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The Tower of Fear

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  780 ratings  ·  51 reviews

The City of Qushmarrah is uneasy under the rule of the Herodians —short, balding men whose armies would never have conquered the city had not the great and evil wizard Narkar been killed and sealed in his citadel; had not the savage nomad Datars turned coat and sided with the invaders; had not some traitor opened the fortress to them.

Not many would welcome the return of th

Paperback, 384 pages
Published June 15th 1991 by Tor Books (first published August 1989)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
Previous rating: 4 stars.
New rating: 4.686978978 stars. And a half. Because duh and stuff.

And the moral of this reread is: Why I ever bother to read non-CookBooks™ is any shrimp’s guess.

See? Even the Commander in Chief of my Murderous Crustacean Armies of Doom, Fleet Admiral Bartholomew DaShrimp III, seems to think wasting time on crap stuff non written by God Glen Cook is kinda sorta pointless.

[October 2016]

· We are the Reunited and Slightly Indestructible Black Company Mercenaries Oh and
Aug 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Review updated on October 2, 2016.

This is a buddy read with my fellow die-hard Glen Cook fans: Choko, Eilonwy, and Sarah.

A city-state of Qushmarrah used to be under a ruthless rule of an evil wizard Narkar until the day it was conquered by Herodians - a rival nation. Herodians would not have a chance against Narkar, but at exactly the moment of their attack an assassin struck a death blow against the mighty wizard. His wife managed to froze the two in time right at that moment.

And so Herodians
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-grim
*** 4.25 ***

A buddy read with the Glen Cook aficionados at BB&B!!! Just so we can remember how a master weaves a story!

I do not know how GC does it! He is so different from the majority of Fantasy writers out there, his writing so deceptively simple, and his storytelling above and beyond anything I can qualify!!! He blows me away every time and the only complaint I have with this book - it was not enough!!! I needed more! It took a while to get into the world, which as in all of his writings i
Original Review (2016)Another great read from Glen Cook! I'm not sure I can write a summary for this, since the story is crazy complex and I spent most of the book being slightly confused at the same time as being completely hooked.

The story takes place in Qushmarrah, a seaside desert city where three factions struggle for control -- the natives, the Herodians, and the Dartars. The book has a somewhat Biblical feel, as the Qushmarrahans seem Semitic, the invading Herodians seem Roman, and the D
Layla ✷ Praise the sun ✷
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, fantasy
No one ever told the truth. Everyone was maneuvering and trying to manipulate everyone else.

This 384 pages standalone book follows the interwoven stories of 46 (more or less) characters and it takes time to get into.

None of the characters are simple, they plot and backstab, there are secret agendas and hidden motives everywhere, and trying to guess what everyone really is up to is part of the fun of reading a Glen Cook book. I rarely - if ever - guess right when it comes to his stories beca
Joe Eames
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite novel of all time, followed closely by Cook's "The Silver Spike" (which you shouldn't read until after reading the first 3 black company books). I must have read The Tower of Fear about 15 times now. Each time I'm amazed by what a master he is, and why I had such a hard time with the typical formulaic fantasy books of "group of adventurers goes off to find artifact X".

The gray characters, the interweaving plots, the blindsiding developments...all are truly amazing. Using an a
William M.
Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing

My first experience with dark fantasy author Glen Cook could not have been more enjoyable. I always look for a good story, solid technical writing that exudes confidence, a strong vocabulary with a unique style, believable and original characters, rich atmosphere, and an overall consistency from beginning to end. It is rare for a writer to have strengths in most of these categories. Glen Cook has them all.

This book is crafted masterfully like the construction of a champion chess g
Chris Hawks
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, reviewed
Following a slow-ish start, this book has completely blown me away. I love Cook's Black Company stuff (the only other Cook books that I've read) and this might be even better. Cook shows that he's the master of the "gray" character, filling the book with multiple, overlapping POVs from all factions involved. Barring one or two characters who are just plain jerks, there are no real bad guys here; just men and women doing what they feel they need to for a cause that they feel is just.

The plot revo
John Behnken
Jan 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Enthusiasts of Gritty Fantasy
This book reminded me that Glen Cook is a master. He hits the story hard from 4 different directions - all conflicting groups of players and all likeable to some degree. In the end, you're left wondering who you should be routing for, if anyone. Even the most dispicable of characters are likeable in some ways. Very hard to put down. One of his best efforts to date. ...more
Mar 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Tower of Fear is a novel by Glen Cook. It is set in a city ruled by an invader. It was won from a tyrant who ruled the land with an iron fist.

The book is a complicated interweaving of plots and plans. The occupier, the Resistance, the supporters of the old regime, the mercenary tools of the invader, and the common people of the city are all represented. As is usual for Cook, it is impossible to pick a side and label them The Good Guys, though there are are a few people who are definitely not.

Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
4 Stars A really good tale with complex, interesting characters. A bit slow to start but once the betrayals and plans start to be put in motion, it doesn't stop. Plots within plots, friends who aren't, enemies who need to cooperate, tough choices. My first Glen Cook but not my last. If this is typical of his work, I'm in for some great reading. ...more
Jun 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I've generally liked everything I've read by Cook. ...more
Francesco Manno

The tower of darkness is a book original and unusual, because, unlike many other novels of sword and sorcery, the focus is not placed on enterprises of some hero wiry, but the socio-political context inherent in the occupation of a given territory (approaching the saga Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson).
The action and magic in this novel are secondary. Glen Cook propels us into an imaginary world that has significant similarities with the Middle
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Literary omnivores with an unquenchable thirst for more fantasy
I only read it because I mistook Glen Cook for Monte Cook, he of TSR fame, and G.Cook's other work was well-received.

