- Title: The Obsidian Tower
- Series: Rooks and Ruin #1
- Author: Melissa Caruso
- Publisher & Release: Orbit Books, June 4th 2020
- Length: 448 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes
Thank you so much to Orbit Books via NetGalley for my e ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!
Normally I would give the summary from Amazon here but I really don’t like the published summary. Here is my own that I wrote!
Mages rule all powerful in the land of Vaskandar. The most powerful are the witch lords, exercising total control over their domains. As the granddaughter of the witch lord of Morgrain, Ryx would normally be in a position of high power, esteem, and social standing. The only problem is her magic is “broken”. Born into a family of Vivomancers who restore life, Ryx’s magic only seems to drain life from, therefore killing, anything or anyone she touches.
As the warden of Gloamingard, Ryx is responsible for the safety of all within. Her family has had one main responsibility throughout the generations: guarding the mysterious magical artifact within the Obsidian Tower at the center of the castle. All of the Gloaming Lore basically states to keep the door sealed.
Already at the brink of war with diplomatic tension ready to snap, it would be a total disaster if something pushed the neighboring nations over the edge. What happens if the gate is opened? Who are the spies in the castle? What happens when hell is unleashed? Ryx is about to find out. Can she find help in the most unlikely places?
I like my summary better than the published one😂
So to begin, it should be noted that these books take place in the same world as the author’s Swords and Fire trilogy, although one does not need to read that first.
I absolutely loved the world and world-building. The witch lords all have vastly different domains and I think Gloamingard castle is exquisitely well done. Each witch lord built a bit of castle into the mix, so the resulting architecture includes everything from a hall made of trees to an entry made of bones. I could ramble about Caruso’s architectural descriptions forever but to summarize: it’s magical and everything I ever wanted from a fantasy world. The political structure, mood, diplomatic relations, expectations, pertinent lore, and even the castle staff all fit into the story so perfectly that I give Caruso a solid A+ for world building. She even tackles smell, texture, temperature, and weather as well as the vivid visual descriptions.
As far as the magic system, land magic is one of my favorite types. The trees and animals and castle and land itself all respond to the witch lord’s magic and the cohesion (or discord) is felt throughout the pages. I like when a family’s magic is tied to their domain. The magic is well thought out, explained, explored, and thoughtful explanations are provided for when magical aspects hitch or go wrong.
Part of the mystery of the Obsidian Tower is: What’s inside? What IS it even? There is a neutral sect of magic specialists called the Rookery, who come in to help Ryx work through the disaster that fell upon the castle. I never expected these guys to become the focus but the characters are funny, thoughtful, stabby, studious, and…assassin-y? Who ARE these people? I loved finding out, seriously they are an amazing found-family type of crew and accept Ryx for who she is.
Who IS Ryx? She is a great main character. Smart, resourceful, careful not to touch anyone, and a little too trusting. Unfortunately I spotted the main double-crosser/spy in the story from a mile away but it was cute to watch. Ryx is trying to sooth diplomatic relations between neighboring countries and the entire Tower disaster sends the political intrigue and plotting through the ceiling, and everyone knows how I LOVE a good bit of intrigue. I also loved the witch lord, the Lady of Owls – Ryx’s grandmother. Caruso describes the grandmotherly bond and trust so well throughout the book that I almost teared up at one point when Ryx was trying to describe her feelings. There are also demon characters (!!!!!) and a snarky fox-cat-chimaera-magical familiar that reminded me of Mogget from the Old Kingdom series. With no spoilers I also was thrilled to see a possible enemies to lovers bit developing.
One other note on some of the content: I do tend to avoid a lot of the “other” that most people love reading about, but I pushed through this one because the content is done pretty seamlessly and is well integrated, and not too heavy. There is a bi character but all she does is think some women are cute before starting to form a bond with a male. There is also a same sex couple but all they do is stroke each other’s hair and blush, and I think one of the pair was supposed to be A-sexual which is also I believe where the author identifies. Additionally there is a “they” character which confuses the shit out of me because I always think it’s multiple people on the page. I did like the character though, super funny and bluntly honest to the point of being the comedic relief during tense situations. The point is that the content is there. I felt like a lot of boxes were being checked but as I said, it was done pretty seamlessly and not a big deal.
If you like a fantasy world with equal parts political intrigue and stabbing, banter and friendship, diverse casts, hell itself and a whole lot of cool magic – definitely pick up The Obsidian Tower. I ordered the hard copy already! I can’t say enough good things about the book and really do encourage all fans of fantasy to grab this immediately!