Monday, June 1, 2020

Review: The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower (Rooks and Ruin, #1)
The Obsidian Tower (Rooks and Ruin #1) by Melissa Caruso
Publication Date: June 2nd, 2020
Paperback. 528 pages

About The Obsidian Tower:

"As the granddaughter of a Witch Lord of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige. But a childhood illness left her with broken magic that drains the life from anything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. So Ryx has resigned herself to an isolated life as the warden of Gloamingard, her grandmother's castle. 

At Gloamingard's heart lies a black tower. Sealed by magic, it guards a dangerous secret that has been contained for thousands of years. Until one impetuous decision Ryx makes leaves her with blood on her hands-and unleashes a threat that could doom everything she loves to fall to darkness."

I've been sitting on this review for honestly probably a couple months now because I wanted to post it as close to release date as possible so that I can gush about and praise Caruso's work right on time for it to release.

The Obsidian Tower is a new trilogy that takes place in the the same world as the Sword and Fire trilogy (reviews for all three found in my book review index!) in the land of Vaskander. This is technically created to be a standalone trilogy so there is no necessity to read the Sword and Fire trilogy first, but I would say that if you have the time and ability to, definitely read the first trilogy! It will provide some in-depth and compelling background and world-building that will make reading The Obsidian Tower a much richer experience with greater understanding of how the world and politics of Vaskander and Raverra came to be how they are.

The story revolves around Ryx, a woman who has mostly socially isolated herself from other people due to her dangerous magic that drains the life from anything she touches, which includes not only people and animals, but also things like plants and the natural world. She spends her time living at her grandmother's castle, Gloamingard, home to a magical secret that is hidden in a strictly sealed and guarded tower that has been a part of Ryx's family for millennium. Our story kicks off when something happens to the tower that unleashes an enormous chain of reactions that ends up causing both major political tensions as well as major threats to the entire land of Vaskander.

I loved the main protagonists from Caruso's previous trilogy  set in this world (as well as many of the supporting cast of characters), so I was a little concerned that I might not feel that same connection and love for Ryx, our new protagonist, and the other new characters--but of course, this concern was readily shoved aside as I realized just how much Ryx was going to be a character that I loved and absolutely root for. Ryx carries a good amount of confidence about her in regards to political dealings at the outside of this book, and she's also someone that seems to have less concern for pleasing everyone and sticking to the norms of proper etiquette and the like in serious situation when it is more important to focus on what's actually important. Ryx has a firm hand and set of leadership skills that she knows how to use and which she does employ in attempts to keep things relatively calm (or as much as they can be) after things continue to get crazier and crazier at Gloamingard. I particularly enjoyed how Caruso showcased her many conflicts, both internal and external, that encompassed serious high-stakes political issues as well as issues relating to her family's old magical secrets and her own deadly magic. Following Ryx on this journey was an experience that I couldn't have enjoyed more and that I am so glad I got to be a part of!

In addition to Ryx is an incredible cast of supporting characters that I really enjoyed. Caruso does such a great job of including a diverse cast of personalities and cultures that absolutely bring this book to life. If you love misfit groups that come together to work on a mutual problem--though with occasionally different end goals--and do so with varying degrees of success, but that also uncover many new friendships, enemies, and things about themselves and their work along the way. I loved this group of characters and how all of their unique personalities fit together in just the right ways. There are also some extra characters not directly associated with the main group that I loved and that I hope to see more of in future books.

One of the things I love most about Caruso's books is her strength in creating compelling high-stake political conflicts and discussions among various characters and groups of peoples. There are a lot more components to this book than solely the political aspect, but a lot of this book does deal with Ryx attempting to coordinate with other leaders, soothe tensions, and develop solutions that everyone can agree on--something that becomes extraordinarily difficult as events in this book progress. I found myself almost constantly on the edge of my seat wondering how each scene and critical 'did-that-really-just-happen' moment was going to play out, and I can only give credit to Caruso's deft and magical writing for keeping me so hooked.

I also absolutely love Caruso's world-building! As I mentioned, you don't technically have to the Sword and Fire trilogy before reading this book (though I highly recommend it), so Caruso doesn't skimp on creating an elaborate world that she relays the details of through her narrative and plot, with relatively little info-dump styles of world-building. This is a rich world with a unique magic system, vastly different lands and cultures and peoples, and there always seems to be something to explore within it.

Overall, it's an easy five stars from me! If you haven't read Caruso's work yet, this is an amazing place to start: amazing political intrigue, a fascinating magical system, well-developed and engaging characters that you can't help but connect with, amazing world-building, great friendships, and some truly well-written tension and suspense--what more could you want?

*I received an ARC of The Obsidian Tower courtesy of Orbit  in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

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