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Rooks and Ruin #1

The Obsidian Tower

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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 her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle.

Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world.

483 pages, Paperback

First published June 4, 2020

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About the author

Melissa Caruso

9 books699 followers
Melissa Caruso is the author of THE TETHERED MAGE, first in the Swords and Fire trilogy, out now from Orbit books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 535 reviews
Profile Image for LIsa Noell "Rocking the Chutzpah!.
561 reviews139 followers
October 24, 2022
My thanks to Orbit Fantasy, Melissa Caruso and Netgalley. I flat out loved this book! Heck, I'm as surprised as anyone. I would love to say that I was expecting nothing but awesomeness. That would be a lie. I really did expect some teenage angst, bad romance and a whole lot of suck! No, these people hit me in my heart! I didn't expect it. I am not a fan of the magic system. I absolutely hate the Witch Lord's. I am not a fan of the distribution of power. I did love Ryx. She and her "friends" are who I loved most. The love interest? Well, Severin may have finally picked sides, but that man needs to seriously step up! I don't like cowards. I am just waiting for Ryx to come into her own. There is just something about this kingdom. I love that when they get tweets, it really is a tweet! A bird. At night, an owl!

So, this is a re-read. January 2022. I'm not listing this on my books, because I don't want to lose my original review.
On another read? I have no changes! I still love this story, and hope for the best! These people are. . "actually, I like them so much that my stomach curdles!" I HATE that!
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
308 reviews1,315 followers
June 4, 2020
I received an uncorrected proof copy of The Obsidian Tower in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Melissa Caruso and Orbit Books.

"There are two kinds of magic.
There is the kind that lifts you up and fills you with wonder, saving you when all is lost or opening doors to new worlds of possibility. And there is the kind that wrecks you, that shatters you, bitter in your mouth and jagged in your hand, breaking everything you touch.
Mine was the second kind."

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Caruso's debut trilogy Swords and Fire, with The Unbound Empire being one of my favourite novels of 2019. The Obsidian Tower, the first entry in the Rooks and Ruin series was a book that I had to pick up as soon as I was given the chance.

Like Caruso's previous trilogy, The Obsidian Tower is set in the world of Eruvia. The action takes place at least 150 years after the events of Swords and Fire and follows Exalted Ryxander in the first-person perspective. Ryx resides in Morgrain and is the granddaughter of the powerful and immortal Witch Lord, The Lady of Owls. Ryx is a vivomancer but her magic is flawed and so twisted that it is dangerous. Anyone she touches dies, which, to her dismay, has happened a few times. At twenty-one years old, her role is to look after the castle in Gloamingard and at the beginning of the narrative, she is hosting a conference with neighbouring Alevar and the Serene Empire. Her castle is full of nooks, crannies, and secret passages, many of which seem only known to Ryx, as well as being host to a mysterious tower with a magical door which must not be unsealed. What lies behind that door is hugely important to the story, as are the attendees of the meeting, and a team of magic problem-solvers known as the Rookery.

"Guard the tower, ward the stone
Find your answers writ in bone
Keep your trust through wits or war:
Nothing must unseal the Door."

Caruso is a terrific writer who weaves fascinating and intricate fantasy tales that are heavily focused on magic and politics. In The Obsidian Tower Caruso also introduces mystery elements to the mix which fit perfectly with her style. Returning to Eruvia again was a great experience which underlines the fact that I get completely engrossed with Caruso's work. It would be easy for a newcomer to pick up this novel without having read any of the author's previous work. I would say my enjoyment was heightened by an extra 5-10% because I was already familiar with the way the magic works, the past relationships of the Serene Empire and Vaskandar, and the technology of the world. That being said, for first-time readers, everything that they need to know for this story is explained fresh and well here too, such as how the magic works, what the Chimeras are, the powers of the Witch Lords of Vaskandar, and the relationship between the Serene Empire's Falcons and Falconers, etc...

The Obsidian Tower is brimming with many well-crafted and colourful characters presented through Ryx's eyes. My personal favourites were the formidable ruler of Morgrain The Lady of Owls, the mysterious Severin - the envoy from the neighbouring Alevar, the talking fox-like Chimera and castle guardian Whisper, and the loveable oddballs that make up the Rookery. Ryx's deeply personal portrayal was intriguing to follow. It as interesting to walk in the shoes of someone who is unable to touch, feel, or love through fear of harming others. At this point, I don't think she is quite sure of her sexuality. We go on quite a journey with Ryx here. A personal journey as the events themselves are restricted to taking place in and around Morgrain. Eruvia is a huge world and I am sure we will travel to many of its areas in the upcoming Rooks and Ruin books. It's also worth noting that The Obsidian Tower features a gender-neutral character and LGBT emotions too.

The Obsidian Tower is an entertaining, well-written, and expertly-paced novel with incredible magic schemes, political intrigue, and a great cast of characters. What is behind the magical door and in the titular obsidian tower and how will it affect Ryx, the Rookery, and Eruvia? I guess you'll have to read the novel to find out. The Obsidian Tower is a highly recommended read, as is Caruso's previous trilogy.
Profile Image for Ash.
122 reviews136 followers
June 28, 2020
Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

DNF ~40%.

I tried to read this one and DNF’d around 30%. I felt bad, picked it up to try again, got another 10% of the way through, and decided that this book really isn’t doing it for me right now. I might go back to it once my state’s shelter-in-place order ends, whenever that may be. Maybe I’m just not in the right mood for it.

This is a really tough one to review, because it’s hard to put into words exactly what I disliked about it. It was just sort of… underwhelming. I went into it with high hopes. I’m a huge X-Men fan, and The Obsidian Tower’s protagonist, Ryx, sounded like a high fantasy version of Rogue, with powers that prevent her from getting physically close to anyone else. Unfortunately, the story didn’t fully deliver on its interesting premise.

I’ll start with Ryx herself, who was a far cry from my expectations of “Rogue from the X-Men, but high fantasy.” She lacked development and her personality was ill-defined; honestly, she could not have been less compelling. She was passive and obedient and I can’t come up with any other words to describe her. She had so much potential: a bisexual mage, the warden of a castle, a woman with warped magic that kills everything she touches. She should have been awesome, which makes it even more disappointing that she wasn’t.

Many of the supporting characters were equally two-dimensional, particularly the Rookery. I should have loved the Rookery – a diverse group of friends-slash-coworkers who work together to neutralize dangerous magical objects and individuals, which sounds awesome – but I just wasn’t connecting with any of them. Ryx’s family also had enormous potential, except that the only family members who got any meaningful page time were the annoying ones. Some of the supporting characters were so stupid and impulsive I had a hard time believing they’d made it as far in life as they did.

