The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle #4)

The Skull Throne Book Cover The Skull Throne
The Demon Cycle
Peter V. Brett
Fantasy
Del Rey
March 31, 2015
Paperback
681

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...

 

In fantasy series, the 2nd-to-last book always seems to be the weakest installment. Usually, authors have the spend the majority of these books setting things up for the grand finale. Big events are usually kept at a minimum before the final battle. While The Skull Throne does this somewhat, Peter V. Brett toned it down compared to many other authors. Most of this novel is spent getting all the ducks in a row for the last book, but it is not without excitement. Minor characters see their development beginning to wrap up and the loose threads of side plots start being sewed up.

The biggest difference between The Skull Throne and the previous three books is the lack of flashbacks. Readers know everything they need to about the major characters at this point. A new character introduced in this book gets some flashbacks, but that is it. Everything else is focused on the present and advances character development. Mind you, it is more character development than plot that is advanced in this book. While the key main characters and a few others are off doing…things…most of The Skull Throne focuses on everyone else. The Daylight War is still in effect with humans warring on humans, but the demons are just about done sitting still.

That being said, the characters that this installment does focus on get some good development. Leesha has been a bit of a hectic character but really finds her footing too. Rojer also gets a lot of focus, which is great since he did not receive much in the previous book. But these events do make The Skull Throne feel a bit slow at times. There are less demon butt-kicking scenes and more to do with politics, strategy, and people’s love lives. Not quite the same excitement of life-or-death battles, but these are things that need to happen narratively, which Brett understands.

While the action is scarcer, it is also more intense. At the start of the series, the demons were basically just animals. Animals that are very hard to kill, but essentially just vicious, hungry animals. Now, they are strategizing. They are beginning to move like armies and fight like soldiers, testing the mettle of the humans who have grown overconfident as they have become drunk on the power of magic. They know their ancestors have fought this war before, more than once, and failed to vanquish their enemies. The final book will show whether they can accomplish what the heroes of their myths and legends could not.

September 15, 2019

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