The Skull Throne

Demon Cycle 04: The Skull Throne

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Synopsis

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 each other 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…

Review

If you’ve read my other reviews for this series then you are aware that I was not exactly pleased with the dip in quality the last book had taken. So displeased, in fact, that I took a four year break from the series. I wasn’t sure if I would ever return to it. But over the years I have wondered what exactly did happen here, and when I came across this book on prominent display in the library last month and realized that I still remembered enough to not have to restart, I figured I would bite the bullet and go ahead and finish this series up.

Now, over the past few days I have gone back and forth repeatedly over whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. On the one hand Brett does a masterful job with his fully fleshed out characters, engaging politically drama, pacing, action scenes, and magic system. Most of the character issues from the previous book have been toned down in favor of focus on the plot. Although hypercritical, hypocritical Leesha continues to be a detracting factor from the book’s enjoyment level.

Unfortunately, all of the positive points are hindered by the immature writing. It is very difficult to not be taken out of a scene by: awkwardly written out accents, written out sounds (BOOM!), CAPS LOCK, the use of “?!” to finish a statement, and the unnecessary, almost random focus on sex. Like many HBO shows, there seems to be some misconception here that because its adult fantasy the book must feature sex scenes. Which wouldn’t be bad per se, except that the scenes are neither necessary nor well written.

Worst of all though is having a crucial moment in a major plot point battle start with a demon pooping on some wards. How can you possibly take what follows seriously after that?

Overall I am glad that I have chosen to continue this series after my long break from it and am reading the final volume next, but these poor writing choices will always keep this otherwise incredibly fun series from being more than average.

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