I received an uncorrected proof copy of The Obsidian Tower in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Melissa Caruso and Orbit Books.
“There are two kinds of magic.
There is the kind that lifts you up and fills you with wonder, saving you when all is lost or opening doors to new worlds of possibility. And there is the kind that wrecks you, that shatters you, bitter in your mouth and jagged in your hand, breaking everything you touch.
Mine was the second kind.”
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Caruso’s debut trilogy Swords and Fire, with The Unbound Empire being one of my favourite novels of 2019. The Obsidian Tower, the first entry in the Rooks and Ruin series, was a book that I had to pick up as soon as I was given the chance.
Like Caruso’s previous trilogy, The Obsidian Tower is set in the world of Eruvia. The action takes place at least 150 years after the events of Swords and Fire and follows Exalted Ryxander in the first-person perspective. Ryx resides in Morgrain and is the granddaughter of the powerful and immortal Witch Lord, The Lady of Owls. Ryx is a vivomancer but her magic is flawed and so twisted that it is dangerous. Anyone she touches dies, which, to her dismay, has happened a few times. At twenty-one years old, her role is to look after the castle in Gloamingard and at the beginning of the narrative, she is hosting a conference with neighbouring Alevar and the Serene Empire. Her castle is full of nooks, crannies, and secret passages, many of which seem only known to Ryx, as well as being host to a mysterious tower with a magical door which must not be unsealed. What lies behind that door is hugely important to the story, as are the attendees of the meeting, and a team of magic problem-solvers known as the Rookery.
“Guard the tower, ward the stone
Find your answers writ in bone
Keep your trust through wits or war:
Nothing must unseal the Door.”
Caruso is a terrific writer who weaves fascinating and intricate fantasy tales that are heavily focused on magic and politics. In The Obsidian Tower Caruso also introduces mystery elements to the mix which fit perfectly with her style. Returning to Eruvia again was a great experience which underlines the fact that I get completely engrossed with Caruso’s work. It would be easy for a newcomer to pick up this novel without having read any of the author’s previous work. I would say my enjoyment was heightened by an extra 5-10% because I was already familiar with the way the magic works, the past relationships of the Serene Empire and Vaskandar, and the technology of the world. That being said, for first-time readers, everything that they need to know for this story is explained fresh and well here too, such as how the magic works, what the Chimeras are, the powers of the Witch Lords of Vaskandar, and the relationship between the Serene Empire’s Falcons and Falconers, etc…
The Obsidian Tower is brimming with many well-crafted and colourful characters presented through Ryx’s eyes. My personal favourites were the formidable ruler of Morgrain The Lady of Owls, the mysterious Severin, the envoy from the neighbouring Alevar, the talking fox-like Chimera and castle guardian Whisper, and the loveable oddballs that make up the Rookery. Ryx’s deeply personal portrayal was intriguing to follow. It as interesting to walk in the shoes of someone who is unable to touch, feel, or love through fear of harming others. At this point, I don’t think she is quite sure of her sexuality. We go on quite a journey with Ryx here. A personal journey as the events themselves are restricted to taking place in and around Morgrain. Eruvia is a huge world and I am sure we will travel to many of its areas in the upcoming Rooks and Ruin books. It’s also worth noting that The Obsidian Tower features a gender-neutral character and LGBT emotions too.
The Obsidian Tower is an entertaining, well-written, and expertly-paced novel with incredible magic schemes and a great cast of characters. What is behind the magical door and in the titular obsidian tower and how will it affect Ryx, the Rookery, and Eruvia? I guess you’ll have to read the novel to find out. The Obsidian Tower is a highly recommended read, as is Caruso’s previous trilogy.