The Silver Skull: Justin’s favorite book so far this year

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Mark Chadbourn Swords of Albion 1. The Silver SkullThe Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn

There are times when you read a book that’s so amazing to you that you feel the author had you personally in mind when they wrote it, that’s exactly how I feel about Mark Chadbourn’s The Silver Skull.

The Silver Skull is set in an alternate version of the Elizabethan England period. The story follows Will Swyfte — the greatest spy England has ever known. He’s handsome, daring, smart, and dangerous. He’s everything a great spy should be. With Spain on the brink of war with England and the Unseelie court pulling strings behind the curtains, Will has been tasked with saving the whole of England from certain doom. Sounds kind of silly, does it not? The core of the story is indeed a spy/adventure story. On the surface the plot feels a little like an Elizabethan James Bond novel, but in reality The Silver Skull is so much more than that.

First of all The Silver Skull is actually quite scary. There is a scene where Will must infiltrate an enemy stronghold located in an abandoned house; you can feel the tension building the deeper he gets. The pursuit that happens after he tries to escape had my hair standing on end. The story is very dark, foreboding, and surprisingly violent. I’ve never had fairies scare the living crap out of me before. Nasty, brutal, super intelligent — the fairies Mark Chadbourn creates are the ultimate super-villain. James Bond never had to deal with these guys! I love how Chadbourn has taken so many staples of epic fantasy (Olde England, fairies, dashing heroes) and has twisted them into something brilliant.

The depth of characters and the plot leave room for a sequel without leaving you hanging at the end. Chadbourn has recently signed a six-book deal with Pyr. I can only hope a few of those are sequels to The Silver Skull. I admit I was caught by surprise at how much I liked this book. I knew by page 100 that I had something really special in my hands. I recommend Mark Chadbourn’s The Silver Skull to anyone who has a head. This is a must-read, and is my favorite book so far this year.

Swords of Albion — (2009-2012) Publisher: A devilish plot to assassinate the queen, a cold war enemy hell-bent on destroying the nation, incredible gadgets, a race against time around the world to stop the ultimate doomsday device… and Elizabethan England’s greatest spy! Meet Will Swyfte — adventurer, swordsman, rake, swashbuckler, wit, scholar and the greatest of Walsingham’s new band of spies. His exploits against the forces of Philip of Spain have made him a national hero, lauded from Carlisle to Kent. Yet his associates can barely disguise their incredulity — what is the point of a spy whose face and name is known across Europe? But Swyfte’s public image is a carefully-crafted façade to give the people of England something to believe in, and to allow them to sleep peacefully at night. It deflects attention from his real work — and the true reason why Walsingham’s spy network was established. A Cold War seethes, and England remains under a state of threat. The forces of Faerie have preyed on humanity for millennia. Responsible for our myths and legends, of gods and fairies, dragons, griffins, devils, imps and every other supernatural menace that has haunted our dreams, this power in the darkness has seen humans as playthings to be tormented, hunted or eradicated. But now England is fighting back! Magical defences have been put in place by the Queen’s sorcerer Dr. John Dee, who is also a senior member of Walsingham’s secret serviceand provides many of the bizarre gadgets utilised by the spies. Finally there is a balance of power. But the Cold War is threatening to turn hot at any moment… Will now plays a constant game of deceit and death, holding back the Enemy’s repeated incursions, dealing in a shadowy world of plots and counter-plots, deceptions, secrets, murder, where no one… and no thing… is quite what it seems.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.

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  1. Excellent! I have several of his books on the TBR stack, including this one. I’m really eager to get into his Age of Misrule trilogy soon.

  2. Definitely going to try this one!! Thanks!

  3. Yeah this book was great. It hit upon about every way that I like a book to be. Good news is that in his comment he left on my personal blog he stated that he is currently “hard at work on the sequel”. That’s great and I hope these get the attention they deserve.

  4. Hmmm, I just might have to take a closer look into this series. It sounds like an interesting adventure to take.

  5. Just dropping in to thank Justin for his great review.

    The book has been chosen as the Publishers Weekly December Book Club choice for discussion on its Genreville blog for the week beginning December 14 if anyone wants to get involved in talking about it.

  6. Thanks so much for stopping by Mark. I’m really glad you liked the review, it’s not often I get that excited over a particular book. The Silver Skull just really struck a cord with me, and I’m happy I was able to relay that into my review appropriately. When Genreville discussion gets started I’ll be sure to participate. Come back and see us again!

  7. TJS1962 /

    I’ll be looking these up. Apparently, there are two more Sword of Albion titles.
    The Silver Skull (November 2009, UK (Title: “The Sword of Albion”: April 2010)
    “The Scar-Crow Men” (February 2011, UK: April 2011)
    “The Devil’s Looking Glas”s (UK: April 2012, US: tbc)

    • April /

      I’ll agree that this series is good but it is most definitely dark in atmosphere. Not a lot of good times going on in there! I’m glad Justin mentioned that.

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