There are a lot of familiar things in The Obsidian Tower; it’s set in the same world as the author’s previous trilogy, but focuses on a completely different part of it; there’s a strong-willed female lead who is something of an outsider but has considerable power and ability from the start, but she’s got a much better sense of the world(s) around her than her counterpart in the previous series; there’s hints at various alliances, betrayals expected and not, possible friendship and romance, the possible end of the world as we know it, and all of this is familiar, but the details are new enough that it’s still interesting.
Ryxander (Ryx to friends and family) is Warden of Gloamingard Castle; I have to admit I had a hard time not thinking ‘Glomgold’ for the longest time, and she’s the granddaughter of a Witch Lord of Vaskander. She’s kind of the black sheep because her magic is not normal, and she’s half Raverran. She’s in charge of keeping an ancient secret safe that even she doesn’t know, but of course that’s a main source of the conflict in the story. She’s also in a position to do a lot of politics between Vaskander and Raverra, and I kind of wish we had more of this because it’s a source of pride and honor for her when she doesn’t have much else for a good bit of the book. Basically, there may or may not be a portal to the Nine Hells, a demon or two may or may not have gotten through, Raverra and Vaskander may or may not go to war, other Witch Lords may or may not be interested in attacking her grandmother’s domain, what’s up with Ryx’s magic may or may not be actually good for something, and there’s a lot of figuring out who to trust or not. This all sounds rather YA, and in a sense there isn’t as much focus on the violence or sex as there might be in more classic high fantasy, but this novel, like it’s prequel series, is usually classified as regular ‘fantasy’. This is a actually something I kind of appreciate, more attention to character and world than on the battles (there’s still plenty of fighting) or the bedroom (there’s plenty of hints at romantic possibilities though, for several characters).
There’s some inconsistent pacing in this story, some of it for good reason, since there needs to be some world building before the whole things gets moving, but there’s still a lot of hanging around wringing of hands that seems unnecessary, especially when there’s other references that could do with more detail. For example, the whole story starts with the impending gathering of various diplomatic parties to resolve some kind of problem that is never really explained. What happened at Windhome Island? There’s a few vague hints and it’s not the main conflict, but it keeps getting brought up, so I‘d like to have more detail, especially since there’s a lot more information about the magic system in this world related to other things, so why not this? Sometimes this kind of vagueness works, like the presence and eventual twist with Whisper towards the end, which I really liked even though it’s not clear exactly the details; but when there are reminders throughout and no hint or reason to ever filling in the details, it’s distracting and kind of aggravating.
It’s still an interesting story, and I want to see what’s really up with Whisper, how Ryx gets out of all or most of her problems, and what ends up happening with the demons and the connection of all this to her Witch Lord grandmother. There’s a sequel eventually planned but that’s not out for months. I’ll be interested to see how things go.