Ryx’s relationships with others were all telling and no showing, and as a result, I wasn’t invested in any of them. Her relationships with her family weren’t explored in enough depth for me to care. Her romantic interests went undeveloped, and there were also three of them, which is two too many, especially in an already crowded book. And any of the relationship “development” between Ryx and any character she already knew took place before the book began and was relayed through memories, which was an ineffective storytelling method.

Aside from the characters, The Obsidian Tower’s other fatal flaw was that it didn’t seem to know what, exactly, it was trying to be. Is this young adult fiction? Is it adult fiction? It falls awkwardly between the two, with none of the excitement of YA and none of the maturity of adult fiction. The characters, including Ryx, were very YA. But the plot, which was heavy on politics and diplomacy, as well as dark magic and hellfire, seemed better suited to adult fiction.

Speaking of plot, I don’t know if the problem was that not enough was going on or that it wasn’t happening quickly enough, but I was bored out of my mind, and that’s ultimately the reason I couldn’t make it any farther and had to stop reading.

I will say, though, the worldbuilding was complex and interesting, and if I do go back to this book one day, that’ll be why. I guess The Obsidian Tower takes place in the same world as Melissa Caruso’s Swords and Fire series, which I haven’t read and which I didn’t know when I picked this book up. If you read and liked that series, maybe you’ll like this one.
Profile Image for Dave.
2,981 reviews324 followers
June 9, 2020
Caruso’s latest fantasy work, “The Obsidian Tower,” is the first book in her new series, entitled Rooks and Ruin. The second book in the series, “Quicksilver Court,” is already planned for a 2021 release. Set in a part of the same universe as Caruso’s award-winning Sword and Fire trilogy, this story is centered in the northlands where small kingdoms are ruled by witch-lords and witch-ladies, all genetically gifted with magical powers and, of course, all at each other’s throats. Although not quite the grim, dark, brutal fantasy worlds I typically enjoy, Caruso’s writing is superb and the quick-moving plot will draw you in.

It’s become quite popular of late to populate fantasy stories with female leads and The Obsidian Tower falls into this category. The opening narrative is great with Ryx explaining how she was born into a royal family of witches and warlocks, but she was the black sheep of the family as her magic works backwards. Instead of shooting Forth power, Ryx is like the queen of death as she kills every living thing she touches. Socially, she is an outcast who cannot touch another, not even in passing, and is feared by all. Throughout the story, her confidence grows as she learns to harness her power.

Much of the story revolves around courtly intrigue as the different kingdoms and the empire vie for power. The black tower hidden in Gloaningard in Ryx’ Morgrain is at issue throughout the story as the powers that be argue over it, perhaps not fearing it enough.

A story then bound to have wide appeal even to young adult audiences, but filled with magic, palace intrigue, and demons from the darkest corner of hell. Quite a compelling read.
Profile Image for Angelica.
805 reviews1,071 followers
January 2, 2021
I've said it before, I say it again I read novels for the purpose of entertainment. And I was not entertained.

First, let me point out that my rating of this book is based entirely on the fact that I was bored while reading. If a book bores me, that's usually a book that gets a low rating from me. I read a lot of fantasy. I read a lot of long books. Slow-paced books don't necessarily bother me, so long as what's on the page is interesting and engaging. I was neither interested nor engaged. I didn't like the worldbuilding. In fact, I'm still confused about a lot but don't care enough to ask questions. But it's likely because it was hard to concentrate on reading after a while, so I might have unintentionally glossed over some things. Who knows.

Another reason for my rating is the fact that I didn't care for the characters whatsoever. Characters are more important to me than plot, worldbuilding, and writing combined. If I like the character and want to know more about them, I will read through almost anything. Sadly, I found the main character Ryx, to be both dull and annoyingly passive. She does a lot of brooding, and a lot of recalling previous actions from before the start of the novel. What she doesn't 'do' is a lot of actual 'doing'. Ryx gets pushed along by everyone. The plot happens to her and around her while she repeatedly laments that she cannot be touched.

Lastly, let me point out the fact that this is adult fantasy. It has a 21-year-old main character. It's in the adult section of the bookstore. It's clearly marketed to an adult audience. And yet, it all felt extremely YA. If I were going to recommend this, it would be to people who want to transition from reading YA to adult fantasy. The characters are all strangely naive and emotion-driven and generally act like teenagers, despite being in their 20's. I wasn't a fan of that.

Overall, I didn't really enjoy this one. That said, I didn't hate it. Two stars on Goodreads means 'it was ok" and this book was just that. Nothing more than overwhelmingly 'ok'. And entirely underwhelming in every other aspect of its being.

**I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.**

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Profile Image for Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink.
258 reviews4,865 followers
April 7, 2020
I've been a fan of Melissa Caruso's writing since her first series, Swords and Fire (which is easily one of my all time favorites). So naturally, when I had the chance to read an early version of The Obsidian Tower, I jumped.

This book is every bit as well written as her other books, I'm pleased to say. I will note, however, that it's more for fans of political maneuvering and strategy vs. epic fantasy battles (though battles DO happen). The gist of this book lies within conversations and forming relationships - making friends, deciding who to trust, convincing others to act or not act. Similar can be said for the Swords and Fire series, though I felt the pacing/action in that one was kicked up a notch. I always like to note this so that readers go in with the right expectations!

That said, I loved returning to the Swords and Fire world here. Melissa's world building is off the charts. This series takes place in Vaskandar, so think wizards and mages and land-based magic and the like. Though we get to see hints of other places via their delegations.

I'm not going to be too spoilery here, though, so I won't get deep into the plot. Suffice it to say, the main character (Ryx) is a castle warden (& granddaughter of a Witch Lord), and her one and only goal is to guard a Very Important Tower and keep the 'door sealed'.

But no one knows what's in the tower, not even Ryx.

But when a freakish accident occurs at the beginning of the book, the contents of said tower are exposed - and ooooooh goodness just wait until you see what it is. So yeah, guarding the tower is going to become increasingly difficult for Ryx, especially as the rest of the world slowly but surely finds out what her family has been guarding all these years. Ah.

Another of Caruso's strengths is the escalating of tension. So just as you think 'ah, things are so bad they can't possibly get worse', she throws another wrench in the plot. It, ah, keeps things interesting. And those pages turning.

