Recommended: yes For an introduction to a promising new fantasy series, for political scheming and world-threatening dangers to your heart’s content, for elaborate growth of the main character built steadily throughout
Summary: The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle. Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world.
Thoughts: Points for unexpected plot twists, that felt believable and acceptable. None of this plot twist where it’s too outrageous or feels like an excuse (“It was all a dream!”). I’m a little bloodthirsty so maybe I wanted something different in some cases, but I still enjoyed it. All the elements I had hoped for re: the world of darkness were satisfied and more is promised. Now the challenge is waiting for the next book to release next year.
This is a fairly hefty book, in length and content. It has a pretty slow start, with a lot of setup for the kingdoms in the world, the cultures and clashes between them, and a whole lot of political negotiation complicated by mysterious deadly artifacts. Most of the action happens in the latter half of the book. Don’t expect to rush through this; it’s best to sit down ready to learn about the world.
She just knows that sometimes you have to destroy in order to protect.
Since this is also the first book in a series, a lot of the exposition is out of the way here. I expect to walk into book two with a solid understanding of the world, characters, motivation, and very dramatic problems they’re all trying to resolve. I do hope for more of a balance in the next book between active adventure and conflict, and the scheming cultural politics.
The beginning is filled with characters I (rightfully) loathed — they treat Ryx so badly! They seem to have no redeeming characteristics and exist more as a foil to Ryx and to see what she’s had to deal with all these years. The core group that you see more of in the latter half are more developed and far more likable and interesting. I want to get to know them more!
And, of course, the magic. I love the different ways the kingdoms handle magic. In Vaskandar, mage bloodlines control states and help their cities with their magic (ex. helping with a harvest, creating chimeras for battle, etc). But the Serene Empire seeks balance in status, so mages are cuffed and their ability to use magic tied to a non-magical person. The kinds of magic, the realms of thought around it, and the debates about equality, freedom, and security resound back into current societal issues.
Also FYI for representation: this is a great example of how characters can have traits that are part of them but aren’t the only thing that defines them. Bisexual, asexual, non-binary: someone can feel any of these things and still have exciting adventures and other character traits!!! Books that investigate the experience are important as well, but I do so love when an adventure story just includes elements like this without characters batting an eye. Total acceptance to the point of it registering as a fact like “their eyes are brown.” ♥
Thanks to Orbit and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review!
3 thoughts on “Review: The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso”