The Ace of Skulls. Book Review

The Ace of Skulls by Chris WoodingTHE ACE OF SKULLS by Chris Wooding
Gollancz, p/b, 496pp, £8.99
Reviewed by Carl Barker

 If you aren’t yet familiar with Captain Darian Frey and the crew of the Ketty Jay then frankly, shame on you, because they’re easily the most fun books I’ve read in the last few years and you could do a lot worse than pick up the entire four-book set right about now and start reading.

For those already acquainted with the Ketty Jay’s motley crew of brigands, I’m happy to report that this final book in the sequence is exactly the grand, witty and explosive last stand send-off that you’ve all been hoping for.

In the midst of a full-on civil war that he technically started, our illustrious captain is trying to keep out of the fighting, maintaining the façade of run-of-the-mill air piracy with his crew whilst he continues to search for clues as to the whereabouts of his lost lover, Trinica Dracken. But things quickly turn south again when he teams up with a whisper-monger by the name of Pelaru, who has a lead as to Trinica’s whereabouts. In payment for information, Darian agrees to help Pelaru locate his missing half-Mane partner and unwittingly ends up once again caught in the crossfire between the Coalition and the Lord High Cryptographer. Before long, the Ketty Jay’s crew have discovered an Awakener plot which threatens to turn the tide of the whole civil war against the Coalition and plunge Vardia back into an age of darkness.

Friendships break and reform, alliances form on both sides of the war and the lives of the crew hang precariously in the balance as Darian discovers that not all is as it seems and that, by throwing himself into one last, impossible mission to save Trinica from demonic possession, he may well be casting the last die in deciding the fate of the whole bloody war.

Wooding’s strength once again lies in his depth of characterisation and every single crew member is given a worthy send-off and fitting resolution to their character arcs. At times, I veered between laughing and crying, unable to make my mind up as to which of the crew were my favourites still after all this time, but in the end deciding that you can’t help but love the whole bally lot of them. Even the ship’s mangy cat, Slag, gets a suitable send-off and I guarantee that by the time you finish this last book, you’ll be ready to go back to Retribution Falls and start all over again.

All this and the world’s unluckiest goose! I cannot recommend these novels enough. Go get them, now, I implore you.

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