“All good things come to an end. And this is it: the last stand of the Ketty Jay and her intrepid crew. They’ve been shot down, set up, double-crossed and ripped off. They’ve stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a ten-thousand-year-old Azryx city and sort-of-accidentally blew up the son of the Archduke. Now they’ve gone and started a civil war. This time, they’re really in trouble.”
I’ve been following this series from the beginning. Retribution Falls was picked up on a whim because of its fantastic cover and I’ve been hooked on every word since. It’s not often I find a series as good as this one and every time I’ve picked up the latest on release day, it’s been like coming home. From the opening line I’m pulled back into Chris Wooding’s world and “The Ace of Skulls” was no different.
It’s hard to review the forth book in a series, because I don’t want to spoil anything for potential readers but I’ll try and keep it brief.
Darian Freye, Captain of the Ketty Jay, is good at starting fights, most of the time it’s purely accidental, and dragging his dysfunctional crew along for the ride but this time they started a civil war. They must decide which side they’re on before they’re caught in the cross fire. Frey’s choices have always been extreme and mostly selfish, whether it’s stealing from an orphanage or trying to save his own skin from Daemon’s like The Iron Jackal, but the crew follow him anyway.
As Vardia’s war rages, they find out Frey led them into danger to find the woman he loved and lost, the infamous Pirate Queen Trinica Dracken, and it threatens to tear them apart. As the story unfolds, Frey’s hold on the crew starts to slip but when Frey needs his crew the most, who will be left at his side?
The Ace of Skulls is fantastic with tonnes of action and heart pounding moments. The crew have come on so much since the first book without losing a step. I genuinely care about each of them and their individual plot lines. The dialogue between them can be hilarious at times but heart breaking at others and in this book it feels like Chris has really got into his stride.
These books really are incredible. It’s a mix of Firefly and Pirates of the Caribbean just without being cut short too soon and defiantly without Orlando Bloom. If you could somehow describe them in one word, it would be “fun” but they achieve this without ever becoming trashy. They include some really dark scenes which are quite hard to read. My particular favourite is Crake’s, a daemonist of high society, and his childlike but brutal Golum Bess. How they came to be aboard the ship is a constant theme throughout and their story runs even deeper in this one.
To experience everything The Ace of Skulls has to offer, you need to go back and read the first three first. Trust me the pay off is 100% worth it. The series goes
1 Retribution Falls
2 The Black Lung Capitan
3 The Iron Jackal
4 The Ace of Skulls
I’ve heard that this could be the last of the Ketty Jay books. If it is, it’s a perfect bon voyage. I would love him to continue the series but I would rather Chris go out on his own terms rather than suffering through a dip in quality. I’ve had such a good time reading these books and I’m looking forward to what Chris produces next. So fill up those aerium tanks one more time. You in for a helluva ride, I promise.
So whether you’re new to the series or seasoned swashbucklers I’d love to hear how you get on, so get in touch on here or twitter @Europa_Outlaw
This book is published by Gollancz and is available now