British Fiction Focus

Romancing the Throne: Revealing Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne is over, for the moment, but the world Brian Staveley created in the course of said series is the kind of gift that keeps on giving. You don’t have to take my word for it, folks—just see Skullsworn: a standalone prequel starring Pyrre, the priestess who played such a pivotal role in The Providence of Fire, as she returns to the city of her birth to earn her stripes as an assassin under the auspices of Ananshael.

Staveley himself revealed the unutterably lovely North American cover here on Tor.com a couple of months ago, but for its publication in the UK, designer Matthew Garrett was tasked with creating a look that would link back to the British editions of the aforementioned trilogy—all of which featured swords and borders—at the same time as suggesting Skullsworn was something new, something that could potentially be read by any and all interested parties as opposed to only those who’ve completed The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne.

What Garrett came up with ticks both of those boxes, I believe. His cover incorporates elements of the text’s distinct setting—“the delta city of Dombang,” inspired, apparently, by both Venice and Cambodia—into a vibrant border and a rather romantic-looking landscape. That’s pretty fitting considering that Staveley says Skullsworn is really “a romance novel,” albeit one “with monsters, murder, and buckets and buckets of blood,” which is presumably what the sword at the centre of Garrett’s most excellent assemblage alludes to.

Skullsworn-by-Brian-Staveley-UK

That’s not all I have for you this afternoon either. What say you all to a proper synopsis?

Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the description skullsworn. It doesn’t capture the beauty of her devotion to Ananshael, God of Death. She is not an assassin, but a priestess. Or she will be, if she can pass her final trial. The problem isn’t killing: Pyrre has spent her life training to kill where needful. The problem is love. To pass the trial, a skullsworn must offer their partner to Ananshael—but Pyrre has never been in love, and time is short.

Pyrre throws herself into the other aspects of her trial—until she’s arrested by the brilliant, enigmatic Commander Ruc Lan Lac. He might be Pyrre’s last chance at love, so she must stay close—even as he investigates the murders she’s committing. It’s a dangerous dance, trying to fall for a man whilst worshipping a god he loathes. If she succeeds, she must betray her only love. And if she fails, a violent death awaits them both…

Believe it or not—I’m not sure that I do, in truth—but it looks like Skullsworn will be available in the UK several days before its Stateside street date, on April 20, 2017.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and Tor.com. He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.

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