The Tethered Mage has been sitting on my shelf for a while (I just haven’t got round to it, ok!) but from reading The Obsidian Tower, I can really see why Melissa Caruso deserves to be a well-known and enjoyed author.
Title: The Obsidian Tower
Series: Rooks and Ruin #1
Author: Melissa Caruso
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (Orbit)
Publication Date: 4th June 2020
Rating: 4.5 stars
Despite coming from a family of powerful Witch Lords, Ryxander’s power is broken. Instead of giving life to her domain, she can only drain it. Protected by her grandmother at Gloamingard Castle from a family who would be tempted to cast her out, Ryx has always taken care never to touch and never to abuse her power. Instead she had focused on diplomacy and is poised to host two rival factions – delegates from the Serene Empire to the South and from Alevar to the North. But, after Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self defence and activates a mysterious artefact sealed away inside an ancient tower, she must build new friendships, weather rivalries and find a solution to this problem before the rival factions tear her own domain apart in their desire for this new and dangerous power.
I admit I was expecting a little more teenage angst in this but instead I got a book that definitely fits my definition of New Adult – the characters are ‘young’ – early twenties, but they have carved out lives and professions and roles for themselves. It’s about putting the skills that you have to the test, rather than desperately seeking your own validation.
The ‘can’t touch without killing’ power is something I was also worried about. I had absolutely HATED reading Shatter Me and all the unrealistic angst that came with it. Instead, Ryx has learnt to be self-sufficient, and to carve out a place for herself and to hold herself in check. And when she finds a way of subduing her ability to drain life, it’s genuinely touching to see her coming to terms with being able to have physical contact (without just launching herself at any sexy piece of man – I’m looking at you Tahereh Mafi).
A huge part of this story is political intrigue – there are a lot of characters, all with different loyalties and motivations that all want a stake in this strange artefact in the middle of Gloamingard. And that means a lot of talking. But somehow those conversations stayed fresh – instead you really sympathised with the inexperienced Ryx who was attempting to hold all of this madness together.
And on top of that was the all the different characters’ responses to the most Murphy’s Law book I’ve ever read – if it can go wrong, it will go wrong! Even to the point of Ryx saying:
“… but at this point I expected a new emergency every time I so much as opened a cupboard or heard someone call my name.”
There are times when you’re reading this book and you think ‘what on earth can happen to them now, give them time to think through this problem’ but it soon becomes clear why all this is happening …
Ryx is not the only character worth noting, though. She slowly builds a friendship with the Rookery, who are there to investigate this magical disturbance, and they all have time to show their different skills and qualities, without feeling like side characters.
Likewise with Severin, who is alarmingly attractive, but it’s not immediately clear that he and Ryx will have enough in common to pursue this interest. Again it’s that slow build of alliance and interest that really works here.
There were a few things that means this didn’t quite hit the 5 star mark for me: Ryx’s statements were regularly taken as fact, despite her clearly having the most to gain from lying. Instead she seems to be oddly incapable of lying. And many of these diplomats and dignitaries seem to take what she says at face value, without much proof or evidence for what she’s saying.
Likewise, in a book with a LOT of talking, the ‘villains’ spend a lot of time posturing and showboating, rather than getting on with the straight up murders and massacres. It’s a little Bond villain, which gives time for our hero to come up with something new. I also thought we were going to get a lot more from the Shrike Lord, but I suspect that will come at another time …
But the world was fun – I understand this takes place in the same world as The Tethered Mage(Swords and Fire) series. But this didn’t take away any of my joy and understanding of a world with set domains, Witch Lords, impressive but still limited powers and a whole lot of in-fighting.
Really this would be a 4.5 star read for me, rather than a 4.
And I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens next.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.