As far as the characters, I loved Ryx. She actually reminds me a bit of Amalia from S&F. She's levelheaded and tries to do what's right despite everyone pulling her in different directions. Also her power is super cool, if awful. There's also a 'squad' of sorts called the Rookery, all of whom I loved (and were delightfully diverse and bantery). I loved how well they worked together and accepted Ryx for who she was. Then there's Severin, who I have mixed feelings about. I loved him in the beginning (what can I say? I love awful characters). But then (a very very mild spoiler) he softens up a bit, and while he has his own character arc, I'm not sure if I ship them. I mean I should, and I kinda do, but I'm hoping to see more power and strength from him. Right now, it feels like a gust of wind could topple him. We'll see.

Anyway, all in all, it's a promising start and I had lots of fun going through it!
Profile Image for Mike.
379 reviews92 followers
March 16, 2020
So this was a super refreshing read right from the very beginning. You know how lots and lots of fantasy books have some kind of dire warning (“Do Not Open The Forbidden Door”/ “Beware the Stone Circle at Solstice”/“Thou Shalt Not Use Anything Other than Genuine Maple Syrup on Pancakes”) and, well, it’s obvious from the very beginning that whatever was warned against is exactly what’s going to happen at some point? Ever get towards the end of a book and go, “Hmm, not many pages left, and the Solstice is coming up, and the climactic confrontation is going to happen at the Stone Circle, and they’re serving brunch sponsored by Aunt Jemima®. Gee, I wonder what’s going to happen?” All of you know what I’m talking about. Well, The Obsidian Tower opens with a poem, passed down through the protagonist's (Ryx) family for thousands of years, all about how nothing must ever unseal the mysterious obsidian door in the mysterious obsidian tower in the middle of their ancient and mysterious family castle.

Said door gets opened in the first 10 pages or so.

Like I said, that was a refreshing surprise. We get a book dealing with the consequences of violating the dire warning, rather than a build up to it that gets pretty obvious before the end.

And there’s another, similar angle on this kind of refreshing twist. Ryx comes from a family of life-magic wielders, except her magic got damaged by a childhood illness. Instead of being able to manipulate and use living things, she uncontrollably sucks the life out of them. Think Rogue from X-Men, but on plants and animals as well as people, gloves don’t help, and it’s more or less instantaneous. They’ve actually got one side of every corridor in the castle marked with warnings and reserved for Ryx’s use, all so she doesn’t bump into one of the servants by accident and kill them (again). But wait! It’s mentioned that a rival nation has magic that would bind her power, letting her, you know, get a hug once in a while, or walk on a lawn without leaving a trail of dead and withered grass. Except accepting that binding would mean putting herself under the authority of that rival nation, and that’s politically unacceptable.

And, once again, pretty early in the book Ryx says “F*** this, I’m done” and accepts the binding. Once again we get a book dealing with consequences rather than obvious foreshadowing.

Beyond all that, this was a delightful read. Ryx is a wonderfully compelling character to spend time with. She’s befriended by a group dedicated to investigating and preventing magical accidents, and they’re a wonderful bunch of companions and compelling in their own right. The gradual escalation of what, exactly, they’ve got to deal with now that the Door has been opened is handled beautifully, along with various bits of international intrigue going on at the same time. It’s all very well done. And the ending is not a cliffhanger (cliffhangers suck), but at the same time gives a very nice hook so I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

Last point I want to mention: for reasons I can’t quite articulate, this book reminded me quite a lot of Leigh Bardugo’s stuff. So it’s got that going for it too.
Profile Image for Caroline.
359 reviews92 followers
February 28, 2021
Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review.

I think its best to start this review by saying that a 2 star rating means I thought this book was "okay." Not good, not bad - but overwhelmingly okay.

The Obsidian Tower was a book I went into really wanting to love with it's interesting premise of broken magic and artifact investigation with a bi main character. Unfortunately the execution of these ideas left a lot to be desired.

My first issue was the world building. I read a lot of epic fantasy, so slow pacing and a lot of information don't necessarily bother me - in fact I often relish these things. Here, though, the world building was done in huge, generic info dumps that made most of the information given completely forgettable.

This was not helped by Ryx, who might be the most passive character I've ever encountered. She spends much of the book being pulled along by other characters making most of her decisions for her and speaking for her, while she silently fumes and tells the reader all of the important things that she had actively done before the story started, and explaining over and over again why she can't do anything now.

Further, the situation where Ryx can't be touched because of her magic was an interesting idea when taken at face value and it was easy to understand why Ryx would be deeply lonely because of it. However, Caruso comes back to explaining this so often and making such a big deal out of how difficult it was to not be touched every five minutes that the entire situation became less believable over time. It isn't really that hard to not go around touching people all the time - and this is when one person isn't deadly. It was also hard to believe that the castle staff hated/were afraid of Ryx when the only time they actually seemed to be so was when it was convenient to engender sympathy for her.

Finally, Caruso says a lot in this book, which clocks in at almost 500 pages, but it felt like very little actually happened to characters that were so insubstantial that I can hardly remember anyone's name despite finishing it only yesterday.

I do think some readers will really connect with Ryx, but unfortunately this just wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,031 reviews2,817 followers
June 15, 2022
4.0 Stars
This was such an enjoyable epic fantasy debut. This novel had most of the elements and tropes that I look for in the genre, leading to a very enjoyable reading experience. I loved the element of a dangerous magical touch along with a touch of the loveable animal companion.

The characters were likeable although I will admit that the protagonist felt a bit young. The book is marketed as adult, but it certainly has some crossover appeal to YA readersz particularly in how to handles the potential romance.

I would highly recommend this one to anyone looking for an underhyped fantasy series to read. I'm planning to jump into book two right away so I'm prepared for the finale later this year.

Disclaimer I received a copy of this book for the publisher.
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
669 reviews91 followers
June 19, 2020
Thank you so much to Orbit Books via NetGalley for my e ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Normally I would give the summary from Amazon here but I really don’t like the published summary. Here is my own that I wrote!

"Mages rule all powerful in the land of Vaskandar. The most powerful are the witch lords, exercising total control over their domains. As the granddaughter of the witch lord of Morgrain, Ryx would normally be in a position of high power, esteem, and social standing. The only problem is her magic is “broken”. Born into a family of Vivomancers who restore life, Ryx’s magic only seems to drain life from, therefore killing, anything or anyone she touches.

As the warden of Gloamingard, Ryx is responsible for the safety of all within. Her family has had one main responsibility throughout the generations: guarding the mysterious magical artifact within the Obsidian Tower at the center of the castle. All of the Gloaming Lore basically states to keep the door sealed.

