Review: ‘Ace of Skulls’ by Chris Wooding

The Ace of Skulls: A Tale of the Ketty Jay (Tales of the Ketty Jay)‘Quit your damn sulking! This is bigger than you!’ she cried.

‘Nothing’s bigger than me!’ he shouted back. ‘Me is all I’ve got!’

Damn, I really hate to see this one end. Oh sure I get it; watching a series stretch out for book after book when the ideas ran out in book four or five is no fun and I should be thankful that Wooding is quitting while the series is still rocking. But I really like this cast, really like this world, and have no problem what so ever listing the Ketty Jay series as one my favorites of all time.

He cried out a warning, thrust out his gun and fired three shots. Two window panes exploded and a nearby door jamb suffered a grievous wound.

Ace of Skulls provides everything I already loved about the series. Best cast of characters around, plenty of adventure in a space pirate style that brings out the best of Firefly and Disney’s Tailspin, and plenty of well-timed humor. Usually gallows humor, or friends insulting each other, but I like it.

As a series ender it goes off with a bang. All the diverse plotlines that Wooding could have stretched into a TV series (perhaps staring Nathan Fillian on Fox?) were somewhat surprisingly drawn together with ease; I expected quite a few loose ends or a horribly contrived ending. Drawing them all together took an epic battle to pull off, but the result was pretty seamless. This being a much more upbeat series (despite some heart wrenching moments) it should come as no surprise that the ending verges on sickenly happy for everyone involved, but this is something I am ok with when appropriate to the series tone.

Know something even better? The one constant drag on this series, a character who never gets developed by shows up to annoy Captain Frey in every book comes back. And this time around she actually does something! No doubt she cements her spot as most hated character for what she does but I was just happy to see this series one down point suddenly show some agency; and finally stop being completely beholden to Frey’s actions. Pleasant surprises indeed.

As a series ender it was so good it is easy to overlook some of the annoyances. It was much more rushed than previous outings; lots of big battle action scenes. Sounds weird for what is essentially an adventure tale but that was never the highlight of the books for me. There was a twist that was hardly a twist at all but rather something I kept waiting from the moment it was set up. And if there was one plotline I would have liked a bit more closure on it was that of the golem Bess, but maybe I am just a big softie.

Hey, it is an ending to a series four books long. This is as close to a review as I can give. Love the book, love the series. Recommended to just about everyone looking for a fun read.

4 stars for the book, 5 for the series as a whole.

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