The Skull Throne – A Spoiler-Free Review
The Skull Throne
The Skull Throne is the 4th book in Peter V. Brett’s series, The Demon Cycle. I’ve been a big fan of this series since the very first book. It’s one of those books that I discovered on my own instead of hearing about it from others. I’m not sure why that makes it a little more special. It just does, okay? Geez. Stop yelling at me.
The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.
Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.
But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.
In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing one another and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.
In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.
Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton—rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.
All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared. . .
What I liked
People aren’t playing nice with each other anymore. Okay, so they never actually played patty cake and had tea parties, but there was always an air of civility in nearly every part of the story. People might have been biting their tongues, or walking away to keep from violence, but overall fighting was kept for the demons. That’s all gone now. There’s lots of human on human violence, in both small and large scale. Old scores settled, new ones created, shocking deaths. All kinds of good stuff.
Rojer got a lot more attention. Halfgrip has always been one of my favourite characters in the series, and we so rarely get enough of him. Marrying Krasian royalty has its benefits.
What I didn’t like
The series is starting to feel stretched out. I’ve seen it happen a lot with fantasy series. The books are doing well and suddenly we start seeing a lot of fluff between chapters. I don’t know whether this was the author’s plan all along and this is the calm before the storm or if stretching it into more books is a suggestion from the publisher. The next book was already announced by the time I started reading this one, but if there hadn’t been I would have been mad as hell. A brand new viewpoint character in the last 10% of the book, are you serious!? New subplots without tying up the others? Secondary characters practically getting their own books?! Which brings me to my next point.
Arlen is hardly in this one. That’s okay, though, right? He’s only the main character of the whole freaking series! I understand he can’t be everywhere all the time—actually, he pretty much could if he wanted to—and other things are happening that we need to know about, but I want to see him slaying a whole army of demons. That’s assuming there are still demons in this one…
There are hardly any demons in this one. What the bloody hell!? The series is called The Demon Cycle, not The Lack-of-Demon Cycle!
Despite my issues with this book, I still loved reading it. Brett writes his characters very well and he really has a solid universe established. Even if this installment had been a big steamy pile of dog shit I’d still be waiting for book 5 in October.
But for the love of the Deliverer (fans of the series will get that one) can this be the last one? Pretty please?