The Obsidian Tower, by Melissa Caruso is a brilliant, unique, compelling and captivating fantasy full of intriguing characters, complex magic, demons and chimera’s, deadly politics, and dangerous secrets.
Synopsis: “Keep Your Secret, Guard Your Lore: Nothing Must Unseal The Door.” Gloamingard Castle houses the black tower, the black tower holds something dangerous – the door is sealed in order to guard this secret and has been for thousands of years. Ryxander is the Warden, her duty is to guard this door. But a fatal mistake unleashes a deadly threat and Ryxander must hold it together to stop the world from falling into darkness.
— Descriptive, Rich, Captivating And Evocative —
The Writing Style/Narrative: Melissa Caruso’s writing is stunning, it is beautifully descriptive, rich, captivating and evocative. Right from the start this book gripped me, the descriptions and imagery are immediately captivating and continue to be so throughout the entire story. From the settings to the characters, the rich details and metaphors bring them to life and draws you into the story. The prose flows beautifully from start to finish and compels you to keep reading, it is strong and emotional allowing an easy connection to the characters and the plot and is incredibly immersive.
The writing allows for a good pace to the story, it never felt like it was dragging nor were there any ‘info-dumps’, everything we learn about this world we do so organically, through relationships, conversation and action – this is done so significantly due to the fact that we are thrown right into the world, right into the story so we learn as we read. I really enjoyed how we naturally learnt about the world and its magic as well as its divisions and felt it was done so very effectively.
The narrative perspective of this story is a limited/bias one, which serves to maintain mystery and create tension throughout the book. We read from the first person narrative perspective of Ryx, our main character. The first person narration is incredibly potent for this particular story, it is both engaging and effective, and allows us a significant amount of insight into Ryx herself – this is quite key to this particular story because of Ryx’s isolation and her particular path of development, Ryx is a complex character (largely due to her magic) but she is also quite the staple in this world and so her perspective is effective and aids the story well.
I love Caruso’s writing style and her narrative choice was perfect for the story.
— Very Unique And Original Story That Is Enchanting And Compelling —
The Story/Plot: This book has a very unique and original story that is enchanting and compelling. The concept of this book is unique because usually when a story has the trope of ‘don’t open this/don’t touch that’ said prohibited action doesn’t usually occur until quite late into the story and the consequences of such are usually known by then, in this book however, it happens very early on and so what we get is the characters dealing with the consequences of the door being opened alongside them trying to work out what it is and what they actually did – they are completely in the dark. I loved this take on the trope and enjoyed watching how the unknown elements all came together.
Ryx, the Warden who guards the door, is a very clever character despite her broken magic that kills instead of bringing life. Due to her magic being broken she carved out a new role for herself among her family and is excellent at politics and negotiations. This is key to the story because we get multiple plots coming together that have unforseen effects on each other. The political plot is at the core of the story, Ryx wants peace and is holding negotiations with opposing domains/countries, this opens up the complex plot of lies, deceit and political manuevers that endangers characters and forces Ryx to tread carefully.
The political plot then is effected by that of the door. The door being opened results in more complex issues arising, shifts in political alliance occuring, and makes the line Ryx is balancing even thinner – not to mention that someone has murderous intentions and so nobody can be trusted. I absolutely adore how each of these unconnected plots came to be intertwined with each other, especially since the political standpoint seems insignificant compared to the other issues they are facing but the more that is reealed the more you realise how deeply connected all of these issues are and how one wrong move can have devastating effects on the world as a whole.
This is a complex plot that appears simplistic on the surface but grown more grave as the story develops. Usually in stories like this I will questions the characters focus deeming some of them insignificant, but in this book Ryx’s focus is right where it needs to be, even when it doesn’t seem like it – I found this to be a fascinating story that just grew more so with each betrayal. This story was so captivating and full of so many shocking and unpredictable twists and turns that you can’t help but become completely absorbed in it.
With politics, war, murder, demons and personal grievances on the line, this story is truly complex and fascinating – with the perfect combination of mystery, tension and emotion it is a story you cant helpe but fall into.
— Fascinating, Complex, Realistic And Intriguing —
The World Building/Magic System: So this is the first book I have read by this author and so I was unfamiliar with Caruso’s work this book however, throws you right into the world and it is fantastic.
This book is set in the world of Eruvia, which is split between The Serene Empire and Vaskandar. Vaskandar is made up of multiple domains, each controlled by a Witch Lord (powerful and immortal mages who can feel and control their domains).
