The Obsidian Tower – Book Review

Rooks and Ruin #1 By: Melissa Caruso
Published On: June 2, 2020

Can things be any more chaotic for Ryx as she attempts to negotiate peace between two lands, de-escalate a Shrike Lord’s desire for vengeance, learn how to bring her own broken magic under control, and deal with the aftermath of unexpected guests, all the while trying to identify what danger a secret artifact possesses and identify a solution to fix it without anyone finding out and starting all-out war? That’s not to mention what I am intentionally leaving out of this list just to keep from spoiling anything.

Gloamingard was really several castles caught in the act of devouring each other.

– Melissa Caruso, The Obsidian Tower

It all begins when the Shrike Lord’s fiancee, Lamiel, unexpectedly arrives at Gloamingard Castle one day before diplomats are scheduled to arrive to negotiate a treaty. Eager to secretly discover what Gloamingard protects and keeps hidden, Lamiel trespasses where she shouldn’t and starts a chain of events with consequential outcomes.

Set in the same world as Melissa Caruso’s Sword’s and Fire series, we are introduced to Ryx who is the Warden of Gloamingard. Ryx’s bloodline is one of vivomancers, but due to an illness when she was young Ryx’s magic is broken and instead of life and creation, her magic brings death. She is the family embarrassment, except to her grandmother who believes in her.

Around 20-30%, I almost stopped reading the book. Something about where the story was at the moment wasn’t keeping me interested. Eventually, what I came to realize is that the story centers around us watching Ryx juggling all the different chaotic events going on around her and that’s when I settled in. It’s not necessarily action-packed all the time and that’s ok.

As much as I enjoyed all the disastrous events exploding around Ryx it did at times become a little overwhelming. This was especially true in the latter part of the story when I would pick the book back up after being away from it and had to remember all that was going on. Don’t get me wrong – I liked that there was a lot of moving parts, but it still took time to remember. I also suspect there are some thinner plot moments in how some of the political maneuvering and decisions get resolved, but because it could be a little dizzying I haven’t had a chance to work through all that yet.

Description:

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. 

The Empire’s Ghost – Book Review

Paths of Lantistyne #1 By: Isabelle Steiger
Published On: May 16, 2017

*May contain spoilers*

Before picking up this epic fantasy novel, I did what I often do when attempting to decide if the book in question is one that I would want to read: I took a look at other reviews. Overwhelming, what I read over and over again was that there was a large cast of characters that left some confused during reading. For me, I generally like to read fantasies with large casts so when I got the book I dug right in. To help anyone who is considering this book determine if there are too many characters for their own preference I have attempted to create a list of the more major characters and their kingdoms or groups. My copy of the book did not contain this type of list, so I am hoping that the publisher will consider this in future books in the series.

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The Killing Fog – Book Review

The Grave Kingdom Book 1
By: Jeff Wheeler
Published on: March 1, 2020
Publisher: 47North
Pages: 404
Cover Designer: Shasti O’Leary Soudant

The Killing Fog is the first in a new Asian-inspired fantasy series by Jeff Wheeler. I’m ashamed to say I have seen his other works, but never got around to reading them even though they have been on my list for a while. So, I am very happy to be able to read this first one in his new series.

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The Last Smile in Sunder City – Book Review

The Fetch Phillips Archives (1)
By: Luke Arnold
Published on: February 25, 2020

The Last Smile in Sunder City is a noir fantasy book following Fetch Phillips, a struggling PI detective, or a ‘Man for Hire’, as he prefers to be called.

Years prior to when this story begins, this world experienced an event called the “Coda” where the human army was envious of the power of magic and decided to change…everything. In their lust to capture magic for themselves they fundamentally changed magic for everyone. The world was now drained of magic. Some creatures were immediately no more, while some live a half-existence.

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Master of Sorrows – Book Review

The Silent Gods Book 1 by Justin T. Call
Published on: August 8, 2019

So many thoughts rolling around in my head in regards to this epic fantasy story that I don’t know where to begin. Too many, in fact.

Master of Sorrows follows a boy named Annev who attends the Academy where he is attempting to get promoted to Avatar of Judgment. To do so, he must win the Testing Day contest against his other classmates as well as friends. This is the last Testing Day he will be permitted to take part in. Failing to win means becoming a servant to the others and to make it worse, it is also the last Testing Day for two of his close friends as well.

With the Testing Day as the major plot line in the first half of the book, the author also uses the events surrounding this as a way introduce you to the protagonist/antagonists, religious structure and most importantly religious politics and prejudices. The leaders of the Academy and townspeople all believe that sons of Keos are cursed and are considered evil. They are identified when they are born with a deformity and are immediately killed. If somehow an individual isn’t discovered at birth then what awaits for them is being stoned to death once they are discovered. Annev was born without an arm past his elbow. He’s been able to keep it hidden for 17 years through the use of a special glove, but being found out is one of his greatest fears.

As you might expect with any epic fantasy story, there is a lot of lore/knowledge information within this first book that can sometimes slow the story down a little at times. However, I was surprised by how much I liked the sections about the gods (Keos and his siblings). I usually skip or fast-read those sections, but instead found the sibling relationships and responses to certain events rather interesting.

Overall, Master of Sorrows is an enjoyable epic fantasy read with a beautiful cover too. As I read through the story, I found that the characters and their different choices and decisions was one of my favorite parts and not just Annev’s story. Of course, the decision Annev makes in determining the content of his own character and what he believes in is one of the best aspects of the book. The Masters at the Academy see the world in black and white, but Sodor, Annev’s mentor, has slowly been teaching Annev to think for himself and watching the progression within Annev is one of the many highlights of the story. But choices other characters made was just as intriguing.

While reading I came to the conclusion that this might make a decent fantasy book club read. There are a lot of opportunities for points of discussion – from the gods and the religious politics to the Testing Day contest there’s no shortage of topics to bring up.

Rating: 4 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

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The Children of Never: A War Priests of Andrak Saga – Book Review

The War Priests of Andrak Saga Book 1 By Christian Warren Freed
Published on: July 15, 2018

A tale that hints of the dark-side of fantasy with moments of mild horror and suspense, but one that is also rich in storytelling and world-building. The Children of Never is the follow-on novel to The Purifying Flame, which won honorable mention in the Future Contest.

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