Overview (No Spoilers): Almost every amazing series has a book, e.g., A Song of Ice and Fire: A Dance with Dragons, that acts as a placeholder, in which pawns moves across the playing field and into position for the next installment in the series. Often, when thoroughly enjoying reading a series, I find that I begin to feel anxiety that the next book will be the dreaded chessboard. With that being said, roughly the first two thirds of The Skull Throne had the overall air of a setup for forthcoming novel, The Core. The most frustrating aspect from the readers perspective was that our beloved crew seemed to have grown complacent in their new abilities to battle the demons, therefore allowing relatively petty political problems to occupy their precious time and attentions. Surprisingly, this disarray happened almost immediately following the disappearance of the two Unifiers, Jardir and Arlen. While the political disputes grew to be borderline tedious, the addition of new POVs, new characters, and the continual growth of existing characters more than kept the reader’s rapt attentions. One of my favorite aspects of The Demon Cycle series has been Brett’s unique way of adding new POVs from existing side characters, as such, adding new layers and subsequently enhancing key events that we were already privy to from the perspective of a previous character. Throughout The Skull Throne, when introduced to a new intriguing character, e.g., Briar, I would start wondering if that person might get his or her own POV soon. My favorite new perspective, and quickly growing into the narrative that I most look forward to was that of Ashia, spear sister to Sivkah, trained by Enkido, and wife of Asome. Through her eyes we learn more about life for the nieces of Jardir, living in the Dama’ting Palace and their training with Enkido. While I’ve thoroughly loved The Demon Cycle series thus far and have been raving about it to everyone, something was bugging me regarding the overall story but I couldn’t place the problem until the last half of The Skull Throne. I realized, up until that point, no main character of importance had died, as such during suspenseful battle scenes or interactions I’d been lulled into a sense of complacency, in which I knew that the character in question would somehow survive the predicament relatively unharmed. With that being said, bravo Mr. Brett! Thank you for mercilessly crushing my bubble of security and reinstalling a healthy sense of fear regarding the fate of my favorite characters. Overall, despite showing early signs of being the dreaded placeholder novel, The Skull Throne manages to shock and take plot twists that will keep the reader guessing as to the general direction the story is headed. Whenever I start a series that I know is yet to be completed, especially with the next book still months away from release, I always have grand notions of leisurely spreading the novels out over many months, but alas, The Demon Cycle has proven to be a series that demands binge reading, leaving me now in a state of extreme book-hangover. Needless to say, I’m looking eagerly forward to reading The Core!
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- Initially I was not the biggest fan of Thamos and Leesha, especially considering she was trying to trick him into believing he was the sire of her baby. Eventually, Thamos grew on he, more so as he interacted with his family and his brother trying to kill him. His death at the hands of Jayan was devastating, especially his last note to Leesha! I kept thinking, up until we saw the jar, that he couldn’t possibly be dead because his character had grown so much in this book. Shock is good in any book though.
- Speaking of shock, last chapters were chock full of it and served to really save this book from the placeholder designation. Additionally, the devastation acted to catapult the series as a whole into a higher level of literature, in which no character is safe. I talk about several of the deaths in the comments below but by far the most difficult to accept was that of dear Rojer. He can’t actually be gone can he? Maybe it is all a trick that will be revealed in the next book! If you can’t tell, I’m still in denial!
- Who are Briar’s parents? How did Angiers’ Mum find him? We know that his father’s name is Relan and that he blames his own foolishness for burning his parent’s house but there is so much that we don’t know yet. I can’t wait to find out more of this curious character’s past! I feel as though Briar will continue to war emotionally between his two heritages.
- I wonder if we will get a point of view from Lorain. I feel like there will be more to her story, especially with regard to flashbacks. Plus what will happen when it is revealed that it wasn’t the true Lord Sament that was killed?
- When will the Krasian’s learn secrets of the fireworks?
- We finally got to see Sikvah in action and she was absolutely a bad ass! I loved that her hymen was broken during training. During the first training sequences I’d wondered about that possibility, in my typical over analyzing fashion, especially if the women eventually will have to prove they are a virgin. I appreciated the fact Brett incorporated this very real detail/possibility into the story line.
- What plan does Leesha have to stop her Warded Children?
- I can’t wait to see what scandal Gared and his little lady friend will find themselves. Also, when will Mistress Jessa show up again? I’m guessing she will emerge in the Hallow to wreck havoc.
- I really enjoyed the interactions between Ren and Shanvah. It was nice to Ren knocked down a few pegs.
- The battle scene at Anoch Sun with Jardir and Arlen was so intense! However, after the excitement of capturing the head Demon Prince, the story stalled. There was so much buildup, which turned quickly into a waiting game. How will the group ever end up in the Core? Why did Arlen and Jardir stay away from their people for six cycles? Their people fell into disarray, severely hurting the overall cause for the future. I’m not sure the reason was up to par the stated justification, and I believe the Demon Prince agreed with me!
- There was so much betrayal afoot as the Krasians fell apart. Ashia arguable suffered some of the most heartbreaking betrayal as Asome toyed with her emotions regarding healing their marriage and her brother, Asukaji tried to murder her. I felt quite satisfied as Ashia reaped her revenge on her brother. Kajivah is yet another infuriating character who grew into a force bigger than anticipated. Perhaps we will have another new POV from her. It will be interesting to see how Inevera uses her now that she is held hostage by the Damajah. Another heartbreaking betrayal was that of Melan and Asavi, who had appeared to be Inevera’s longtime allies. Asavi had been acting strange, however the betrayal caught me completely off guard.
- How will Asome handle his new, ill gotten, role as leader? I’d so been hoping that he was actually maturing, instead he was conniving and scheming for the throne. As a result there was so much death, e.g., Aleverak, Maji, Asukaji, Melan, Asavi, and Ashan. What was the rush? Will we get an Asome POV?
- Hasik, that crazy, psycho and sadistic character! What will he do to Abban? Why did he kill Jayan? I had to reread Jayan’s death at least three times before it finally sunk in that the Sharum Ka was in fact dead. Was Hasik set up to react like he did? That scene was beyond intense!
- As I’m writing this, it occurs to me that a mind-boggling number of key events and plot twists occurred in The Skull Throne. I’m sure I’m forgetting something dire and important that I should be talking about. I can’t wait to see what The Core has in store!