Already at the brink of war with diplomatic tension ready to snap, it would be a total disaster if something pushed the neighboring nations over the edge. What happens if the gate is opened? Who are the spies in the castle? What happens when hell is unleashed? Ryx is about to find out. Can she find help in the most unlikely places?"

I like my summary better than the published one😂

So to begin, it should be noted that these books take place in the same world as the author’s Swords and Fire trilogy, although one does not need to read that first.

I absolutely loved the world and world-building. The witch lords all have vastly different domains and I think Gloamingard castle is exquisitely well done. Each witch lord built a bit of castle into the mix, so the resulting architecture includes everything from a hall made of trees to an entry made of bones. I could ramble about Caruso’s architectural descriptions forever but to summarize: it’s magical and everything I ever wanted from a fantasy world. The political structure, mood, diplomatic relations, expectations, pertinent lore, and even the castle staff all fit into the story so perfectly that I give Caruso a solid A+ for world building. She even tackles smell, texture, temperature, and weather as well as the vivid visual descriptions.

As far as the magic system, land magic is one of my favorite types. The trees and animals and castle and land itself all respond to the witch lord’s magic and the cohesion (or discord) is felt throughout the pages. I like when a family’s magic is tied to their domain. The magic is well thought out, explained, explored, and thoughtful explanations are provided for when magical aspects hitch or go wrong.

Part of the mystery of the Obsidian Tower is: What’s inside? What IS it even? There is a neutral sect of magic specialists called the Rookery, who come in to help Ryx work through the disaster that fell upon the castle. I never expected these guys to become the focus but the characters are funny, thoughtful, stabby, studious, and…assassin-y? Who ARE these people? I loved finding out, seriously they are an amazing found-family type of crew and accept Ryx for who she is.

Who IS Ryx? She is a great main character. Smart, resourceful, careful not to touch anyone, and a little too trusting. Unfortunately I spotted the main double-crosser/spy in the story from a mile away but it was cute to watch. Ryx is trying to sooth diplomatic relations between neighboring countries and the entire Tower disaster sends the political intrigue and plotting through the ceiling, and everyone knows how I LOVE a good bit of intrigue. I also loved the witch lord, the Lady of Owls – Ryx’s grandmother. Caruso describes the grandmotherly bond and trust so well throughout the book that I almost teared up at one point when Ryx was trying to describe her feelings. There are also demon characters (!!!!!) and a snarky fox-cat-chimaera-magical familiar that reminded me of Mogget from the Old Kingdom series. With no spoilers I also was thrilled to see a possible enemies to lovers bit developing.

One other note on some of the content: I do tend to avoid a lot of the “other” that most people love reading about, but I pushed through this one because the content is done pretty seamlessly and is well integrated, and not too heavy. There is a bi character but all she does is think some women are cute before starting to form a bond with a male. There is also a same sex couple but all they do is stroke each other’s hair and blush, and I think one of the pair was supposed to be A-sexual which is also I believe where the author identifies. Additionally there is a “they” character which confuses the shit out of me because I always think it’s multiple people on the page. I did like the character though, super funny and bluntly honest to the point of being the comedic relief during tense situations. The point is that the content is there. I felt like a lot of boxes were being checked but as I said, it was done pretty seamlessly and not a big deal.

If you like a fantasy world with equal parts political intrigue and stabbing, banter and friendship, diverse casts, hell itself and a whole lot of cool magic – definitely pick up The Obsidian Tower. I ordered the hard copy already! I can’t say enough good things about the book and really do encourage all fans of fantasy to grab this immediately!
Profile Image for Emma.
2,395 reviews823 followers
November 5, 2022
This was a romp and a half! I became almost immediately immersed in the story which starts off at a quick trot and quickly becomes a gallop. The blend of politics and magic worked splendidly; I loved learning about Ryx and her wonderful home. The characters were so well drawn and the YA themes of deciding who you are, who you want to be, values and the importance of friendship are all very well done. Set aside some time for this because once you start you won’t want to stop until the end!
June 1, 2020
Melissa Caruso can hold her own with the best writers in the genre. The Obsidian Tower is not only amazingly crafted, but also an improvement over the previous Swords and Fire series in my opinion. The novel starts really strong honing the reader in hook and sinker with the introduction of the main character and her flawed magic abilities and continues with tension and grip without let-up. Within the first three chapters, Caruso swiftly establishes the existence of an ancient magic system, the setting, and the first casualty of the novel. From there it’s a wild ride, completely engrossing and addictive like candy crack!

Ryx is the atheling in a line of royal vivomancers with magic flowing through their veins. With her grandmother being the immortal Witch Lord of Morgrain and the Lady of Owls, her magic courses so deeply that she can feel the falling leaves of a tree in all of her land. Ryx is nothing but an embarrassment to the family for everything she touches will die! However, she has been named the Warden of GLoamingard Castle and though it isn’t in the job description, Ryx has become a skilled negotiator and strategist to keep the different Empires at peace.

One of the most important features of Gloamingard Castle is the ancient Black Tower made of bones. No one knows what hides in the 3000-year-old tower but the door to it has been sealed and guarded for a long time never to be opened and Ryx’s grandmother has made this clear over and over. There are riddles and chants to remind everyone of the citizen to never open the door to the Tower!

Ryx likes to haunt the castle at night. She knows secret passageways that no servant or peer has ever been too, but every time she passes near the tower, she can feel the heaviness of what it might contain. Ominous and unsettling.

New Peace negotiations bring visitors to Gloamingard. Despite Ryx’s best effort to navigate smartly through bluff and political intrigue, the unthinkable happens. The door to the tower was opened and a person was found dead.

With the help of the Rookery investigators, Ryx is to solve the magical accident or murder in question, while her grandmother is approaching the efforts at a different angle from the far.

Left with much responsibility, Ryx is torn between protecting the people of Gloamingard and keeping the uproar at bay that has ensued, blaming her for the possible murder.

Silently, dread and evil become a threat to the land, unleashed perhaps with a purpose. Perhaps by accident.

With surprise twists and intrigue, this novel ends with a bang and is to be continued in Rooks & Ruin #2, not exactly on a cliffhanger but not exactly solved either. One thing is for sure, Ryx will have her struggles cut out for her as she moves forward, hopefully with the invaluable friends she has gained and can trust. Perhaps, just maybe, there is a way for her to ever feel the touch of another human, the petals of a flower, or pet an animal with joy…without the risk of its death.

