Author: Jamie Eubanks
Title: Hall of Skulls
Genre: Science Fiction
The Hall of Skulls tells the story of Koa Kai, provisional captain of Churi, as he tries to complete his appointed challenge to prove whether he is fit to lead his people or not. He struggles with self doubts and unexpected difficulties when his betrothed, Asher, is kidnapped and sent to another bastion, leaving him worried but determined to follow her and complete his challenge successfully…for both their sakes.
Soon, Kai finds himself traveling not only between bastions, but through time as he hunts for Asher, learning more about himself, his world, and his people’s past than he ever expected. This lends a flavor of mystery to the plot, as readers travel with Kai, looking for clues as to where Asher is and how Kai is going to escape from his bastion’s past to find her.
More thoughtful than the title might imply, the novel explores a variety of themes, from the isolation and diminished physical capabilities born out of an increasing dependence on technology to a genetic predisposition to violence and the morality behind drastic security measures to protect one’s people. Kai proves himself to be a capable leader as he navigates these concepts, sharing solutions where his people are concerned without suggesting that his decisions are perfect for every society or situation. In fact, Kai comes off as being delightfully humble by the end of the book, realizing how little he knows and how much he still has to understand about his world and his place in it.
The book focuses more on relationships and decisions than action and adventure, per se, and it can feel like it takes some time to get going, particularly since readers find out about the kidnapping before getting a chance to know Kai or Asher and thus might not be as emotionally invested in Kai’s troubles as they become later. However, once the novel gets past the exposition and world-building found at the beginning, it finds its stride and keeps things moving nicely.
With a pinch of humor and some unexpected plot twists along the way, the author provides a satisfying examination of the implications of Kai’s actions and those of Asher’s kidnappers while leaving a few aspects of the novel open for potential installments in the future. Though the novel is undeniably centered around Kai, other characters are allowed to shine as they intersect with his story, offering a more complete look at the people and society that influences Kai and is, in turn, influenced by him.
The story can feel light on descriptive details, though, as the physical world is sketched rather than richly explored sometimes, but given the focus of the book, this feels appropriate, as the characters and society matter more than the environment’s exact appearance.
Offering a delightful tale of sacrifice and exploration, duty and devotion, The Hall of Skulls is perfect for readers who like an immersive tale rich in character interactions, science, and the morality behind life decisions. This novel gives readers a new way of looking at life and some of the problems facing modern society while beautifully focusing on one man’s struggle and the friends he finds along the way.
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