Thanks to a contest run by Jeff at Fantasy Book News and Reviews, I recently received a copy of Joshua Palmatier’s debut novel, The Skewed Throne. This is the first book in The Throne of Amenkor trilogy, followed by The Cracked Throne and The Vacant Throne respectively. The final book just came out earlier this month, making this one of those mythical and elusive sets of books – an actual completed fantasy series. After reading several reviews praising this book, I was looking forward to reading it, but I ended up rather disappointed in it. It was not what I would call a bad book; it just wasn’t exactly what I would call a good book, either.
The story is told from the first person perspective of a teenage orphan named Varis, who uses her thief skills to survive on the streets. One of the Seekers, a guardsman who enacts justice by killing those the Mistress orders him to, watches Varis struggle against and kill a murderer. Impressed by her victory, this guardsman, Erick, begins training Varis in how to use her dagger. Erick enlists the aid of Varis in finding marks for the Mistress and she finds and sometimes kills these people.
The Mistress is considered to be rather godlike and infallible, but ever since a strange phenomenon called the “White Fire” fell upon the city, people have begun to quietly question the sanity of their ruler. Due to her ability to see people in colors symbolizing whether they are dangerous or harmless, Varis realizes the Mistress has commanded the Seeker to kill a woman who does not deserve any harsh punishment. It soon becomes obvious to a few citizens that eliminating the Mistress is the only way to save themselves.
The narrative begins with Varis sneaking into the Mistress’s chambers in the present and then repeatedly flashes back to the past events that lead up to it until the end of the book. This was not too jarring and added some much needed tension since not a whole lot interesting happened in the beginning of the book. In fact, it took about 150 pages for the story to pick up at all and this was not a very long book at 384 pages total. There was a lot of repetition as Varis hunted various marks for Erick and the Mistress.
The writing was acceptable for the most part. Earlier in the book short sentences starting with “I” and sentence fragments occurred far too frequently; however, this did occur less as the book went on.
It is a refreshing change of pace – although not unheard of – to see a fantasy book with an independent female lead, but something failed to click for me in regards to the character of Varis. She seemed like a very generic “orphan with a tragic past who discovers she has magical powers” type of character to me. I do not want to give away the ending (which was fairly predictable partway into the book), but it is in direct violation of two fantasy cliches that have been done to death that I can think of.
The Skewed Throne struck me as being mediocre in every way. It was neither challenging nor consistently entertaining, and I saw no qualities that would urge me to recommend it to others above many of the other, better books I’ve reviewed here.
For a different, more positive opinion of this book, read this review by Jeff at fantasybookreviewer.blogspot.com.