Not a lot here to really make this book shine, and a few things that let it down.
Very lazy plotting – we just get thrown about here and there. That could be part of the fun, and there is something of the D & D silly campaign where a hundred unlikely events are meant to happen to our intrepid adventurers. Still it gets a bit too silly for me, and I’m getting to not really care that much about the Warrior in Jet and Gold who can just turn up magically along with any era shaping magical item. Same with the deadly foe – far too lazy in just saying, “Oh, sure, they all got routed and defeated, um, and a million of them got killed … but, ah, NOW there’s, um TWO MILLION, and the bad guy didn’t really die, and they’re back!”. I mean, who cares? Either something magical suddenly shows up that will defeat them all, or, even if you do, suddenly they’ll just somehow regroup to be back to threaten again in the next sequel. The heroes are embarrassingly standard in the way they can fight all day hugely outnumbered with dwindling remains of their army being cut down around them, but, of course, not suffer a scratch and have nothing more than a bit of fatigue. Yisselda as heroine becomes utterly clichéd: here, let me just stand to one side being feminine and either helpless or emotionally/sexually supportive. Oh, and Hawkmoon starts getting all broody – save me from broody heroes! Ugh.
I was just about never ‘in’ the story, I was always outside looking in, and frequently shaking my head at the level of guff.
The casual background of atrocities gets a bit sickening after a while, and also feels lazy and contrived, “Oh, yeah, THIS guy was so bad, he, um, got people’s babies and killed them. (Hang on, I’ve done that one). And then he ate them! (Oh, done that one too). In front of the mother!!! (Yeah, that’ll do).” This gets offensive pretty quick, especially when I think it’s meant to be, you know, hard core – Moorcock saying his bad guys are, well, really bad – it’s spotty nerds who’ve never punched someone in their life trying to impress each other with fight scenes. The author feels nothing for these throwaway victims, we’re not really meant to either, they’re just a bit of local colour (cf. the similarly blithe use of comic atrocity in Goodkind's second rate Wizard's First Rule). Thus D’Averc can simply flip from villain to hero because all those people he blithely killed were, remember, only MINOR characters.
It’s all pretty bleak: I could maybe cope with the lazy plotting if we were having some fun on the way (as Fafard and the Grey Mouser at times do without this oppressive background), but the only hope of the book is the action. It’s hard to care about the action when we know the author can and will just randomly pull out something from nowhere with no reference to a wider world (oh, hey, here’s an ancient civilisation with vastly superior technological weapons we’ve stumbled onto. Phew, that was lucky).
So, after giving The Jewel in the Skull a bit of a rap I’m not so keen to move onto volume 3 (except to work out whether I should just clear this stuff from my bookshelves altogether).