The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Series: stand alone Rating: 2.5/5
Date of Publishing: February 26th 2019 Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy
Publisher: Orbit Available: Amazon
Number of pages: 432 Author’s website: http://annleckie.com

Quote of the Book

“Then and there he vowed himself a changed man, the special devotee of the Myriad, and publicly resolved to deal more patiently and gently with others for the rest of his life. Five years later he died in an argument over the ownership of a reindeer  calf.”

Blurb

Listen. A god is speaking.
My voice echoes through the stone of your master’s castle. 
This castle where he finds his uncle on his father’s throne. 
You want to help him. You cannot.
You are the only one who can hear me.
You will change the world.

A triumph of the imagination, The Raven Tower is the first fantasy novel by Ann Leckie, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. Gods meddle in the fates of men, men play with the fates of gods and a pretender must be cast down from the throne in this breathtaking fantasy masterpiece.

Personal notes

I was lucky enough to get an early ARC copy thanks to Nazia at Orbit.

Song of the Book

I had no idea what I’m going to pick for this book, but I think that part of this song catches Eolo perfectly, and part reminds me of the god who tells its story.

 

Review

Ever since I laid eyes on the cover and the blurb, I knew I had to read The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie. I was kind of obsessed with it and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. Which I did over Christmas and was so happy that I just hugged it to my chest (ask James). So you can imagine how hyped I was when I could finally crack it open. I also have to mention here, that this was my first ever experience with an Ann Leckie book.

The Raven Tower has two plotlines, both are told by the Strenght and Patience of the Hill, an ancient god. In one of the plotlines we learn about its story, how it had met with people and learned their language, we see history through its eyes, or at least the part it saw anyway or heard about through its friend the Myriad. Unless other gods, the Strenght and Patience of the Hill never wanted to change its form and so remained a stone. Since speaking was hard for it, it invented a language of its own – the people, its priests used tokens and learned how to translate them. We also learn about the history of Ard Vusktia and Vastai, two cities, part of Iraden, divided by the sea, fighting over dominance. Whoever had claim over the strait had the power, because this was the safest place to cross. On one side Ard Vusktia was home of several gods either major or minor, living together, being worshipped by humans in exchange of helping them out occasionally. On the other side, Vastai is being protected by a god called the Silent Forest, keeping enemies off their borders, preventing fires and sickness to plague the people. When the Raven appears he takes control over the land and declares his authority over the strait as well as Ard Vusktia. Thus a conflict begins which will lead to consequences neither side can handle.

While we learn about the history and the centuries old conflict, we also follow the events in present Vastai, where the main god is the Raven – a mysterious being who appeared out of nowhere and took charge – , and thanks to an ages old pact his Lease is the ruler. When the Raven’s Instrument (a raven, in which the god reincarnates) dies, the Lease has to die as well as a sacrifice. His place is taken by the Heir and the cycle goes on. The Lease doesn’t rule alone, on his side there are the Silent Mother, the Silent Forest’s priestess and the head of the Council of Directions. At the beginning of the story, the current Lease disappears, his place is taken by his brother Hibal, even though his son and heir, Mawat is already on his way from the border where he tries to keep the Tel in check. With him comes his aide, Eolo, to whom the Strenght and Patience of the Hill tells its story.

I think this was the first book I’ve read that was written partly in the second person. Can’t say I’ve become a fan of this style of writing. Kind of makes it even harder to connect with the characters. But then, they aren’t all that interesting to begin with. At one hand, we have a stone without feelings or much knowledge about the world outside of what it can sense or hear from its friends. And since its attention is mostly on Eolo, we learn more about him, but not enough to make the reader really sympathize with him or root for him or the others. We never learn why he is the one who gets the god’s attention, what makes him special. The world-building is also somehow lacking, thanks to the narrow POV. Personally I was left with many questions and only a few answers. The ending was very sudden and not too satisfying. While I understand why things happened and what were the god’s motivations, it took forever for the events to pick up and never really gained momentum. Everything is rather told than shown and so I couldn’t figure out why should I care about these people?

Mawat, the Heir is angry and acts like a spoiled child whose toy was taken away when he finds out that his uncle took his place. First he locks himself away, then decides to protest by sitting naked in the middle of the main square – this is a common way of protest for the people of Iraden, though it doesn’t makes any more sense – until Eolo’s investigations prods him to take actions. Eolo is constantly asked if he is the “partner” of Mawat besides being his aide which is a big honor for someone whose ancestors are farmers. Anyway, Eolo sexual life has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, and not even relevant, but this is the only thing people of Vastai can come up when it comes to him. I guess understanding friendship must be hard for them. Tikaz, the daughter of the head of the Council of Directions, is the childhood friend of Mawat, and everyone expects them to get married. She refuses, because, I’ve no idea why. Because she has to appear as a strong and independent female character? Which is fine, but she is not. Or at least this doesn’t make her appear that. We don’t learn much more about her, except that her mother lives far away and she could go live with her if she wanted. Oh and she also fancies Eolo. No idea why, the guy is shy and has absolutely no appeal whatsoever – or if he does, we don’t know about it anyway.

The “villains” in this book are supposed to be Hibal who took the position of the Lease and a pair of twins, Okim and Oskel. According to some legends, twins are considered evil, and though they are not left in the forest anymore, the people of Vastai still superstitious against them and treat them badly. And so, Okim and Oskel had become hard and bitter, the typical prototypes of bullies. It’s not clear if they know or suspect their true heritage which is the topic of rumors, but anyway their motivation for following Hibal is rocky at best.

I had really high hopes for The Raven Tower. I expected to be swept away by mystery, magic and an intriguing plot. What I’ve got was a disappointing tale of a stone and a mystery unfurling ever so slowly and without much surprises. It’s a shame, because I wanted to love this book, but almost nothing worked for me. Maybe it was because of the narrative, being told the events by a “mere” bystander, the fact that there aren’t any chapters (even though the narrative between present and past are divided), or because the pace was too slow for my taste. But the fact that I couldn’t care about any of the characters remains, and that’s a flaw I can’t look over. Even so, don’t let my dissapointment affect you, I advice to make your own judgement. It actually has some cool ideas like the army the Forest sends to defend Vastai, or the way the gods communicate with people, even the Raven’s pact to have a Lease and a Heir at all times. It’s just a shame it couldn’t deliver the way I expected.

If you like your epic fantasy to be less action packed and more focused on the events that lead to the main plot, you might find this one in your favor. The Raven Tower offers the tale of slow burning revange, sacrifice and tragedy.

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