You already know Staveley is a fantastic writer if you read his Unhewn Trilogy (which, if you haven't, do yourself a favor) and this novel is no different. Unlike myself, because I enjoy letting all of the words sink in through every pore, anyone can pick up Skullsworn, sink their teeth in, and finish with relative ease, as it is only about 300 pages. The writing is beautiful and mesmerizing, the world-building is vividly imagined and thoroughly detailed, and the characters will bring out personal cheers and exultations from the reader.
This is the test/trial for our strong, female protagonist, Pyrre. She is an acolyte to Ananshael, the God of Death, and to become a priestess, she has fourteen days to deliver these seven to her God. The killing comes easy, for the most part, as she has trained for this almost her entire life, but when love enters in, will she be able to pass the trial? Pyrre has never been in or known true love, at least that is what she thinks. If she can't complete her trial and find what love truly means, she will have to offer herself to Ananshael. She must travel through croc-infested marshes, deal with the dangers hidden within, and come across peoples thought dead or myth to prove herself to her God.
"A grape tastes like a grape? Of course not. Until you bite the grape, it has no taste. It might as well be a stone plucked from the cold current of some river in autumn: a smooth, chill orb, reticent, flavorless. You could hold it trapped between your palate and tongue forever, only the faintest hint of juice at the tiny breach where it was plucked from the stem. You are like that grape - plump with slick, rich sweetness, with wet purple life. The truth of life is the grape's truth: only when jaws bite down, when the skin splits, when the sun-cold flesh explodes onto the tongue does it matter. Without the moment of its own destruction, the grape is just a smooth, colorful stone. Without the foreknowledge of the woman who holds it in her hand, her anticipation, before it even passes her lips, of the mangled skin and the sweet life draining over the tongue, the grape would hold no savor."
Like I said before, the writing is beautiful and mesmerizing and that quote just did it for me. Last thing, and this needs to be mentioned, Elizabeth Knowelden killed the narration. With some tough Simon Vance-filled shoes to fit into, she was flawless in bringing out the essence and passion of the story. Each character stood alone with their own voice, which is what you need to make an audiobook worth the time and money invested. Kudos to her and I hope that Skullsworn is her ticket to more gigs.