The Silver Skull: Justin’s favorite book so far this year

fantasy  book reviews Mark Chadbourn Swords of Albion 1. The Silver SkullThe Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn

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.


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JUSTIN BLAZIER retired from FanLit in September 2012 after entertaining us for 3 years. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on Tolkien. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. Justin lives in a small home near the river with his wife, their baby daughter, and Norman, a mildly smelly dog. He doesn't have much time for reviewing anymore, but he still shows up here occasionally to let us know how he feels about stuff.

View all posts by Justin Blazier

6 comments

  1. Excellent! I have several of his books on the TBR stack, including this one. I’m really eager to get into his Age of Misrule trilogy soon.

  2. Definitely going to try this one!! Thanks!

  3. Yeah this book was great. It hit upon about every way that I like a book to be. Good news is that in his comment he left on my personal blog he stated that he is currently “hard at work on the sequel”. That’s great and I hope these get the attention they deserve.

  4. Hmmm, I just might have to take a closer look into this series. It sounds like an interesting adventure to take.

  5. Just dropping in to thank Justin for his great review.

    The book has been chosen as the Publishers Weekly December Book Club choice for discussion on its Genreville blog for the week beginning December 14 if anyone wants to get involved in talking about it.

  6. Thanks so much for stopping by Mark. I’m really glad you liked the review, it’s not often I get that excited over a particular book. The Silver Skull just really struck a cord with me, and I’m happy I was able to relay that into my review appropriately. When Genreville discussion gets started I’ll be sure to participate. Come back and see us again!

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