The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle #4) by Peter V. Brett
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…
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
For me this was the least enjoyable of the series so far. I found it really difficult to engage with the story, possibly as there isn’t much of a story for the majority of the book. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of scene setting and politics but I wanted more battles and active politics. I didn’t enjoy the discussions between Arlen and Jardir and found the majority of the early Inevera story to be drawn out and boring. Leesha has become unrecognisable from the strong female character of the first book (until near the end) and Rojer’s story is very badly handled.
It seems though that the author also got bored as he turned the whole story upside down in the final third and shook out all the crap he no longer needed. There are deaths aplenty, wiping out quite a few major and minor characters and decimating the lives of those that are left. It’s hard to see how the Hollow/Krasian alliance will survive the deaths of Rojer and Thamos with nothing to hold the loyalty of Rojer’s wives now that he is gone.
I also enjoyed the introduction of Briar as a new and interesting character. I would like to see more of him but I have a feeling he had a plot line to help with and that his usefulness has come to an end. Likewise it was great to see Ashia developed further, filling in her back story and giving further insights into the Krasian way of life, brutal as it is.
This is very obviously a setup book for the series finale. I hope it lives up to its potential and is more like 1-3 and I really hope it’s not like this one.