There are times when you read a book that’s so amazing to you that you feel the author had you personally in mind when they wrote it, that’s exactly how I feel about Mark Chadbourn’s The Silver Skull.
The Silver Skull is set in an alternate version of the Elizabethan England period. The story follows Will Swyfte — the greatest spy England has ever known. He’s handsome, daring, smart, and dangerous. He’s everything a great spy should be. With Spain on the brink of war with England and the Unseelie court pulling strings behind the curtains, Will has been tasked with saving the whole of England from certain doom. Sounds kind of silly, does it not? The core of the story is indeed a spy/adventure story. On the surface the plot feels a little like an Elizabethan James Bond novel, but in reality The Silver Skull is so much more than that.
First of all The Silver Skull is actually quite scary. There is a scene where Will must infiltrate an enemy stronghold located in an abandoned house; you can feel the tension building the deeper he gets. The pursuit that happens after he tries to escape had my hair standing on end. The story is very dark, foreboding, and surprisingly violent. I’ve never had fairies scare the living crap out of me before. Nasty, brutal, super intelligent — the fairies Mark Chadbourn creates are the ultimate super-villain. James Bond never had to deal with these guys! I love how Chadbourn has taken so many staples of epic fantasy (Olde England, fairies, dashing heroes) and has twisted them into something brilliant.
The depth of characters and the plot leave room for a sequel without leaving you hanging at the end. Chadbourn has recently signed a six-book deal with Pyr. I can only hope a few of those are sequels to The Silver Skull. I admit I was caught by surprise at how much I liked this book. I knew by page 100 that I had something really special in my hands. I recommend Mark Chadbourn’s The Silver Skull to anyone who has a head. This is a must-read, and is my favorite book so far this year.