*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheObsidianTowerbookreview


I absolutely loved Caruso’s Swords and Fire series – see my reviews of The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Mage and The Unbound Empire. So when I learnt from Tammy at Books Bones and Buffy that Caruso was bringing out a new book, I scampered across to Netgalley and was delighted to be approved for this offering…

BLURB: 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 Ryx, bringing far too much unwanted attention to this small, but strategically vital country – all centred on an ominous ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle…

And yes – I have seriously tweaked the blurb – because the original spoils that gripping opening chapter that hauled me right into the middle of this story. I was delighted to discover that this book is set in the same world as the Swords and Fire series, as I really loved the clever and original magic system. I also appreciated the tense, political tightrope Ryx is attempting to walk in trying to negotiate a peace between two great political powers, as I thoroughly enjoy that dynamic and Caruso writes it well.

She is a sympathetic protagonist whose life is blighted by not being able to touch anyone, due to her twisted magic draining the life out of any living thing. Her sense of loneliness is poignantly portrayed, without holding up the pace, which is harder to achieve than Caruso makes it look. Her desperate desire to succeed with the peace negotiations is effectively portrayed, for as Warden of the castle, she is supposed to be custodian for all who live within its precincts – a difficult task for someone who cannot even reach out and stroke the palace cat. Her development throughout the story is enjoyable to chart, as is her delight when she realises she has friends, even as her life hangs in the balance.

For my money though, there are a couple of intriguing characters who I desperately want to see more of – Whisper is an enigma wrapped up in a puzzle and The Lady of the Owls, Ryx’s powerful immortal grandmother, one of the feared With Lords. We only see her a handful of times throughout the story, but her presence looms over the narrative. It’s nicely done, as is the mounting tension, punctuated by a couple of dramatic action scenes, all the more shocking for their suddenness, after the build-up.

Caruso deftly brings this story to a satisfying conclusion, but there are huge questions left waving in the wind, so the wait for the next book feels far too long. Highly recommended for fans of well-constructed magical worlds with high stakes and twisting plots. Though my advice would be that if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of the Swords and Fire series, do get hold of it first as there is a lot in here you will better appreciate if you know the backstory. While I obtained an arc of The Obsidian Tower from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

7 responses »

  1. I decided to pass on this since I haven’t read the first series, and I’ve been burned before for not following that rule, so I’ll just enjoy the reviews of my fellow bloggers this time. Glad to hear you loved it!

    • I do understand your decision – I have read a number of reviews and it has been significant that those who haven’t read the first series mostly didn’t enjoy it quite as much as those who did.

  2. I can’t wait to read this, though now I’m thinking maybe I should hold off since I haven’t completed the previous trilogy yet. Loved the first two books, I just don’t know why I still haven’t gotten to the third 😀 But I’m so pleased to hear this was so good!

    • Thank you, Mogsy:). I know that I left a gap between the second and third books in the Swords and Fire trilogy – I decided that I had so enjoyed the first two books, I think I was worried she would mess up the finale:)). It doesn’t happen, though.

      Given that you already know and understand the magic system, if you felt like diving into this one before tackling The Unbound Empire, you’d be fine. I think those that are finding The Obsidian Tower a bit difficult to get into haven’t had any experience of Caruso’s world at all.

  3. I greatly enjoyed this new work from Melissa Caruso, one that quickly became a page-turner as the stakes kept getting higher. Much as I became fond of Amalia and Zaira in the previous trilogy, Ryx literally stole my heart and I can’t wait to see how she will deal with the dangers ahead…
    Great review, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Thank you Maddalena – oh yes! Ryx is a firm favourite with me, too. I do hope we get more of her in the coming book. And the ongoing tension and aura of the castle has stayed with me since I finished the book… suffering a bit from a book hangover after this one!

  4. I need to continue with this one. I made a start but I think my reading mood was a bit off colour and so I put it down because it didn’t feel fair to read it when I was out of sorts.
    Lynn 😀

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