Book Review: The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

The Skull ThroneThe Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Series: Book 4 of The Demon Cycle

Publisher: Del Rey (March 31, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I’m going to be keeping this a spoiler-free review and I won’t be revealing anything that’s not in the book description…because I get it. Even after the crazy cliffhanger Peter V. Brett left us with at the end of The Daylight War, I refused to read the first chapter of The Skull Throne that he’s had on his website for the longest time. Despite my burning curiosity, I was sure I didn’t want to know how anything resolved until I had the full book in my hands.

So have things been resolved? My feelings are mixed on this. As the novel’s synopsis states, the duel between Arlen Bales and Ahmann Jardir ended after the two so famously threw themselves off a cliff. The world went from having two Deliverers to none at all and now all the characters in the book are wondering what’s become of the two men. Well, they’re not the only ones. To be honest, I’m wondering the same thing myself! Arlen and Jardir get almost no page-time at all in this latest installment, but I’ll talk more about that later.

What we have instead are large parts of the book devoted to the Krasians and the people of Cutter’s Hollow. I saw The Skull Throne as being comprised of three parts. The entire first third is focused on what’s happening in Everam’s Bounty, and once again we have the occasional flashback. Inevera still holds immense power, and yet even her hora dice are unable to tell her the fate of her husband. Now that Jardir is out of the picture, his firstborn son Jayan attempts to seek glory for himself by pillaging his way across the greenlands, and is built up to be the book’s main villain. Abban the khaffit also gets more attention in this sequel by being assigned as his advisor – playing the Tyrion to the sadistic Jayan’s Joffrey, so to speak. Indeed, at least where the Krasian storyline is concerned, I saw a lot of parallels to A Song of Ice and Fire.

Then in the second third, we have what’s happening in the Hollow. So while the Krasian storyline might have reminded me of Game of Thrones, the events unfolding with Leesha, Rojer and Co. could only be likened to season of a daytime soap opera. Not that I didn’t fancy myself some Days of Our Lives in the Hollow; daytime serials are massively profitable for a reason, following the melodramatically eventful lives of even the most minor of characters. I’ll be the first to admit that all the scandals and baby daddy drama surrounding Leesha is surprisingly addictive, and ate up this part of this novel with more enthusiasm than I expected.

Still, demon battles can only provide so much action and entertainment, and without them, it’s clear that the Cutter’s Hollow crew can only rely on emotional relationship plot lines that border on sensationalism to keep things interesting. This part of the book was enjoyable, but it did feel like very little of import actually happened in two hundred or so pages, other than to have the folk of Cutter’s Hollow bide their time and for side characters keep up their presence. On the other hand, the Krasians’ storyline sees a lot more action. Unfortunately, all of them get on my nerves. I can always seem to predict what they’ll say or how they’ll act, because even after four books the characters are still little more than stereotypes.

This does underscore how very badly this series needs Arlen in it. I did find the lack of the series main character a bit disappointing (I suppose if there’s a bright side to this, it’s that we didn’t get to see much of Renna Bales either – I can’t say I’m her biggest fan). This isn’t the first book in which I feel the Warded Man could have gotten more attention, but nothing could have prepared me for almost not seeing him at all in The Skull Throne. I used to love Arlen’s character, but instead of absence making the heart grow fonder, I’m afraid he’s just lost much of his appeal for me.

Anyway, I mentioned earlier that The Skull Throne felt like it had three distinct parts, and it’s the last of these that raised my opinion of the entire book. Arguably, the war with the demons takes a backseat in this installment, with the big battle between the Thesans and the Krasians led by Jardir occupying the center stage. This doesn’t make things any less exciting, however. The big developments came rolling in in the chapters leading up to the conclusion, and the ending had a couple of shocking twists and holy-crap-did-that-really-happen moments that I’m still having trouble coming to grips with.

There’s one more book planned for this series so we’re no doubt being set up for something big, but I’m happy to report this one doesn’t end with another rage-inducing cliffhanger. Still, there are many questions left unanswered, not to mention a lot of plot threads as yet unresolved, especially when it comes to Arlen and Jardir. The Skull Throne didn’t quite sweep me off my feet, but I did like it – and nothing’s going to make me miss the next book and the grand finale.

ae969-new3-5stars

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Del Rey Books.

18 Comments on “Book Review: The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett”

  1. I’m glad I’m not the one who doesn’t like Renna much.

    Thanks for the review. I think I’ll agree with you on most points, but I’ll have to wait a bit to read it 🙂

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  2. sorry you were a bit mixed about this one… I hope it will be a little better with the last book. It sounds like an interesting story but I haven’t read it I confess. Who knows maybe one day.

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    • That’s pretty much my position. I can’t bring myself to read previews, excerpts, sneak peeks, etc. If I’m going to start something, I want the whole book on hand as well.

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  3. You just strongly reminded me I *need* to read “The Daylight War” as soon as possible! 🙂
    The uneven pace is indeed a trait that sometimes plagues Peter Brett’s narrative, and it would seem that this trend continues in the new books. Nonetheless the story is much too intriguing, and from what I gathered (peeking between my finger to avoid too many spoilers – LOL) it’s worth forging on for…

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    • I think I enjoyed Daylight War slightly more than this one…even with the cliffhanger that made me want to hurl the book against the wall 🙂

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  4. I read the first two and need to catch up. I really enjoyed the first though and to an extent it feels like it’s not quite kept that initial wow factor. I will finish the series though.
    Lynn 😀

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    • I would agree with that statement – book one was fantastic, and book two didn’t quite live up to it. But book three was really good again, and now I’m holding out for a big finale 🙂

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    • I know, right? I feel a bit of guilty pleasure for liking the sections with Leesha and Co. so much, because a part of me believes I’m liking it for all the wrong reasons 😛

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  5. Pingback: Review: The Skull Throne by Peter V. BrettTenacious Reader

  6. I find this book repetitive and boring..after following all parts with heart,this book proves to be a show spoiler..just for the sake of an early release the author has left quite a gap in his literary worthiness in bw previous 3 books and the 4th edition..although there were parts u cannot leave the book without completing still some parts were a pain to bear altogether..I am a big fan of Arlen and leesha..however leesha s character has grown into confused shadow of hag bruna and don’t know day from night..I truly hope for the next version to be more mature and worthy of a fine read..

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  7. I really liievThe Skull Throne! I think Brett has improved as an author and I think this book demonstrates that because the “main character” (Arlen) is barely in the book but I was still deeply invested in what happens to the other characters, especially Inevera. Leesha used to be my favorite character but she’s been making a LOT of bad decisions recently…

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  8. Renna is annoying, but Leesha is sooo much worse. I can’t stand her at all. She’s so high on herself. I hate how she puts really high demands on everyone but herself. Like, she won’t forgive Gared for being an ass when he was 12 (12!!!) but she willingly forgives, exuses and sleeps with Jardir – a massmurdering, enslaving, rapist warlunatic who thinks he is God’s gift to humanity and thus must be worshiped. What is this madness??? Not to mention Wonda is like her servant now, manipulates with her pregnansy in a really sick way, and she ruins so many lives by making poor sould into her “painted Children” even though she knows it is dangerous, but because Arlen fell in love with someone else she has revenged herself on him by doing that. And so. much. more!
    Sorry for the rant. She’s been bugging me for four whole books now…

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