For one apprentice assassin, the clock is ticking . . .

Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the description skullsworn. It doesn’t capture the beauty of her devotion to Ananshael, God of Death. And she’s not an assassin, but a priestess. Or she will be, if she can pass her final trial. The problem isn’t killing, as Pyrre has spent her life training for this. The problem is love. To pass the trial, she will have fourteen days to kill seven people detailed in an ancient song, including one true love, ‘who will not come again’. However, Pyrre has never been in love, time is short, and if she fails she’ll be given to her god. 

Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail. So a month before the trial begins, she returns to the violent city of her birth, where she once offered an abusive father to the god. Here Pyrre hopes to find love – and end it with the edge of her knife.


Skullsworn is a standalone novel set in Brian Stavely’s Unhewn Throne universe and centres on one of the best characters in that series, Pyrre Lakatur, the priest of the death god Ananshael (who also happens to be an assassin).

The story takes place before the events of The Unhewn Throne, and shows Pyrre as a younger woman who is just undertaking her passage into priesthood by engaging in the final trial of the order of Anashael. For the trial she has to travel to the town that she grew up in, Dombặng and fulfil the prerequisites of the trial, which is to kill seven people as depicted in an ancient song in fourteen days. Travelling with her two witnesses, Ela and Kossal, one of the things that she must do is fall in love. In order to do this, she sets her sights on a figure from her past, Ruc Lan Loc, who has now risen the ranks of the city guard.

In order to fulfil her plan, Pyrre comes up with the ingenious idea to incite a revolution and subsequently offer her services in order to get close to him.

Skullsworn is a very different beast to the rest of The Unhewn Throne. It’s a very focussed book and takes place in one location rather than the epic scale of the first three books. Furthermore, the style is very different. Written from the perspective of Pyrre herself, the prose is lush and feels a lot more personal. The book brings across Pyrre’s character and her complexities beautifully and as the book progresses it shows how Pyrre’s character develops to the person that we meet in The Unhewn Throne.

Throughout the book, Stavely brings the backdrop of Dombặng to life and imbues the setting with life.

In honesty, this book was a bit of a surprise. I had previously read The Unhewn throne, and whilst I enjoyed it, I did have mixed feelings about it. However, I thought that Skullsworn was fantastic and showed another side to Stavely’s writing.


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