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(Chronicles of Tornor #1)

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  880 ratings  ·  66 reviews
"A marvelous blend of fantasy...and realism in the characters and the social interactions."--Marion Zimmer Bradley
Elizabeth A. Lynn won the World Fantasy Award for Watchtower, volume one in a breathtaking trilogy that would establish her as one of speculative fiction's most exciting voices.
Tornor Keep is the legendary tower that guards the winter end of a summer land. Bu
Paperback, 208 pages
Published 1987 by Arrow (first published February 1979)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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 ·  880 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Start your review of Watchtower (Chronicles of Tornor, #1)
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2020-shelf
Winner of the '80 World Fantasy Award.

As I was reading this, I was struck by something rather odd. Intense, even. I almost swore I was reading George R. R. Martin's SoIaF. It has all the feel of Snow in the Watch, the Summer lands versus the Winter, the intense focus on swordcraft and making it through tough times, tougher battles, and reveling in all the details.

Indeed, anyone missing a taste of THAT would do well to revisit Lynn.

Of course, if you'd prefer to read this novel for its place as a
mark monday
this is high fantasy world-building without the fantasy. the novel - indeed, the trilogy - is less about constructing a thrilling narrative and more concerned with characterization and illustrating the author's central theme: change in the world must always come - the only question is in how it is accepted, how it can be made personally transformative. how will the wheels of time and change slowly exert their influence within our central character and the prince (and change-agent) that he guards ...more
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2012
Published originally at

Watchtower, the first book in the award-winning THE CHRONICLES OF TORNOR series by Elizabeth A. Lynn, follows the tale of a young prince — why is he called a prince when his father is a lord? I have no idea. This bothered me through the whole book — who has to fight against a usurper to regain his lands.

Watchtower is frequently included on lists of feminist and gay SFF. It does deal with an underlying homoerotic tension between the prince and his
Althea Ann
The story of Ryke, a soldier of Tornor Keep, a harsh castle in a wintry land. When the fortress is taken by raiders, Ryke stays loyal to his prince (now lord, since the old lord was killed in the battle), and contrives a way for them to escape the fort with the help of two neutral messengers, Sorren and Norres, whose gender and identities are secret....
They travel to a secret valley, named after a mythical land of always-summer, where an exiled soldier, Van, is teaching small groups of followers
Nov 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, lgbt
I guess this was notable when it was published for some mild gender-bending and queer relationships, but it's mostly just medieval-ish swords and castles and made-up names. The writing is fine. The plot is fine. The characters are fine. If that's what you're looking for, you'll be fine. Highly recommended if you're having trouble sleeping. ...more
I read this because it was on the recommended reading list of the Feminist Fantasy, Science Fiction and Utopian literature group. I have to say I was a little underwhelmed. I know why it's considered important, but the story is just ok and nothing really felt new. ...more
I don't have anything of interest to say about this book but i did notice that there are a lot of cat mentions. When none of these cats became significant, I felt somewhat betrayed. ...more
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is a really hard review to write, because while reading it, I was enjoying it. It didn't blow my mind, but it was fine. And then the ending happened. I seriously thought about substrating a whole star just for that to be honest, but didn't in the end.

It was not a disaster when it came to the plot, but it was very unsatisfying regarding the most important relationship in this story.
Imagine a book dropping little hints here and there all the way through and you start to suspect things and get
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, fantasy, 2020
A very interestin fantasy novel. Really liked the writing and the characters (Ryke, the main one was very good fleshed out, as well as secondary ones), the world was a little bit confusing for me, but that's just my brain. ...more
Reread 2020: Dropping this from 4 stars down to 3 stars, but I actually like it more the second time through. My opinion of it had faded in time; I remembered it as the depressing Tornor book, the one where fulfillment in non-normative relationships/societies is dangled before the protagonist (and reader)—but denied. And all of that is there on reread, but knowing to expect disappointment turns it into a subdued study of why we can't always get what we want—of what needs and limitations lie in t ...more
Lance Schonberg
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-2017
So, secondary world fantasy without any actual fantastic elements. Secondary world fiction then, maybe. But really, there is no speculative element to the story beyond that, a complete lack of magic, strange creatures, gods, or any of your other standard fantasy tropes.

And yet it’s a good story.

Oh, on the surface, it’s a fairly standard story. Small kingdom (closer to a city state, really) is invaded and most of the soldiers and its lord are killed. One of the guard captains accidentally survive
May 14, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
the problem with tolkein is that his writing is so dense that it feels like you're wading through setting concrete to get to the good story buried underneath. this book, the first in a trilogy, has the exact opposite problem: sentences are so short and choppy that they become distracting to the good story.

