Skullsworn by Brian Staveley. Tor, 2017. 9780765389879.
First, if you’re a fan of Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades and its sequels, stop reading now. Yes, this book is about the backstory of the most compelling character from those books, Pyrre Lakatur, priestess of Ananshael, the God of Death. Yes, it’s as good as you’re hoping. Skip the minor spoilers ahead, ignore the dust jacket copy, and read it NOW. If you’re anything like me you won’t be able to put it down.
If you’re a fantasy reader who hasn’t given Staveley a chance yet, stop waiting. His world is filled with gods new and old who occasionally walk among men, as well as other creatures and warriors that are equally as deadly. His books are right up at the top of my list with the best by Brandon Sanderson, Richard K. Morgan, Anthony Ryan, and Joe Abercrombie (which they compete with in terms of the amount and beauty of violence they contain)
Pyrre Lakatur is facing her final trial. If she passes, she will become a priestess of the God of Death. If she fails she will be killed by her Witnesses. She must kill seven people in fourteen days who fit the criteria detailed in a song. For a devotee of Ananshael as skilled with knives as she is, this would present little trouble — she has no fear of death, and no hesitation sending people to meet her god. Except for the last person on the list: she’s supposed to give her god one who made her mind and body sing with love. And Pyrre has never been in love.
To find the man she’s felt the most for, she returns to Dombâng, a sweltering town on a river delta full of deadly creatures, where he is in charge of the constables. To draw him to her she sets the city on edge, reminding its citizens of their ancient gods and fanning the flames of their resentment at the Empire that now rules them. To experience love, she may have to reveal who she truly is, and why she has come home.