This was a very intriguing world that we learn a lot about despite the book being almost entirly set in Morgrain inside Gloamingard Castle. We learn a lot about the world due to the peace Ryx is trying to settle between the two sides. Vaskandar and The Serene Empire are polar opposites in terms of how they are run; Vaskandar is run and controlled by the Witch Lords, Mages are able to use magic therefore they are in power, succession runs through the family bloodlines and is clear and distinct. While The Serene Empire values skill and hardwork over inborn natural power, Mages are valued and used to fight but are not given power, ordinary people are and the Mages powers are somewhat controlled to prevent them from using their magic for evil. The two different takes on how magic should be seen and used is incredibly interesting to read about, it adds a deeper level of realism to the story and allowed for internal conflicts between characters.
Moreover, we see how each side views the other due to these personal and internal conflicts, thus we can understand both sides in terms of why they use control or allow Mages to have power [ this plays into the story very well, and gives Ryx a more personal struggle later on which is crucial to her character and our understanding of her as a person.
The domains within Vaskandar are equally fascinating, Witch Lord have complete control over their domains making them almost uncontestable – another clever and intriguing element that comes into play throughout the story.
The magic itself is relatively simple to understand, it is passed through bloodlines. Vivomancers is the term given to the Mages, the stronger the Mage the more obvious their power is and if they are strong enough they develop a mage mark around their iris. The Mages have different abilities all seemingly linked to the Earth and the life on it, it revolves around nature. Ryx is the exception, her magic is broken and so she kills whatever she touches – this allows for a lot of interesting points throughout the story, from conflicts to personal perception.
Finally there are chimera’s in this story which I LOVED. Chimera’s have always fascinated me and Caruso has an interesting take on them in this book. This was a small detail that appears often and yet is one that made this world all the more intriguing! I won’t say too much more about this but it is a brilliant system and I really enjoyed reading about the world and the magic within it.
— Funny, Witty, Clever, Determined, Diverse, Complex, Flawed And Realistic —
The Characters: (Representation Includes: Bisexual Main Character, Lesbian Side Characters, (side/background f/f relationship), Non-Binary/Gender Neutral Side Character, POC Characters.) So the cast of characters in this book is quite significant and I loved them all (well almost … I’m looking at you Voreth)! The characters are a big selling point of this book they are funny, witty, clever, determined, diverse, complex, flawed and realistic and I loved the relationships formed between them all.
Ryx (Ryxander). Ryx is our MC, her broken magic means she has lived quite the isolated life, starved of human contact and seen as the family embarrasment. However, in spite of this she has persevered as she carved out a political role fr herself and strove to show you could look after a domain without magic. I found Ryx to be highly admirable, I love a character who can create their own path/role when they are deemed unfit to follow those that already exist, her broken magic is a huge part of her life but it doesn’t make her ‘broken’ and I found this to be a highly important theme/message throughout the story and one that really resonated with me. Ryx is very determined and clever, her loyalty is to her people and she will do whatever it takes to protect them, even if it means she must sacrifice herself or her own happiness. Her political mind is crucial to the story, she is a peace keeper and this is so much more important thatn anyone else realises.
I loved that Ryx is a peace keeper determined to save and protect despite her magic being deadly and destructive, her magic is not her personality and this is such an important element to the story – your deficiencies do not define you even if they have influenced you this is somehing people struggle to understand but this story tackles it perfectly.
Ryx is an incredibly mature character, who is independent and self-sufficient she is capable and headstrong with a logical and rational mind but, is not emotionless – her feelings are valid and explored well and she matures well as the story goes on. I love how as she comes to terms with her power and controlling it as much as possble she also allows herself to build connections with others. Relationships to Ryx are a rarity but over the course of the story she becomes more open and builds more friendships (as well as possible love interests but I won’t spoil this!) I loved Ryx’s character and found her to be dynamic and compelling, even when she made mistakes it was logical or understandable – she is still relatively young and yet her priorities are honourable and unshakeable.
GrandMother. The Lady Of Owls, The Witch Lord Of Morgrain and Ryx’s Grandmother. This character seems to be the only one who sees some value in Ryx and her capabilities, she is definitely a force to be reckoned with and is undeniably powerful with strong loyalty to her land and her family. Her characters was very intriguing and as the story goes on grows even more so!
Aurelio. An old associate of Ryx and from The Serene Empire, Aurelio initially seems kind, friendly, patient and loyal, though he does prioritise what he deems inportant to his EMpire and Eruvia. As a whole he is a relatively charming character, who develops well over the course of the story. I didn’t like him by the end but his character is intriguing and interesting to read about.
