Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding. Absolutely Aces.

Ace of Skulls

Read November 2015
Recommended for fans of pirates, Chris Wooding, Firefly
 ★    ★    ★    ★    ★  

Space pirates!


Enough said.

Ok, maybe not. It appears my prior reviews of this series are rather weak. Here’s why you should read The Kitty Jay series.

Firefly. In written form.


Ok, stop that! Let’s do a review!

If you haven’t followed the tales of the Kitty Jay, a mercenary–okay, freebooter–zepplin, it’s best not to start here. Most likely, you’ll understand it, but it is the capstone to a four-book series, and Wooding has done some nice things in this one, wrapping up both personal and political arcs. There’s also some baseline world-building that isn’t much explained, largely because it was done earlier in the series.

I hadn’t seen Firefly when I started this series, and honestly, all the reviews that mentioned it were lost on me. Now that I’ve seen the show, I understand–comparisons are unavoidable. We have a classic troupe of misfits with challenged pasts, a steampunk setting with flying airships and revolvers, and a frontier mentality. There’s a lot of humor, and a fair amount of daring and violence not exactly of their own making.


There’s an attractive, roguish captain with a flexible sense of ethics, a flier who is enthusiastic with violence but incredibly dumb, a talented but shy pilot, a conflicted doctor, a conscience-ridden aristocrat on the run, a socially challenged mechanic and a loyal but somewhat passive first mate. There’s even a petite but seriously socially challenged kick-ass woman.

Bonus: one irritable alley-cat and a metal golem.


But Wooding goes deeper than Firefly was ever allowed by delving into the characters’ inner lives and their dysfunctional family. This is not a charming crew of lovable rogues–these crew members are seriously flawed. However, at this point in the series, they’ve each grown enough to start thinking about life beyond mere survival.

But, an interplanetary war has a way of intruding and making survival an issue.


Take those interpersonal dynamics and plunk them into an evolving war, ancient artifacts, and daemonologists and you have a read that kept me on the edge of my seat.


If character, world-building and plot are where it’s at for you, I highly recommend this series. I’m adding it to my own library.

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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8 Responses to Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding. Absolutely Aces.

  1. Pingback: 2015 A Reading Year in Review (not the city) | book reviews forevermore

  2. neotiamat says:

    The Ketty Jay! I absolutely love these books, and have all four.

    I think your review is spot on, anyway. On the surface, the series hews to fairly well-trod paths. Airship pirates, crew of misfits, etc. But Wooding is a very good author, and so instead of being cliche, the books come off as archetypal, taking classic character and story tropes and exploring them in detail (for instance, dealing seriously with Frey’s fear of commitment). The end result is a very smart adventure series.

    I would absolutely murder for a world bible or some such, though. It’s such a fascinating setting, but there’s a lot that isn’t ever fully explained.

    • thebookgator says:

      Thanks, neotiamat. You summed it up beautifully–that they’ve become more archetype than trope. I tend to agree on a world review, or at least a wiki. I waited too long between books and had to just let some of it go.

  3. Mimi says:

    This series still amazes me, and anyone who hasn’t read it yet is seriously missing out.

    Happy new year btw! I hope you’re out partying up a storm lol.

    • thebookgator says:

      agree, it is really well written. nice arcs, changing characters, fast moving plot, funny–thank you for suggesting and encouraging!

      Oh yes. Me= book person/introvert/homebody. Yep, I’m partying in a way only a booklover would appreciate. 😉 By reading, playing on my blog and visiting bookpeople 🙂 Stay warm! Happy New Year to you as well.

  4. Stephen Fisher says:

    Completely agree. Firefly in an airship. Great series!

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