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Monday, January 23, 2023

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso - Review

 

Official Author Page
Buy The Obsidian Tower HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Melissa Caruso writes books of murder, magic, and mayhem. Her published fantasy novels include the Swords & Fire trilogy (THE TETHERED MAGE, THE DEFIANT HEIR, THE UNBOUND EMPIRE) and the Rooks & Ruin trilogy (THE OBSIDIAN TOWER, THE QUICKSILVER COURT, THE IVORY TOMB), all from Orbit Books. Her debut novel was shortlisted for the Gemmell Morningstar Award in 2017, and her books have received starred reviews and made countless Best Of lists. Melissa is a tea drinker, larper, and mom, and lives in Massachusetts with her video game designer husband, two superlative daughters, and assorted pets.


FORMAT/INFO: The Obsidian Tower was published on June 4th, 2020 by Orbit Books. It is 483 pages split over 44 chapters. It is told in first person from Ryx's point of view. It is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Ryx’s magic is broken. Since the day it manifested as a child, she has been cursed to drain the life force of any living thing she touches, from simple plants to a human being, killing them. The ordinary people of her grandmother’s keep fear her, and the other mages scorn her. Ryx’s grandmother, however, trusts Ryx with delicate matters, such as overseeing the upcoming peace negotiation between two kingdoms that sit on their domain’s borders. But when a visiting dignitary is killed before the negotiations even begin, the entire region teeters on the brink of war. Even worse, a long dormant mysterious artifact in the center of the keep has suddenly been activated, leaving every nation scrambling to lay claim to the power it contains.

The Obsidian Tower is an engrossing, taut political drama, full of squabbling kingdoms and murderous machinations. Most of the story takes place within Gloamingard Castle, which soon becomes a pressure cooker of tensions as stakes begin to escalate. Not even the countries are aligned on their own goals; internal rivalries and personal goals can put a wrench into things at any moment. At the center of it all is Ryx, who is trying to balance managing these squabbles, containing a dangerous artifact, and figure out who is sabotaging the negotiations. It's a great blend of mystery and intrigue that kept me hooked.

I should point out that Rooks and Ruin is the sequel series to Swords & Fire While events are set well over a hundred years apart, I think Swords & Fire gives readers a better understanding of the politics and magic at play heading into this series. The Obsidian Tower does do a decent job of catching readers up, however, and if this storyline seems more interesting to you, I don’t think you’ll struggle at all to follow along if you want to jump right in.

Returning fans should rejoice, however, in the fact that The Obsidian Tower does not simply rehash tensions between Vaskander and the Serene Empire as the focus of the plot. While the two kingdoms are as at odds as ever, the true crisis is one that made my eyes widen. The author found a fresh angle for the new series, one that takes advantage of old rivalries, but doesn’t use them as a story crutch.

My one true gripe with The Obsidian Tower is that it rushes its beginning. There is a Thing That Must Not Happen that of course happens, but it does so within about 30 pages of the book’s beginning, before I felt properly settled into the world. It happens so quickly it felt a bit forced, a necessary step that needs to happen so the story can get to the juicy bits. And while the juicy bits redeem this rushed part, it was a bit of a rough introduction to the book.

CONCLUSION: But after this initial bumpy path, The Obsidian Tower is a strong introduction to a series that could quickly become a favorite if the sequels are as good as this one. I loved this swirling pot of agendas. If you like stories that shove a bunch of competing factions into an enclosed space to see what chaos happens, do yourself a favor and pick up The Obsidian Tower today.

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