The Obsidian Tower is a door stopper jam-packed with action, broken magic and is apologetically well written, on point. It isn’t as simplistic of a story as it may sound by my review. A lot of the plot is shrouded in uncertainty that keeps the reader guessing. There isn’t anything I wished to be different. I really liked the pull and tug between good vs evil, while the surprises kept on coming.

Initially, I was worried that some things would fly over my head in regards to the magic system, but I found it to be balanced with the swiftly moving and well-imagined plot in equal measure and with purpose.

This is a YA fantasy lovers’ feast not to be missed!

I received a digital copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Many thanks to Orbit for the opportunity! All opinions are my own.

More of my reviews here:
Through Novel Time & Distance

Profile Image for Alena.
404 reviews155 followers
May 31, 2020
I thought this book was going to be epic fantasy but it turned out to be a boring drawn out fictional political discussion with a little bit of magic. There's some action at the very beginning and end but 80% of the plot is essentially about the same people meeting in the same rooms of the same castle and having the same talks over and over again. Nothing happens, nothing gets resolved, the dialogues are basically copy-pasted and never change.

It's marketed as adult but reads very YA to me. The protagonist is 21 (which is still pretty young) but she is very sheltered, naive, and inexperienced. And somehow she holds a very powerful position and is said to be a great politician which is also a typical unrealistic YA trope.

There are some intriguing elements in the story, like Whisper the chimera and the situation with the protagonist's grandmother, but none of that is explored enough. I would rather read a book from their perspectives. It's safe to say that I'm not going to continue this series or recommend this strange book to anyone. It had an interesting idea but that alone doesn't mean anything without a great execution.

Thanks to Netgalley and Orbit Books for my ARC. Also thanks to my friend Danielle for reading this book with me!
Profile Image for rebecca | velvet opus.
154 reviews59 followers
June 4, 2020
"Nothing must unseal the Door…"

There are two kinds of magic. Exalted Ryxander “Ryx” Morgrain’s magic is the kind that wrecks you, that shatters you, bitter in your mouth and jagged in your hand, breaking everything you touch. She is a royal aethling, mage-marked and unable to touch without killing. She is also the Warden of Gloamingard, which her immortal grandmother, Witch Lord of Morgrain, the Lady of Owls, draws her power from. And she’s been told since she was a child, that nothing must unseal the Door…

"It loomed all the way to the ceiling of its deep-set alcove, a flat shining rectangle of polished obsidian. Carved deep into its surface in smooth, precise lines was a circular seal, complex with runes and geometric patterns"

This story was a pleasant surprise. A masterful political narrative that centers around fighting threats of war with words, diplomacy in the face of murder, the right course of action in the face of betrayal and the love, loyalty and servitude that binds family, friends and allies. Then there’s the Door… Ryx is accompanied by magical investigators, the Rookery, and a band of interesting characters like the warm Kessa, fierce Ashe, mysterious, nonbinary Ardith, childhood friend Aurelio, mage-marked Severin and a intriguing chimera named Whispher.

"What new disaster are we facing this time?" I asked.

"I’d say not a disaster, but at this point I’m making no assumptions"

There’s a smattering of f/f romantic tension, and I adored how Ryx’s judgment wasn’t impaired by a pretty face. She’s an empowered envoy, fighting against the ever-present threat of war with tact. The world of Eruvia is complex, its magic system fascinating and well-woven into its lore. There’s enough left open for a second book too, which is exciting because I genuinely enjoyed this diplomatic fantasy, and I’m still considering all the things that were left unspoken...

Thank you to the publisher, Orbit Books, and author, Melissa Caruso, for an eARC to review via Netgalley!
Profile Image for Renaissance Kate.
236 reviews123 followers
Shelved as 'to-finish-later'
May 21, 2020
I've had to set aside a few books over the last month or so... I'm going to blame it on the pandemic, but hopefully this feeling will pass soon! It has nothing at all to do with this book; it's definitely interesting and well-written, I'm just not in the mood for a lot of political intrigue right now.
458 reviews393 followers
June 20, 2020
I am so late and so sorry about being so late. I had put the release date for this into my calendar as the 24th and thought I still had a few days... then I saw a review pop up for this by someone I know doesn't get ARC's and was like OMGWOT?! 

What's made this even more terrible is that it's my first five-star review in... many months. It's a book that helped me get out of my reading slump. It's an amazing book I should have been yelling about... weeks ago. MEA CULPA

Ok, so, this ticked a lot of boxes. I love when magic takes a central role int the story, either as a part of the society or a major part of the main character's life. I also love it when magic becomes more of a curse than a boon and something the MC has to work hard to control. Ryx was born with a power of destruction. Things that she touches wither and dies and her whole life have been revolving around not touching people - going so far as to have her own "lane" in the hallways so to speak. Her areas are marked so everyone knows to avoid them, if she should collide with someone in the hallway it could kill them. 

Anyway, there's trouble brewing. There is a very tenuous peace between three nations that have been known to go to war, and it's her job to meet the dignitaries and work out some kind of long-lasting peace. Except one of those dignitaries dies. And it's sort of kind of her fault, but also not really. She didn't mean to kill this person, they were poking around where they didn't belong. There's a giant black door that her family is in charge of guarding. Even Ryx doesn't know what's behind it, it's her duty to keep it shut and make sure whatever is behind it doesn't get out. So, of course, this dignitary was like "lemme go open that door", and dies. So now she's got foreign nations at each other's throats and if she's found out to be responsible for the death it could mean her death or exile.  

I loved Ryx as a character, I got to know her very well and I found her relatable, easy to root for, and complex. For people who are looking for bisexual main characters, here's your book! I have come across a lot of gay characters recently, but not many bisexual characters. It didn't seem to be a big deal in the society at large, nothing she had to hide. It was treated like a nonissue.  

The world-building was pretty fascinating, you got to know a lot about how magic works and doesn't work because of Ryx teams up with a group that investigates magical anomalies and dangerous objects. 

I read through this in one sitting, the writing was crisp, fresh, and drove the story forward. There was always something going on and the world and characters got built up at the same time. There was very little in the way of info-dumping and it all felt very natural. The dialogue was smooth and fell into the background in a good kind of way. If I'm concentrating too hard on the dialogue because something feels off, it'll slow the story down substantially. 

I'd highly recommend this to a broad audience, it's got something for everyone. 


Plot: 12.5/15
Characters: 13.5/15
World Building: 13.5/15
Writing: 13/15
Pacing: 13.5/15
Originality: 12/15
Personal Enjoyment: 9.5/10

Final Score: 87.5/100 = 5 stars on Goodreads!
Profile Image for Jordan (Forever Lost in Literature).
806 reviews102 followers
June 18, 2020
Edit: The Obsidian Tower is out now!
Loved this even more than I'd hoped! I simply cannot get enough of this world, magic system, and Caruso's brilliantly developed characters.

Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature!

I've been sitting on this review for honestly probably a couple months now because I wanted to post it as close to release date as possible so that I can gush about and praise Caruso's work right on time for it to release.

The Obsidian Tower is a new trilogy that takes place in the the same world as the Sword and Fire trilogy (reviews for all three found in my book review index!) in the land of Vaskander. This is technically created to be a standalone trilogy so there is no necessity to read the Sword and Fire trilogy first, but I would say that if you have the time and ability to, definitely read the first trilogy! It will provide some in-depth and compelling background and world-building that will make reading The Obsidian Tower a much richer experience with greater understanding of how the world and politics of Vaskander and Raverra came to be how they are.

The story revolves around Ryx, a woman who has mostly socially isolated herself from other people due to her dangerous magic that drains the life from anything she touches, which includes not only people and animals, but also things like plants and the natural world. She spends her time living at her grandmother's castle, Gloamingard, home to a magical secret that is hidden in a strictly sealed and guarded tower that has been a part of Ryx's family for millennium. Our story kicks off when something happens to the tower that unleashes an enormous chain of reactions that ends up causing both major political tensions as well as major threats to the entire land of Vaskander.

I loved the main protagonists from Caruso's previous trilogy set in this world (as well as many of the supporting cast of characters), so I was a little concerned that I might not feel that same connection and love for Ryx, our new protagonist, and the other new characters--but of course, this concern was readily shoved aside as I realized just how much Ryx was going to be a character that I loved and absolutely root for. Ryx carries a good amount of confidence about her in regards to political dealings at the outside of this book, and she's also someone that seems to have less concern for pleasing everyone and sticking to the norms of proper etiquette and the like in serious situation when it is more important to focus on what's actually important. Ryx has a firm hand and set of leadership skills that she knows how to use and which she does employ in attempts to keep things relatively calm (or as much as they can be) after things continue to get crazier and crazier at Gloamingard. I particularly enjoyed how Caruso showcased her many conflicts, both internal and external, that encompassed serious high-stakes political issues as well as issues relating to her family's old magical secrets and her own deadly magic. Following Ryx on this journey was an experience that I couldn't have enjoyed more and that I am so glad I got to be a part of!

In addition to Ryx is an incredible cast of supporting characters that I really enjoyed. Caruso does such a great job of including a diverse cast of personalities and cultures that absolutely bring this book to life. If you love misfit groups that come together to work on a mutual problem--though with occasionally different end goals--and do so with varying degrees of success, but that also uncover many new friendships, enemies, and things about themselves and their work along the way. I loved this group of characters and how all of their unique personalities fit together in just the right ways. There are also some extra characters not directly associated with the main group that I loved and that I hope to see more of in future books.

One of the things I love most about Caruso's books is her strength in creating compelling high-stake political conflicts and discussions among various characters and groups of peoples. There are a lot more components to this book than solely the political aspect, but a lot of this book does deal with Ryx attempting to coordinate with other leaders, soothe tensions, and develop solutions that everyone can agree on--something that becomes extraordinarily difficult as events in this book progress. I found myself almost constantly on the edge of my seat wondering how each scene and critical 'did-that-really-just-happen' moment was going to play out, and I can only give credit to Caruso's deft and magical writing for keeping me so hooked.

I also absolutely love Caruso's world-building! As I mentioned, you don't technically have to the Sword and Fire trilogy before reading this book (though I highly recommend it), so Caruso doesn't skimp on creating an elaborate world that she relays the details of through her narrative and plot, with relatively little info-dump styles of world-building. This is a rich world with a unique magic system, vastly different lands and cultures and peoples, and there always seems to be something to explore within it.

Overall, it's an easy five stars from me! If you haven't read Caruso's work yet, this is an amazing place to start: amazing political intrigue, a fascinating magical system, well-developed and engaging characters that you can't help but connect with, amazing world-building, great friendships, and some truly well-written tension and suspense--what more could you want?
Profile Image for Kate.
397 reviews244 followers
October 8, 2020
“There are two kinds of magic. There is the kind that lifts you up and fills you with wonder, saving you when all is lost or opening doors to new worlds of possibility. And there is the kind that wrecks you, that shatters you, bitter in your mouth and jagged in your hand, breaking everything you touch. Mine was the second kind.”

The Obsidian Tower has one of the most subtly clever plots I’ve ever read in a book! I know I’ve said tons of times that I adore books that have political or court intrigue plots, but this one really takes the cake. I felt like I was watching a medieval episode of House of Cards with some magic thrown in for good measure.

The domain of Vaskandar has long been ruled by a family of mages, the youngest of which is Ryx. But while the rest of her family can command all life that exists within Vaskandar, all Ryx can do is drain it from everything she touches. Isolated, forced to cover up at all times, Ryx grows up thinking she’s defective and a danger to all around her. However, in Gloamingard, the castle that sits in the heart of Vaskandar and where her beloved grandmother rules, Ryx feels safe.

All that changes when Ryx’s grandmother is called away on business, leaving Ryx to deal with a visiting dignitary. However, said dignitary has ulterior motives: she wants to enter the tower in the center of Gloamingard, which supposedly guards a dangerous magical artifact that Ryx’s family has kept safe for centuries. When Ryx kills the dignitary in self-defense, she sets off a chain of problems – both diplomatic and magical – that she must now solve with the help of the Rookery, an international organization dedicated to stopping magical crime and theft.

The single best thing about this book’s plot is the flawless way it blends action and drama. On the one hand, you have high stakes like the fate of Vaskandar, Ryx’s family, and pretty much the whole known world, once you know what the artifact her family guards is and the incredible power it wields. On the other, the story is also very much about Ryx’s forced isolation and how she slowly comes to open herself up to the possibility of friends.

I really and truly believe that this book’s most incredible strength was its characters.

The cast is composed of a well-rounded list of characters, but the best for me would have to be the main one – our narrator, Ryx. She’s the endearing mix of powerful, clever, and vulnerable that we rarely see in our heroines, and it makes us root for her throughout the entire story.

I just absolutely adored her story: how she loves Vaskandar and cares deeply for her people, and how that is at constant odds with what she believes is a power that can be used for nothing but death and destruction. At the same time, she distances herself from other people but is also desperately lonely. Such a complex character would have already made for a great book in my opinion, but Melissa adds to it by also making Ryxander a diplomatic and political whiz. And honestly, I really, sincerely think that characters who are great at politics need to be written more into fantasy fiction.

