Review: The Ace of Skulls (Tales of the Ketty Jay #4) by Chris Wooding


Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Date Read: February 22 to March 10, 2015
Read Count: 1
Recommended by:
Recommended for:

This book.


Chris Wooding must think himself such a clever, cheeky bastard storyteller. All I have to say to him is…when’s book 5 coming out?!? Because this can’t possibly be the end. I know he must be working on something. I can feel it.

This book fills me with both hope and rage, and it’s been a long time since a book has brought that out in me. It feels like forever since anything has made me want to go full fandom mode. But there’s no one around I can talk to or bounce ideas around with because no one has read this book yet. NO ONE. WHY NOT? It’s like everybody subconsciously and unanimously agreed to stop reading after The Iron Jackal, as if they all knew impending doom was inevitable, which it is but it’s so good. All paths lead to all out war with the Awakeners, and Frey and Crew are in the midst of destroying yet another city.

With war looming above them, the crew of the Ketty Jay must make hard choices. Which take them back to the beginning of the adventure, and each character’s personal journey come full circle in that each is forced to confront his or her own worst nightmare–the sole reason that forced them to join Frey’s crew in the first place–and come to terms with it. They’re also forced to choose sides: stay on the ship and fly away from war or leave the ship–and all their friends behind–and fight for Vardia. Tough decisions are made. They pit the crew against one another and almost tear the ship apart.

I love this book so much because it takes all the good things from previous books and crank them up to 11. The previous books were great in their own rights, but this one blows them all to pieces. It raises the already precarious stakes to new heights. War breaks out. Lives hang in the balance. Another Awakener conspiracy is put into play. Close calls for everyone. Every single character, beloved or scorned, main and supporting alike, is at risk. No one is safe. No guaranteed happily-ever-afters here.

The first half of the book is slow to get going; the gradual build up is near agony as you sit on the edge of your seat and wait for nothing short of total destruction. And the second half is a nonstop roller coaster ride of emotions. And total destruction does come, none too soon. I needed time to work this book out of my system, but have come to the conclusion that it’s gonna stay. It’s gonna hang around and haunt me, and I might never get over it.

I started and stopped reading so many times in the past six months because I knew where this journey was heading and wanted to delay the inevitable for a little while longer. I just wasn’t ready for this series to end and certainly not ready to leave the world of the Ketty Jay behind. So I took several months to get through the first half of the book and planned to take several more months to finish the second half, but then it got so good that I couldn’t drag it out any more. I finished the whole thing during a wedding and reception. It took a considerable amount of self-control during the procession not to scream NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO at the end of every chapter.


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* * *

* * * *  MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW * * * *

Seriously. All spoilers from here on.


“That’s right! Artis Pinn, Hero of the Skies, ace pilot, at your service! And I’m pretty handy with a shotgun too!” To prove it he pulled out his shotgun and spun it round with his finger through the trigger guard. He thought he hadn’t primed it, but obviously he had, because it went off with an ear-shattering boom and blew a hole in the roof of the tent. There was a muffled honk from above, and the world’s most unfortunate goose thumped heavily to the turf just outside the entrance.


That was love. The kind that made you stupid. The kind she’d never felt, nor let anyone feel for her. She envied him that, whatever misery it brought him. He had something she’d never had.


Malvery had wanted to be part of the war. He’d wanted to weigh in on the Coalition side. But he needn’t have worried. He should have known the Cap’n’s talent for finding trouble would get them tangled up in it eventually.

Well, we’re all in it now, like it or not.


Malvery had faith in the system, that justice would be done and the truth would out. One way or another he was going to do the right thing. Even if it did no good. Even if it got him dead.


He didn’t have his crewmates’ ability to ignore consequences and live in the moment. He’d often envied them that. They were so blithe in the face of danger.

Was that the root of courage? The art of forgetting what you’d lost if you failed?


Something welled up within him, expanding from his thin belly up through his chest, swelling until it couldn’t be contained any more. He let out a load yell. His voice rang in the confines of the cockpit. He yelled until he was out of breath, then sucked in air and yelled again. A raw, wordless sound of uncontrollable grief and fury.


A small victory in the grand scheme of things, and won with great sacrifice, but it was a victory. It was a foreigner’s victory, Silo’s victory, and all those cheers were for him.


And horrible thought it was, her face softened a little, and for a moment Crake saw in her the old Jez he’d known. His friend and companion. The woman he’d shared his darkest secret with.

He raised an arm in farewell. She just gazed at him, her head tilted slightly to the side. But thought she gave him no more sign than that, he thought he read a farewell in her eyes all the same.


Slag was an old cat. Tough as a chewed boot, but old. And of late he wasn’t as strong as he had been, nor as quick. He lived in a world of instinct and not reason, but even so, on some level he was dimly aware that his body was failing him.

Frey and Trinica

He felt her blood seeping through his shirt; or maybe it was his. He didn’t know. He didn’t know where his wounds ended and hers began any more. He just knew that she was gone, and that knowledge was everything.


A great calm washed over him, a sense of rightness. He felt complete. Then his eyes fluttered closed, and he was gone.



2 thoughts on “Review: The Ace of Skulls (Tales of the Ketty Jay #4) by Chris Wooding

  1. thebookgator April 14, 2015 / 3:04 pm

    Excellent review!
    Heh, you are reading at weddings, hm? I take comfort in always having my Kindle with me… a security book-library. Just in case I need to read.

    I for one can say I’ve been avoiding because I didn’t want it to end. And because the library didn’t have it, it made it all that much easier to avoid.


    • 1stavenue April 14, 2015 / 3:19 pm

      It was either read or sleep through it lol because it was one of those long-winded religious ceremonies that went on forever. I always bring my ereader everywhere too, esp to events where a lot of sitting around is involved.

      When you get around to this book, just make sure to set aside a whole day for the second half because you’ll want to finish it in one sitting. The end of chapter cliffhangers are agonizing, but so good.

      Liked by 1 person

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