Ferran, Mireia and Riffolk are called into the snowy mountains, chasing Mireia’s visions of a darkness at work. When they find a mining village deserted except for a woman in a crow’s cage, they venture into the depths in search of survivors – and find an older evil than they have ever faced before.
Honesty first: I didn’t enjoy Skinshaper as much as its predecessor Rend the Dark. Having left the group going in search of whoever – or whatever – had put the village of Groveland Down in harm’s way, I expected Skinshaper to pick up the story. Instead, their excursion into the mountains felt like an unrelated episode rather than a diversion, and I didn’t warm to new narrator Riffolk.
Whilst it’s interesting to see the difference between Hil’s perception of his colleague and the naked truth (Riffolk is every bit as cowardly as Hil, if not more), Riffolk had less charm. It also felt like we saw less of Mireia (I’m shamelessly partisan here; we saw less Ferran too), which was a great loss for me – I have a real soft spot for her – although she did get her chance to shine at the climax.
Riffolk himself undergoes some fairly major developments in response to his experiences in Skinshaper, but I couldn’t help but recall how vividly Aldis Janen was brought to life in Broken Banners. Where Broken Banners was largely driven by two developed characters with a strong relationship (Elinor and Conn) and could spend time introducing others, I think Skinshaper suffers from swapping to another new point of view and keeping its established characters in observed (rather than primary) roles for most of the book.
There’s a chilling tale here with wonderful detail relating to Talan, the Order, and all those tattoos (clever clever; I liked that element a lot). There’s also an interesting development (shh, spoilers!) at the end that will certainly bring me back for the next instalment. That said, the prose felt a little awkward in places, which combined with some of Riffolk’s rough edges to make me think that in some respects the book felt rushed and would benefit from a final coat of polish (NB I read an ARC, so this may be exactly what it’s getting).
Overall, it was okay and the worldbuilding is excellent as always, but the story wasn’t as engaging as Rend the Dark or Broken Banners. A bit like A Reaper of Stone, I think this needed a little more breathing space for the amount that’s packed in.
Skinshaper (Echoes of the Ascended | Ferran 2) will be released on 15th March 2016.
I received a copy of Skinshaper from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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