The Ace of Skulls gave mostly a satisfying ending to the Tales of the Ketty Jay but as a volume, this was a slight step back in quality.
Tales of the Ketty Jay has always been consistently good from the first book; the third and penultimate book was a huge step up for the series in which almost every element from the previous books was improved efficiently. That’s why it saddened me to say that even though I still loved this one, I didn’t enjoy reading the majority of this book as much as I did before with the previous three books.
The main reason behind my lack of enjoyment was due to the first 70% of the book—a lot, I know—being dominated heavily by Frey’s selfish and infuriating obsession with Trinicaaaaaa. I totally didn’t enjoy reading his character development. In my opinion, the story direction that Frey went through in this book almost completely negate the previous three books character and relationships development built between Frey and his crew mates. In his obsession—I wouldn’t call it love really, he was pretty much an undying stalker—to get back together with Trinicaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (which has betrayed him and his crew to death several times), he became utterly selfish, destructive, and simply don’t care anymore about his crew or anything else.
“Nothing’s bigger than me!” Frey shouted back. “Me is all I’ve got.”
And Trinicaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. I get it, love is blind, it makes you do stupid thing. Trinicaaaaaaaa. Yeah yeah blah blah blah, it still doesn’t mean that you could just ignore your friends who have been there with you through thick and thin and saved your life countless times. This installment easily shows why I dislike reading romance in my fantasy read. Skill wise, Frey also was the most useless in the team of Ketty Jay; other than being narcissistic, every single member of the crew was better at their job than him. Everything surroundin Frey was painful to read, it felt to me like the friendship he has built with the crew was put in second priority immediately the moment he decided to pursue Trinicaaaaaaaaaaa. Bro/crewmate/friends before hoe? Yeah, forget about that. This situation reminded me a lot of Kvothe’s obsession with Denna but even with Kvothe, he at least valued the friendships he has built. Other than Frey, Jez’s story arc was also another disappointment. Unfortunately, I can’t say anything about Jez without spoiling things.
Yeah, as you can guess, by the end of this book Frey truly became a character I can’t root for. The number one most important thing that made this series great, fun, and entertaining, were Wooding’s talent in characterizations and the steadily tighter bond that the crew of the Ketty Jay formed throughout their adventures and quirks. Seeing this ragtag team getting closer with each other throughout their predicament was heartwarming, pleasant, and delightful to read. However, given the choice, Frey would throw that away just because of his obsession with Trinicaaaaaaaa and that’s something I highly dislike reading and disagree with.
Now that’s out of the way, I’d like to state the positives by claiming that the last 30% of the book was absolutely incredible and breathtaking; it totally made my struggle with the first 70% of the story worth it. The side characters proved to be once again fantastic throughout the entire book and series. Their character developments and growth also reached satisfying conclusions. In the last third of the novel, Wooding brought every single plotline, background, and information established since the first book to explode brilliantly. Filled with thrilling action sequences and memorable dogfights, I was hooked completely and the series—thankfully—was able to end on a really high note.
I know I’ve talked about the negatives more than the positives here. But really, overall I enjoyed reading through The Ace of Skulls and I certainly had a great time with the Tales of the Ketty Jay. I wouldn’t call it one of my favorite series but it has entertained me and the characters were memorable. I highly recommend this series to any readers who are looking for a great steampunk fantasy or swashbuckling adventures. The storyline may be super predictable but the characterizations—even though I’m not satisfied with Frey and Jez’s—were amazing. Personally though, I think Wooding’s newest book, The Ember Blade triumphed over this series easily and that would be my top recommendation for anyone who wants to try reading his work.
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Tales of the Ketty Jay: 16/20 stars