The Obsidian Tower (Rooks and Ruin #1) by Melissa Caruso

ObsidianMy TL:DR Five Word Review : Dark Tower Keeps Darker Secret

The Obsidian Tower is a book that really surprised me.  To begin with, I cannot deny, that this wasn’t working it’s magic and I had to stop reading about 25% in – to be honest though I think my own personal mood at the time was having an effect on my reading and making it difficult to concentrate.  I left this to one side for a couple of weeks and then gave it another shot and I’m so pleased I decided to take that little book holiday because I ended up loving the Obsidian Tower.

Meet Ryx (Exalted Ryxander) Guardian of Gloaminguard Castle, Vivomancer, granddaughter of The Lady of Owls and quite possibly one of the loneliest people in the world of Eruvia.  Ryx’s magical abilities were twisted beyond recognition following a childhood illness and left her with a unique magical talent that is little more than a curse.  Ryx inadvertently kills everything she touches, well, there are a few exceptions, such as her grandmother, whose own power as a Witch Lord enables her to touch Ryx without death following on fleet feet.  This is the foremost reason why Ryx was in fact moved to Gloaminguard to be raised by the Lady of Owls and to eventually become a guardian and advocate of peace between Vaskandar and the Raverran Serene Empire.  In fact, as the story begins Ryx is about to host an envoy of diplomats in a bid to sign a peace agreement.  Unfortunately, things don’t go quite according to plan and Ryx manages to kill one of her visitors and unlock the power of an ancient artefact that has long fallen under the protection of the Obsidian Tower.  As you may imagine things spiral fairly quickly after that with the arrival of more guests, a murder, a shocking revelation and war threatening to break out at any moment.

What really worked well for me:

Firstly, I really liked a lot of the characters. Ryx is a young woman who has come to terms with her own strange life style.  She has little, to no, human contact and constantly lives in fear of accidentally causing death or destruction.  She has a ‘Midas’ touch of sorts but instead of turning those things she touches into gold, everything she comes into contact with dies, people, plants, animals.  If she so much as brushes against a leaf it withers, she has never ridden a horse or shared a dance with someone.  She lives in fear of causing death and the people around her are scared, they make the sign to ward off evil when she passes by and consequently friends are in short supply.  Ryx is undoubtedly someone that you can enjoy reading about and more than that observing the way her character grows during the course of the book.

Ryx’s grandmother is a great character. She doesn’t play a huge role here, in fact she’s absent for a good portion of the story but you can still feel her influence and she’s really very intriguing, not to mention she really brings every scene that she enters to life – as does Whisper. Whisper is difficult to pin down.  A creature of shadow who can move easily between places. Whisper knows things and keeps secrets.  The Rookery is an organisation that investigate all sorts of things and provide answers and solutions.  They’re neutral and their involvement helps to keep things a little more amicable.  They’re a fun group of people, nerdy, fiercely loyal and with bags of tricks sitting in reserve which makes them surprisingly effective against the most difficult of odds. The Rookery definitely bring a ‘lighter’ element to the read which is very much welcome.

Now add in some of the darker characters of the story. Severin is brother to the Lord of Alevar whose fiance was killed at the start of the story when attempting to unlock the secrets of Gloaminguard and he is now hell bent on revenge.  Severin is visiting the Castle as his brother’s agent to discover who the murderer is.  I will add in a possible spoiler here so be aware – Severin and Ryx share some chemistry and I’m going to surprise you (and myself) by admitting that I really enjoyed this aspect of the story and would definitely like more.  Yes, that’s right, I’m asking for more romance – yes indeedy. Severin and his brother have a difficult relationship and, lets just be honest, Severin is scared of the Wolf Lord, with good reason so it will be interesting to see how he develops.

On top of becoming invested in the characters I really enjoyed the world building.  Gloaminguard is a fascinating castle full of twisted passages and dark mystery. The surrounding woods themselves answer to the magic of the Lady of Owls and lend her a lot of power, as do the surroundings that fall within the domain of the other Lords.  There are politics at play here and the need to tread carefully in order to avoid an incident or, more to the point, a war.

Then finally, there’s the pacing, the ever increasing tension and the sensation of being flung from one crisis to the next whilst trying to undertake an investigation and make everywhere safe.

In terms of criticisms, I think one of my main issues when I started reading was that there was a certain degree of ‘telling’ not ‘showing’ particularly where Ryx was concerned.  I also think I found myself angry on her behalf – she was blaming herself for a death that wasn’t really her fault.  She had an awful childhood and very little family support and it turns out that the magic that kept everyone at bay could have been countered by wearing a Jess – a magic bracelet that holds the wearer’s own magic in check.  As Ryx’s magic was not of any use to her family and she was foisted off on her grandmother as a last resort – then why not use the Jess?  I don’t understand that aspect if I’m being totally honest.  But, these things weren’t deal breakers for me and certainly didn’t spoilt the read and there might be more answers in the next book in the series.

A murder, an investigation, a secret and dangerous magical artefact.  There is much here to love and on top of this a bunch of diverse characters that you can really develop feelings for.  There’s a lot here to enjoy and it makes me very keen to see where the next instalment takes us.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 out of 5 stars