Melissa Caruso is a political fantasy mastermind. Seriously. Every book I read of hers I think, I am consistently impressed with the political writing. For anyone looking for a clever political fantasy mixed with family obligations, you need to check out The Obsidian Tower! Keep reading this book review of The Obsidian Tower to find out all the reasons I loved it!
The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers.
Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle.
Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I could probably go on for ages about not only how clever the writing of The Obsidian Tower is, but also how much I loved the casual queerness of it. The Obsidian Tower is full of secrets, a story about family obligations and duty, and forbidden truths. You know when you’re told you absolutely, under no circumstance, can enter that door because something dark and magical and dangerous is behind it? Well we all know that OF COURSE we want to go in. Who doesn’t? Those giant red buttons that say “Do Not Touch”? If you ever wondered not only what is behind those doors, but also how the world would change if if you even touched them – then you definitely should pick up The Obsidian Tower.
But amidst a quest of magical exploration and secrets, of stories that may lead to darker truths, and casual glances that could kill, Ryx is struggling to keep the world from falling into war. The Obsidian Tower has all these complex levels – the mystical and magical mystery, the political tension, and Ryx’s own powers and future. While I’m all here for the political fantasy, what I loved about The Obsidian Tower was how it explores rulership and duty, as well as power and family.
It asks us how we control our power and responsibility. With all these various faction leaders, rulers, and representatives in Vaskandar to negotiate, Caruso asks questions about politics and power. What political system is more just? When we have magical powers, and that can become tied to politics, how do we manage those powers? What is our duty to use, enforce, and punish? Naturally these questions are grounded in thorough world building created by Caruso (which has some foundations in the Swords and Fire Trilogy and which can help you with some of the politics and history, but not a problem if you haven’t read them!)
Characters and Ryx
But I also loved the characters and the casual queer touches (nonbinary, polyamory, asexual, bisexual). Ryx is used to being feared. Unable to touch others because of her dangerous and uncontrollable power, Ryx’s life is ruled by fear. Not only for herself, but for others. Not only that, but her family has varying levels of condescension towards her because of her magic and parents. It was so easy for me to root for Ryx as, within a night, her whole life changes.
Watching Ryx evolve as a character throughout the book was such a satisfying experience. Thrust into power on all sides and with heaps of responsibility, Ryx is put through fire. In a world where we cannot seem to trust anyone, how can Ryx manage to find a way to avoid a war that seems to resemble a landslide?
The Obsidian Tower is a powerful and political book. Now that I’m finished, I immediately need book two please. Caruso ramps up the action, while also thoroughly exploring and defining the world. I am so excited! The Obsidian Tower was so easy to read because of how gripping and complex it is!