'watchtower' has taken a familiar story - the kingdom is overthrown by an interloper and the young prince must rally help to reclaim his birthright - and throws enough new twists to make it int
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff, 1970s, 20th-century
I feel like I'm missing something with this one - it's so acclaimed and yet I can't think it was more than okay... the social ideas were interesting, especially the male-dominated almost family-less structure of the Keeps along with the low value on human life but I didn't feel they were quite so developed. The whole thing is written in an extremely dry style that doesn't give away much but is also difficult to read. Perhaps there was some incredible hidden subplot that I missed in my boredom, b ...more
May 21, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-sf
A good story and interesting characters and themes but some stilted dialogue and prose.
Ryan Fischer
I actually enjoyed this novel quite a bit more than I thought it would. The plot might feel a little slight compared to the big epics that seem to dominant the fantasy genre, and especially fantasy series. It’s a small world – we basically get Vanima, Tornor, and two other Tornor-like fortresses as the entire fantasy world – but at least it feels manageable. And I liked the idea of having a nicely focused character piece instead. It’s not a must-read overlooked classic, and, for such a character ...more
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
sparse and wintery and yet somehow also claustrophobic. violent and deeply troubled by that violence, as something that’s not inevitable but a product of a particular social organization (not for no reason did Joanna Russ describe this as “an adventure story for humanists and feminists”). major lesbian characters — although not the character the narative is presented through — as noted in other reviews. extremely compelling.
Nov 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid introduction to Lynn's Tornor universe, subverting the usual expectation of the evil, southern, dark-skinned invaders as you slowly start to realize he's not in fact terrible and many of the northerners are even worse. Strong characters, but a somewhat clipped style that leaves you wanting for more description. ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-books
I liked it well enough, I thought the world was really fantastic, and the characters were strong. My major complaint was that it was not fully fleshed out enough. The story line was simple, and short. It felt more like a novella. Then I realized that there are more! So, definitely planning on reading more and see if I become more satisfied.
Nov 23, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, gone
This is an alternate medieval world. The writing has an awkward, stilted flow, and I find I just don't care about the characters. Story progress in the book feels slow because of it.

It does have some nice handling of alternate relationships for the time it was written. But not going to finish this book. I hear later books by this author are improved, but I will skip this series at least.
James Whitmore
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, classics
This is a strange, rather beautiful and ultimately quietly devastating novel. For a novel about war it has surprisingly little action. It reminded me of those early seasons of Game of Thrones when characters spent multiple episodes crossing the land. Read more on my blog. ...more
Jackson Bell
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liked the writing and character development. One problem castles or keeps must be captured by treachery and generally by siege and starved out. When the defenders have archers and the attackers do not the losses among the attackers tend be very high. Not so in this book.
Jun 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, lgbtqa
Short and spare and still very beautiful, about loyalty and revenge and choosing the best life for you. Going to have to locate the next two in the series.
David H.
Sep 08, 2019 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Why I didn't finish this: I think this was just not the book for me. ...more
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This probably won the World Fantasy Award because of its queer subtext, and it’s treatment of LGBTQ issues is powerful, especially for its time. However, the first 50 pages or so are very boring.
I read this series years ago, and was very glad to stumble upon a copy of all 3 books.

Marian Thorpe
Apr 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Review by Goodreads Author Marian Thorpe Empire's Daughter

This is the first in an occasional series of posts about the books - mostly classic fantasy and science fiction - that have most greatly influenced my own writing and world-building. First among these are The Chronicles of Tornor, by Elizabeth A. Lynn.

The Chronicles of Tornor, published in the late 1970's and early 1980's, consist of three books: Watchtower, The Dancers of Arun, and The Northern Girl. All take place in Arun, a land of cit
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, print
I grabbed this because I think I've read the third book in the trilogy. Or maybe I meant to read it? It's been so long that I can't remember. Sigh. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this and I'm also surprised at how many books I read when I was younger had same-sex couples in them and I never noticed. The relationships in this are so natural and realistic that it never dawned on my younger self that I should see something different or strange in it. While there isn't a lot of action in this ...more
Pam Baddeley
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Enjoyed most of this fantasy which is self contained although it is volume 1 in a trilogy. Lynn presents the male viewpoint well, with the story (third person) being the experience of the soldier, Ryke, whose whole life is turned upside down when an invasion results in the death of his lord and most of his comrades. Ryke is spared and has to swear fealty to the leader of the invaders, to spare the life of the son of his dead lord, who is then forced to act as a court jester. The story narrates t ...more
Ryke is a soldier in the north, who flees with his prince when invaders from the south capture their fortress. They find a group of people who practice a martial arts dance, and spend time with them learning their ways before they return with an army to take the castle back.

Ryke is distant, even to himself. He doesn't understand his feelings, or even in some cases recognize them. He doesn't know what he wants and doesn't really have any motivation at all except to return to the way things were.
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Elizabeth A. Lynn is a US writer most known for fantasy and to a lesser extent science fiction. She is particularly known for being one of the first writers in science fiction or fantasy to introduce gay and lesbian characters; in honor of Lynn, the GLBT bookstore "A Different Light" took its name from her novel.

Other books in the series

Chronicles of Tornor (3 books)
  • The Dancers of Arun (Chronicles of Tornor, #2)
  • The Northern Girl (Chronicles of Tornor, #3)

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