Whisper. A Cat/fox type chimera who I loved but oh was he frustrating! Whisper is very cryptic neither seeming to help nor hinder and yet you can’t hep but love him even when he is being frustrating. Whisper is an enigma and an intriguing one at that, evey word he says creates more mystery – I loved this character despite knowing little about him.
Rookery (an organisation that I will let you learn about yourself): Kessa. Kessa Is adorable, bubbly, friendly, outgoing and kind but not to be underestimated. She is very charismatic but is incredibly skilled. I loved her character and found her optimism to be refreshing. She is also incredibly witty and quick to defend those she cares about though. Her character develops well over the course of the story and is one you can’t help but love.
Ashe. Ashe is hilarious, I did have to laugh at her carefree violent attitude. Ashe is incredibly skilled with weaponry but is shockingly quick to violent solutions and has to be reminded far too often to use less fatal routes. She is fiercely loyal, witty, sarcastic,, fiery, headstrong and brutal but has a soft heart and truly cares about those close to her. I very quickly grew to love Ashe’s character and her development was brilliant.
Bastian. Bastian is a sweetheart, who is quite quiet, philosphical and secretive. He is incredibly clever but appears to be uite a private person, however, like his friends he is very loyal and protective. He is incredibly skilled himself and is very logical quick to get to the point rather than mess aroud with introductions. Another character I loved and found developed very well.
Foxglove. A leader, who is rather chatty but very clever and analytical. Foxglove has his own set of skills which are undeniable and is logical and determined. He always puts thought into what he say usually aiming at a particular point and is loyal to his team. Foxglove is a brilliant character with excellent development.
Severin. The Shrike Lord’s brother and a complex character who you can never tell which side he is on. I really loved this character because he does seem like he wants the right thing. He is a clever character who is cool and logical but there is so much more too him including emotionally. I don’t want to say too much about him for fear of spoilers but his character has his own issues to deal with and is doing the best he can. I think his character’s development is the most messy and raw but in a good way, his conflicts are personal and difficult to deal with but it is done very well as he overcomes his own personal trauma that is not as easy as it appears.
Ardith. Right off the bat I loved Ardith, they are incredibly smart and yet so chaotic they are hilarious. Ardith emits chaotic energy but is incredibly level headed and makes decisions based on logical arguments and evidence. They are incredibly friendly but they don’t let it get in the way of the politcis and they tell everyone this bluntly. Ardith is a very upfront character and I honestly loved them.
Voreth. Oh how I hated him. Voreth accompanies Severin to the political discussion and is the most infuriating character ever. He is needlessly cruel and blindly follows the Shrike Lord never questioning him. He doesn’t seem at all concerned when asked to carry out questionable acts and violence oes not cause him any concern. He is far too proud and an overall cruel character. He is very well written though, you dislike him simply from the aura he emits and the more he says and does just solidifies your hatred of him.
Shrike Lord. Though not present for a significant amount of the book he is incredibly powerful and his influence is obvious as is his threat. He is cruel, uncaring and volatile, an intriguing ‘villain’ who seems to have a singular mind fixating on his own issue regardless of the other effects that might occur.
Lady Celia. She represents The Serene Empire and comes across as relatively fair. She listens to arguments presented and deliberates on her decisions, she doesn’t appear rash and is determined in her own right.
There are a a few more characters whom I have not discussed becaus eI have alread spoken about a lot of them! But every character side or main is brilliantly written, dynamic and complex and I loved them all. The relationships between the charcaters are excellently portrayed and while there is some romance it doesn’t dominate the story, Ryx has a few too many interests for my personal liking but I did not mind this too much as she doesn’t act upon every impulse so it worked well in the story.
Overall: I really loved The Obsidian Tower, by Melissa Caruso it is original, enchanting, unique and compelling with phenomenal characters, a complex and unpredictable story, brilliantly intertwining plots and excellent conflicts and struggles.
I would definitely recommend this to all fantasy lovers! I have seen this classed as both YA fantasy and Adult fantasy, personally it feels more New Adult to me – though this isn’t a widely used classification, either way it has a wide appeal as both Adult and YA audiences are likely to love this book. If you love complex deadly plots, deceitful politics, impressive magic and epic worlds then you will love this!
*A Massive thank you @Orbitbooks @Gambit589(Nazia) for the physical ARC of #TheObsidianTower, by #MelissaCaruso in exchange for an honest review)