Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Thanks to Paola Crespo and the lovely people over at Orbit for an advanced reading copy of The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.
For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes.
But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods.
It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo–aide to Mawat, the true Lease–arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself…and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.
Well, first off, this title colored me intrigued because it was by Ann Leckie.
To hear that she was publishing her very first fantasy novel , and then upon seeing the gorgeous cover by Lauren Panepinto, I was all over it. Though I haven’t read her Imperial Radch series, I have heard amazing fantastical things about it. Not to mention she is also the winner of several awards including the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke. So to say I had pretty high expectations going into it is an understatement.
The Raven Tower is a unique and dark tale, one that, for me, is missing just a few key ingredients to make it something magnificent.
Well, unfortunately, I was a little underwhelmed. I have been reading fantasy for a few years now (I know, humble brag) and feel like I have settled into a groove of what works and doesn’t work for me when it comes to good epic/grimdark/literary/etc fantasy novels. What absolutely doesn’t work for me is a lack of action, and boy does The Raven Tower lack action. The first half of the book is really just a build-up/re-telling of history up to this point in time and leads up to an ending that is decently satisfying. I mean, Leckie definitely does a fantastic job of leaving me wanting more by the end, but the trek to get there felt like climbing Everest, only to know you have to get back down.
The book is written with a little bit of 1st person POV, told by the ancient God called the Strength and Patience of the Hill (which is mostly backstory), but a majority of novel is 2nd person where said God sees through and talks to a secondary character by the name of Eolo, even though Eolo can’t always hear what the God is saying. Basically, the God is narrating Eolo’s present life, giving us a glimpse into his story. Still no clue why the God has chosen Eolo as it’s primary talking stick, but I digress.
The characters fell pretty flat on their faces for me. There isn’t one I can pick out of a lineup that I really felt for or continue to care about. It really just feels like a play where I am waiting for the 2nd act (and yes, the novel has a very Shakespearean feel with a spoonful of Hamlet helping the medicine go down). Even the Gods are pretty lackluster for playing with humanity like chess pieces, though to see man fight back with a little bit of gusto makes for an interesting last quarter.
Overall, I can only assume Leckie has tons left to reveal is this story, but man do I hope she gets to it quickly. If I’m going to get through Book 2, I need some hackin’ and slashin’, some bloodied swords and heads on spikes. Maybe a God or two to duke it out over their next puppet. SOMETHING.