Quite formulaic and traditional, it's a standard rendition of the average man caught up in epic events. The clash of cultures works well, and the simmering stew-pot of lethal politics works well, marred only by some improbable romance and questionably-founded character motivations.

I have to admit my interest slackened towards the end as the political and power stalemate finally br
Robert Noll
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
* Different fantasy setting (a desert as opposed to a more lush environment);
* Epilogue 2 covers the outcomes for the major characters;
* Good use of three separate warring factions in an occupied city.

* Twice as many characters as necessary;
* No map;
* Gratuitous profanity;
* Incorrect usage of "till" instead of 'til (just use "until" and avoid the problem) and inclusion of the phrase "muttered under his breath." Just mutter something. Can you mutter over your breath?
* The plot
Jun 27, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I got to page 76 and had to give up. This saddens me since the premise is good; I would love to see this story done well. The distraction in this book is the characters; the author introduces far too many too quickly with names too similar for the reader to keep track. I spent most of my time flipping back to to try to figure out what character belonged to what faction. A review can be seen on my blog, ...more
Jun 05, 2007 rated it it was ok
It's been a long time since I read this so I'm going off very vague memories, but I wasn't much impressed by this book; it was a little exciting at the beginning and some excitement at the end, but I remember nothing of what's in the middle. ...more
Lance Lybert
Nov 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Great book, but I felt like the ending could have been better. Solid 3.4
Randall Hunt
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not your typical fantasy. This one is hard to rate because I could just as easily given it one star, but since the writing was good, and the plot so excellent and complex, I had to give it four stars. Though well-written, this is just not my style of book. I nearly stopped reading it because of the multitude of characters that are introduced at the beginning. Though this is helped by a long listing of characters before the book begins, it still took nearly 100 pages before I got them all sorted ...more
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
A big plot focused on the smaller details.

This book doesn't sound great from the description and the opening chapter reads like a cliché but everything gets better after that.

There is a big plot with gods and wars and generals but most of the time we focus on the lives of the ordinary people caught in the middle.

The characters are well rounded and believable, a mixture of good and bad but all with realistic motives and emotions.

The plot has lots of twists and turns and keeps you guessing right u
James Big Cat
Apr 02, 2021 rated it liked it
An interesting low fantasy tale of intrigue, machinations, backstabbing, and ultimately a race against time. There are plenty of deep characters (but IMO most were kinda boring) and an interesting setting involving a loosely Eastern Mediterranean-influenced city held by Roman-esque troops, so tensions are high. There are those who are flourishing under the new rule, others nurse grudges, and plenty of innocents in the middle.
After a series of child snatchings the city is even tenser, and one da
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-fantasy
Interesting setting with well paced buildup and believable characters.
Ryan St george
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is awesome!!! Easily one of Cook’s best!

This one reminds more of his more recent series. If you’re a fan of Cook, you must read this!
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pretty good. A little confusing with so many characters in a 400 page book, but the legend helped.
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wishlist
Reminds me of the Song of Ice and Fire in terms of complex intrigue and number of characters and magic lurking on the edges but limited to one city and a short time frame. Cook never disappoints.
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The city is full of complex and opposing forces.

A study in tragedy from a certain point of view. The constantly wrong headed decisions of a woman passionately in love with her dead husband, a man widely loathed by almost every other character in the book, lead to her final loss of everything he owned and stood for.

Alternatively, the happy triumph of liberty and freedom of the city from the forces of oppression, both of the tyrant and his conquerors.

Alternatively, the hard headed Realpolitik of d
Ryan Gagne
The Tower of Fear begins with a war’s conclusion and ends with the seeds of wars’ beginnings. The middle bits are the stories of the lives of players and pieces. The stories begin as separate balls of yarn,and through the process of the telling,these stories knit themselves into a tight and cozy Story. Each chapter brings these separate threads closer and closer and tighter and tighter together. The Tower of Fear accelerates; what begins with a walking pace ends at a full sprint.

This is the firs
Lyndol Fast
Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
On the whole, not my favourite novel from Glen Cook. That means this is book is only 'very good' as opposed to extraordinary. It is well written and very rich for a standalone. My reasons for detracting slightly are mostly stylistic - I've come to expect an epic conflict with overarching gods or chess masters playing a conflict out with the story following said gods' pawns (black company, the swordbearer). This book did keep Cook's gritty, down to earth feel in a setting I hadn't seen from him b ...more
Jeremy Preacher
Jan 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I can see how this guy's military fiction would work well. He's not all that deft at relationships or dialogue, but quite good at setting up characters with compelling motivations and putting them in dynamic situations. This one was a not super easy to get into, but with a little patience it turned into a nice tense political novel. I did appreciate the handling of the antihero-assassin character - not many folks can handle that balance without making the character either completely unlikeable o ...more
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Tower of Fear" is yet another excellent book by Glen Cook. It's very well-written, exciting, and suspenseful. Unfortunately, as with almost all of Cook's books, this one is hard to find (i.e., it appears to be out of print). I don't know why publishers don't re-print these books. Outside of the Black Company books, almost none of them are now available. I know that the SFBC publishes 3 (or 4, now) books which consolidate the Garrett series (another excellent series). But, these older works, whi ...more
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Glen Cook was born in New York City, lived in southern Indiana as a small child, then grew up in Northern California. After high school he served in the U.S. Navy and attended the University of Missouri. He worked for General Motors for 33 years, retiring some years ago. He started writing short stories in 7th grade, had several published in a high school literary magazine. He began writing with m ...more

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