Book Review

The Obsidian Tower

The Obsidian Tower

  • Author: Melissa Caruso
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: June 4, 2020
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Series: Rooks and Ruin #1

Thank you to Orbit and Angela Man for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: violence, blood, murder, grief, gore, torture

Guard the tower, ward the stone. Find your answers writ in bone. Keep your trust through wits or war: Nothing must unseal the Door.

Deep within Gloamingard Castle lies a black tower. Sealed by ancient magic, it guards a dangerous secret that has been contained for thousands of years.

As Warden, Ryxander knows the warning passed down through generations: Nothing must unseal the Door. But one impetuous decision will leave her with blood on her hands—and unleash a threat that could doom the world to fall to darkness.

This book was outstanding, and pulled me into the story immediately. Caruso presents us with an intriguing poem that sets the tone for the story, which Ryxander and her family live by, and then introduces us to their magic system. I loved how beautifully it was explained, including how Ryx’s magic was viewed as flawed and didn’t work how it was supposed to. Rather than growing things, hers does the opposite and kills anything it touches. And since it can’t be used the way it is supposed to, She’s isolated and starved for touch, since she can’t really touch or be touched without causing direct harm, and that has major echoes throughout the book. Ryx doesn’t quite have a place in her society:

“Everyone in a Witch Lord’s family had a place and a role, based on how much magic they had—everyone except me, ho had magic but couldn’t use it. And since I wouldn’t fit in to the hierarchies of Vaskandran society, it was easier to ignore me altogether.”

Rather than being ostracized, Ryx is given a position of importance in her family as the warden of Gloamingard Castle. This also means that she’s responsible for ensuring that the Door remains sealed. She’s got a talent for negotiating politics, so the family recognizes her value, and we get to see her in action:

“No one wanted to plunge back into the near-constant conflict that had plagued the region before the War of Ashes, but we balanced on a knife’s edge above an abyss of blood.”

Her negotiation skills are only rivaled by her ability to create fiascos, and we see plenty of that as well. While Ryx is trying to manage a visitor who has managed to unseal the Door, and accidentally died in the process, there’s also a delegation on their way trying to negotiate peace and prevent a war that her lands would be in the middle of, her grandmother who is the Witch Lord of their lands has gone missing leaving her in charge, she has no idea how to manage the Door, her family keeps showing up and making trouble, and then other people keep arriving and snooping around. On top of all of that, a group known as The Rookery is there investigating the Door. 

Naturally, this creates a lot of stress, and allows of a lot of action. There’s so many plot twists, and I really enjoyed the story. I was quickly invested in the characters and the story, even though there was at least one aspect that I saw coming a mile away. The side characters were all well-developed and interesting, and I enjoyed getting to know each of them. Ardith in particular was one of my favorites, since they were so intriguing and unpredictable, and seemed to really enjoy whatever they were doing. I have a feeling that they’re going to show up a lot more in future books. 

There’s a lot of diversity in the story. Ryx is bisexual, Ardith is nonbinary, there’s an explicitly asexual character, and it seemed to all be cool in their society—no one misgendered Ardith or had any issues with the sexuality of characters. Characters have a variety of skin tones, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else is in store.

For such a big book, it moved quickly and was fast-paced. It’s written beautifully and the descriptions are extraordinarily vivid. I loved picturing the settings and outfits that were described, and loved the story. While everything wraps up nicely in this story, and it doesn’t leave off on a major cliffhanger, I did find myself glad to have the next book on hand and wanted to immediately start reading it. Stay tuned for my next review, which should be showing up soon!

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 16

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