After all, in the real world, wars and conflicts are eventually won and ended by such types. I would love to see that shown in SFF as well, and Melissa wonderfully delivers with the character of Ryx. She can easily read the mood of a room and is attuned to current events and political machinations with all the accuracy of the most sensitive homing device. Not only that, she can also come up with solutions to diplomatic conundrums at the drop of a hat, while also secretly manipulating the people around her – including, by the way, a demon! – into doing what she wants. Honestly, we stan.

My other favorite thing about the characters of this book was the casual queer representation! I keep saying that I’d love to have books where a character’s queerness isn’t the be-all end-all of their characterization, and this book does exactly that. We have a bisexual character, an ace character, a nonbinary character, and characters in a polyam relationship, and it has absolutely no bearing on the story. They’re just there, being their awesome selves, wielding magic, wearing cloaks, and saving the world.

Read my full review here.

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Profile Image for Christi M.
345 reviews54 followers
May 26, 2020
Can things be any more chaotic for Ryx as she attempts to negotiate peace between two lands, de-escalate a Shrike Lord’s desire for vengeance, learn how to bring her own broken magic under control, and deal with the aftermath of unexpected guests, all the while trying to identify what danger a secret artifact possesses and identify a solution to fix it without anyone finding out and starting all-out war? That’s not to mention what I am intentionally leaving out of this list just to keep from spoiling anything.

"Gloamingard was really several castles caught in the act of devouring each other."

It all begins when the Shrike Lord’s fiancee, Lamiel, unexpectedly arrives at Gloamingard Castle one day before diplomats are scheduled to arrive to negotiate a treaty. Eager to secretly discover what Gloamingard protects and keeps hidden, Lamiel trespasses where she shouldn’t and starts a chain of events with consequential outcomes.

Set in the same world as Melissa Caruso’s Sword’s and Fire series, we are introduced to Ryx who is the Warden of Gloamingard. Ryx’s bloodline is one of vivomancers, but due to an illness when she was young Ryx’s magic is broken and instead of life and creation, her magic brings death. She is the family embarrassment, except to her grandmother who believes in her.

Around 20-30%, I almost stopped reading the book. Something about where the story was at the moment wasn’t keeping me interested. Eventually, what I came to realize is that the story centers around us watching Ryx juggling all the different chaotic events going on around her and that’s when I settled in. It’s not necessarily action-packed all the time and that’s ok.

As much as I enjoyed all the disastrous events exploding around Ryx it did at times become a little overwhelming. This was especially true in the latter part of the story when I would pick the book back up after being away from it and had to remember all that was going on. Don’t get me wrong – I liked that there was a lot of moving parts, but it still took time to remember. I also suspect there are some thinner plot moments in how some of the political maneuvering and decisions get resolved, but because it could be a little dizzying I haven’t had a chance to work through all that yet.

Rating: 3.5 stars, rounded up.
Profile Image for Andy.
2,360 reviews185 followers
January 24, 2022
Wow this was freaking amazing!! Constantly surprised by this one. Can't wait for books 2 AND 3. Yes I really went into this thinking it was only a duology. Alas, I was wrong.

The Obsidian Tower is about Ryx, a warden of her land. She comes from a family of powerful vivomancers (life energy manipulators), but her own magic only destroys. An important peace signing is coming up which Ryx will be managing, except them one of the dignitaries goes snooping after a dangerous artifact in the castle and Ryx accidentally kills her in self-defense. This also happens to activate the artifact and while Ryx doesn't know what will happen, her grandmother sends her after the Rookery, an agency that investigates strange magical occurrences.

All this to say: this book is fucking tense. So much happens in this book. There are constant plot twists, character revelations and complicated diplomatic relationships to navigate. I fucking loved it. Yes, I was a medium ball of anxiety the whole time, but it was the thrilling type, not the other kind. I also really enjoyed Ryx's character. We see a lot of growth throughout this book with how she sees herself. I was really curious about her magic, and I'm quite happy with how that all developed.

Not to mention there are a ton of queer characters in this book! I need more queer adult epic fantasy. Also, the little found family of the Rookery team made me so happy. I love how much they rely and defend each other. And seeing Ryx become apart of that made me incredibly soft.

Pick this book up if you want to be pleasantly surprised by a lot of chaotic events. I can't wait to finish this series when book 3 comes out. There is no way I will start book 2 before then hahaha.

Rep: white bisexual female MC with anxiety, white elderly female side character, white polyamorous female side character, Black male side character, BIPOC asexual female side character, white sapphic female side character, BIPOC male side character, white nonbinary side character.

CWs: Blood, death, emotional abuse, injury/injury detail, murder and attempted murder, violence, torture, kidnapping. Moderate: Bullying, child abuse, gun violence, grief, alcohol consumption. Minor: suicidal thoughts.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,122 reviews215 followers
June 24, 2020
I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Not going to lie. I laughed when I first got this ARC. Mostly because it was way after it's publishing date. Then I freaked out because HOLY CRAP, I just got The Obsidian Tower!! So, yeah.. geeked out and then dove into it.

This book took me a while to get into. No, it wasn't due to slow pacing or anything. No, I didn't feel like information was constantly being dumped on me. YES, work was slowly eating me alive and I was maybe reading a chapter a day. MAYBE.

Luckily, today of all days, I finished it! I was like "screw work.. I need to finish this damn book NOW!" Spoiler alert: I still worked I was just magically great at multitasking today. So weird.. but I went with it.

That being said, I loved Ryx! Absolutely loved her and how mysterious her powers were. No idea how I would feel if I had her powers.. but then again if someone pissed me off I would just say - don't make me touch you. Besides that, she has one job - protect her home, tower, and the people within it. Okay, so more than one job but it's a lot for her to handle. It also doesn't help with her grandmother disappears after someone open something that was forbidden.

Honestly, this book had some interesting twist and turns. Some were a bit obvious but what happened after finding out made it a bit more interesting. At least for me. Other than that, all the characters made this a page turner (in a way). I'm definitely interested in the next book and I can't wait for it come out. I need some answers!
Profile Image for Adam.
366 reviews159 followers
April 10, 2020
Well-crafted plot with a wide cast of characters, yet it was also a bit frustrating at certain times when you wanted to throttle these people and kick decorum to the curb.

It has the vibe of a whodunit mystery set inside a haunted house full of nervous politicians, witch magic, hot and steamy tension, and crazy relatives. If I had a nickel...

