Chris Wooding The Ace of Skulls

The Ace of Skulls

Ace of skulls

The Ace of Skulls (2013)

All good things come to an end. And this is it: the last stand of the Ketty Jay and her intrepid crew.

They’ve been shot down, set up, double-crossed and ripped off. They’ve stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a ten-thousand-year-old Azryx city and sort-of-accidentally blew up the son of the Archduke. Now they’ve gone and started a civil war. This time, they’re really in trouble.

As Vardia descends into chaos, Captain Frey is doing his best to keep his crew out of it. He’s got his mind on other things, not least the fate of Trinica Dracken. But wars have a way of dragging people in, and sooner or later they’re going to have to pick a side. It’s a choice they’ll be staking their lives on. Cities fall and daemons rise. Old secrets are uncovered and new threats revealed.

When the smoke clears, who will be left standing? 

The Ace of Skulls is the last in the Tales Of The Ketty Jay series. This one’s a bit of a monster, but there was a lot to tie up in it, and plotting it out so that it was just as fast-paced as its predecessors without compromising on story, character, etc etc destroyed my brain quite comprehensively. Though the response has been overwhelmingly positive, some readers opined that I tried to wrap up a little too much, as there were a lot of plot threads running when I decided to finish the series at four books instead of letting it carry on. All I can say is, imagine what would have happened if I’d tried to do this in book eight.

I’ve always (privately) been a harsh critic of series that collapse under their own weight. I see hundreds of forum posts that say things like ‘Book 1-3 is great! Then books 4-7 get really slow and nothing happens! Books 8-10 are mind-crushingly boring! But 11 is a return to form! And wait till book 12, that one’s awesome!’ That is a mindset as incomprehensible to me as Pachinko addiction. I’d rather people read my books because they enjoyed each one rather than ploughing through them out of a sense of duty or in hope of some distant resolution. So I chose to end the series while I was still having fun with it, while it was still manageable enough to wrap up in a single book, rather than drift into repetition or an endless unpickable tangle of plot threads. While it was still good, basically.

And this was the hardest book of the four to write; I could sense fatigue creeping in at the edges. How many new ways could I write an aerial dogfight? How long could I tease out character arcs before they became boring? How much more obnoxious could Pinn possibly get? I sense that I slipped through a narrowing gap just as a door was slamming shut, Indiana Jones-style. Another book, I think, and things would have got tired. There’s only so much you can do with a premise before all the interesting avenues are exhausted. So it’s time to refresh and renew and come up with something different. What that will be, time will tell.

It’s been quite a ride with the guys and girls of the Ketty Jay. I’m sad to wave them off. But I’ll have fond memories of them – as, I hope, will the readers that followed the series – and that, to me, is what counts.