 2017.

Staveley can be contacted via his website, Twitter and Facebook.

 

Ida by Alison Evans is out TODAY


I reviewed Ida last month when I recieved a copy via NetGalley, and the book is now available to the general public.

If you like fantasy teen lit, you’ll love this. Check out my review here, and then go buy it! 😀

Gingernut x

She Wolf by Sheri Lewis Wohl is out TODAY


If you’re a fan of the supernatural and love a bit of romance thrown in there too, this is the one for you.

Read my review here.

Get your copy of the book here:

Gingernut x

A Court of Mist And Fury


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PLEASE READ THIS BOOK! ….But read the first in the series first, or else it’ll all be ruined for you. Romance, drama, action, warriors, magic – it has everything.

A Court of Thorns and Roses – buy it now! Amazon

I’m having the biggest book hangover. I literally cannot get it off my mind. UNPUTDOWNABLE.

Third one doesn’t come out until May … it’s gonna be a loooong wait 😦

 

She Wolf by Sheri Lewis Wohl – Book Review


She Wolf by Sheri Lewis Wohl (Bold Strokes Books Inc.)

Genres: Paranormal, Romance, LGBT

RATING: 3/5

 

The Story

Lily Avergne was once the daughter of a royal line, destined to marry a man she didn’t love. That all changed on the eve of her wedding night when she was attacked by a werewolf, an event which would change the course of her life forever.

Over four hundred years later and Lily is now a formidable Jäger, tasked with hunting the very thing she herself has become. She is the best at what she does, and lives for her job. Nothing else matters.

Her latest mission takes her to the small town of Colville, where a spate of murders has a familiar ring to it. Teaming up with the local Sheriff, Jayne, Lily begins to uncover unsettling truths about the perpetrator of these crimes, which lead her to question everything she has ever known about her past life.It is only with the help of her small team, and Jayne, that she is able to face up to her demons and finally find the love she has always secretly dreamed of.

The Review

She Wolf is an entertaining, if somewhat predictable story. A great bit of escapism but it lacks a little ingenuity which could take it from a by-the-numbers fantasy novel to something a little more special.

The novel begins with an opening prologue set in the 1500s. Although this is necessary for the storytelling, the way Wohl has decided to write the passage – as though it was written all those years ago – is a little jarring to my eye. As a 21st century reader, it was a little more effort than I wanted to use to decipher the phrasing in order to easily understand what was going on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not at all a difficult read. I just like it to be really easy. I like the idea of it, but for me Wohl didn’t manage to pull it off. As it is the first passage in the novel I fear it may have set the rest of the book up for more scrutiny than it otherwise would have deserved.

I was worried at first it was going to be a flimsy story with little substance, but I’m pleased to say this was not entirely true. Interesting characters with distinct personalities were defined very early on, and by the first three chapters I’d already decided who I liked and who I didn’t. It’s no easy feat to create characters who are wholly real and relatable, particularly when we are dealing with the supernatural, and it is a credit to Wohl’s imagination and understanding of people that she was able to do this so early on in the novel

The plot itself, though predictable, is somewhat original. A werewolf hunting werewolves for hundreds of years is a really interesting idea which could have been played in a myriad of ways. I feel that Wohl missed a bit of a trick here. Nothing really came of this potential dilemma in the end, and though the author could be saving a really exciting bit of story for a future novel, I would have liked to see a little of the conflict which would undoubtedly have arisen in this situation. Of course, Lily has been doing this job for hundreds of years, so maybe hunting down her own kind doesn’t phase her anymore. Nevertheless, there are so many opportunities with this plot point that I would have liked to see it explored further.

There is one other plot decision I can’t ignore. Lily and her team end up staying at Sheriff Jayne’s house, and they decide they need to come up with a reason for this because the townsfolk would otherwise get suspicious. That is absolutely fine, but the reason they decide on, which they claim is the only story that will work, is nonsensical. It reads as a ludicrously obvious ploy to begin a relationship between two characters who I don’t really feel are right for each other, and it is these sorts of decisions which hold the novel back from being a really good supernatural story.

Before I give the impression that She Wolf was a complete letdown, I did complete the book, and I must say I enjoyed it. It is a brilliant piece of escapism, with very real threat to characters the reader does grow to care about. Two side characters caught my attention in particular; a witch and a necromancer who, it was hinted at, may be two of the most powerful supernatural beings in the book. When they join forces, the stuff they’re able to do is very cool, and I’d love a follow-up novel focusing on them.

Along a similar vein, I loved that Wohl created a likable and ‘friendly’ necromancer. So often in supernatural fiction necromancers are evil beings who want to raise a zombie hoard and take over the world, so a benevolent guy who just wanted to help people pass on was very refreshing. Sadly, if I remember correctly the words ‘go into the light’ were used – a little too cliché for my tastes.

On a final note, the novel feels a little like it was padded out. I felt the author repeated herself a lot, with characters thought processes making points which I was alreadly well aware of, as they’d been discussed three or four times already. At one point I was concerned it was going to threaten the well-developed characters Wohl had created – even in the depths of love I’m pretty sure most people do actually have more than one thing on their mind.

Each of these niggles are just that, niggles. None are huge, glaring errors which completely ruin the book, but together they give the feeling of a somewhat amateur attempt at storytelling.

If you want a bit of a fantastical adventure with a good balance of romance, threat and mystery then this book is for you – just don’t expect it to blow your mind.

She Wolf is available for purchase from 17th January 2017.

Sheri Lewis Wohl can be found on Twitter and Facebook.