Being a newcomer to this series, I was immediately taken by this books strong setting and its well-conceived world. There is an immediacy and urgency to proceedings, and I was soon invested in each characters fate. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the crew interacted with each other, particularly the use of sardonic humour and squabbling.
Captain Frey is the archetypal anti-hero: ambiguous, scheming and self-serving. It made a refreshing change to have a central character behave, well, like on of us. Too often in fantasy literature we have people always doing the right thing and acting nobly; here, there is no book of ethics and no rules, just survival and lots of sharp-tongued banter.
The story boasts plenty of action and incident, with the pacing spot on. Ancient civilizations are nicely juxtaposed with technology, so too is the corporeal with the supernatural. Chris Wooding allows his imagination plenty of free rein, and is clearly having a lot of fun in the telling of his story.
Against the backdrop of a Steampunk world, we have romance, horror and a surrogate family in the form of the crew of the Ketty Jay. There really is a minefield for them to navigate, and thanks to the break-neck, desperation of the action there is never a dull moment. This epic final instalment makes it clear that a big game is finally being played out; there is no certainty who will be left standing at the end. There are consequences, loss, regret and remorse.
The Ace of Skulls is a soaring, good old-fashioned, rip-roaring adventure. Fans of Steampunk and fantasy in general, are sure to enjoy this; Wooding has demonstrated a fine grasp of what makes for solid adventure and thrills.