Caruso’s writing style leans a little too heavily on spelling everything out for you, but there’s quite a bit to keep track of, so that evens things out.

I did enjoy how violence was always, always a last resort. Caruso never took the easy way out of a problem, and tried to solve everything with wit and diplomacy.

There’s some neat ideas regarding keeping mages on a leash, and it works well for Ryx’s character flaws. Things never get too dire, and although the story continues, things are wrapped up rather neat by the end. Perhaps too neat.

I liked it enough to check out book two, coming in 2021.
Profile Image for Julie - One Book More.
935 reviews161 followers
October 8, 2021
The Obsidian Tower is the first book in Melissa Caruso’s Rooks and Ruin series. The story is set in the same universe as Caruso’s Sword and Fire series. However, you don’t need to read that series to become fully immersed in this series.

The story focuses on Ryx, a royal-born with magical powers. Unfortunately for her, her magic doesn’t work in the effective, life-giving way that the rest of her family's does. Her magic and her touch harms. Because of this, she is a pariah in her own kingdom, feared and avoided by all but a small group of people. She, too, is afraid. She fears hurting people and hates the magic that she’s been cursed with.

However, as the story progresses, Ryx learns to use and control her power. As like most coming-of-age fantasies, as Ryx matures she learns more about herself, becomes more in control of herself, and develops more confidence and sense of self. It helps that her power might just save the kingdom. Ryx gains purpose which adds to her maturation and growth.

Much of the story is a struggle for power. As delegations from other kingdoms come to engage in peace talks, Ryx finds a spy in their midst. Courtly intrigue ensues, as Ryx also realizes that some of their “allies” are a little too interested in the tower that her family guards.

“Guard the tower, ward the stone…Nothing must unseal the door.”

Ryx knows that guarding the tower is of supreme importance. After all, this has been ingrained in her since childhood. When the tower is breached early in the story, Ryx and others have to deal with the ramifications of letting something evil into their midst.

Ryx is an amazingly well-developed character. Smart, caring, and determined, she is just what the kingdom needs. She has a strong and interesting group of friends and allies that support and complement each other.

I also loved her complex relationship with her enigmatic and powerful grandmother. From humorous banter to manipulative and mysterious conversation, their interactions captivated me from the start. I don’t want to give away too much here, but I’m curious to see what happens between Ryx and her grandmother in future books.

Finally, I love the messages presented in the novel. At the forefront are themes of self-worth, believing in yourself, and how corrosive power can be when selfishly gained.

Thanks so much to Netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.
Profile Image for Laura (crofteereader).
888 reviews32 followers
January 13, 2022
4.25 stars (which is very unusual for me, but I really want to stress that this is higher caliber than my usual 4 but I wouldn't go so far as to say it could be rounded up to a 5).

Normally, I say I want a hungry protagonist. Ryx isn't hungry, she's starved: for attention, affection, touch, praise, positive feeling. She's a curse upon her own land, with a twisted, broken strain of life-magic that unravels and kills anything she touches. Including but not limited to people. With an ominous family motto that basically amounts to "don't open the goddamn door" - it was inevitable that we were, of course, going to see what's behind it. And it didn't disappoint.

Ryx is smart and capable if a bit socially inept (which she makes up for by being supremely politically savvy). When all of her careful diplomatic plans unravel and worse, she (and some new friends - which is a hot commodity for the royal mage who literally can't even stand close to people) take on every additional challenge. With a capable and diverse cast (bi/pan MC, a f/f relationship, a nonbinary character and more!), The Obsidian Tower brings the reader on a unique magical adventure.

Upon finishing the book, I discovered that it's a spin-off series from Caruso's other trilogy - but while reading it, I never had the sense that I was missing background information and, indeed, I'm now excited to go read that series while I wait for Ryx's next adventure.

Thank you to Orbit Books and NetGalley for the advanced review copy! All thoughts are my own.
Profile Image for Kristen.
246 reviews20 followers
February 23, 2023
Ryxander is the black sheep of her magical family. Instead of sustaining and controlling life in her family's territory, Morgrain, Ryx destroys anything and everything she touches. As the Warden of Gloamingard Castle, she is tasked with one objective: do not let anyone, under any circumstance, unseal the door to the Black Tower. (I'll give you three guesses as to what happens...) When her grandmother disappears, it falls on Ryx to not only deal with the magical mayhem that ensues, but also all the surrounding political machinations. Don't worry -- she's not alone! As there so often is in YA novels of this nature, a ragtag group of oddballs from The Rookery help her along the way.

This book felt a bit too long for me; there were many times I thought scenes and chapters could have been condensed or omitted. It felt unnecessarily repetitive, especially when we were given important information. I also was getting a little bothered by the number of times someone's voice was described as having or dripping with irony -- nitpicking, I know, but it pulls you out of the story a bit.
The magic system Caruso establishes has potential to be really cool, but I wish we got to see more of it. In the few moments when a character really lets loose, it's pretty exciting. I hope that in the next few books she explores that more (as I'm sure she will). Lastly, there is a sort of "mini" conflict that runs parallel to the bigger conflict of the Tower. Without spoiling too much, I thought the climax and resolution of the former was a bit lackluster. After 400 pages of suspense surrounding one character, I was hoping for a little more oopmh. But overall, I didn't think any of these minor issues would make this a book not worth reading.

While nothing surprised me and this is some standard fantasy YA fare, I found it enjoyable with interesting characters and well-developed themes. The mystery surrounding the Tower and all it entails fascinated me enough to keep me engaged through the entire novel, and I'm excited to see where Caruso takes this series with book two!
Profile Image for Ryan Creasey.
75 reviews2 followers
March 29, 2020
This was the most difficult book to trudge through that I've touched in a while. It had so many promising ideas and concepts but never capitalized on them. I grew to hate the main character more and more with every chapter because of her whining and ignorant thoughts that mindlessly repeated things the reader obviously knew from former conversations.

Repetitive phrases, character types, and a slow plot made this a dull book that forfeits its own potential. It also bothered me how the main character was immediately infatuated with literally every person in the book she wasn't related to. The pretentious and politically correct writing style was another thorn in the side of all that I had looked forward to from the premise.

I can't in good conscience recommend this to anyone. The only people I can imagine that would enjoy this based off of what I got out of it is those who enjoy purely politics and conversations about problems that take up more time than actually dealing with problems. I know a lot of others enjoyed this book but it's not for those who want a page-turner filled with dynamic characters or a reasonably paced story.
Profile Image for Kat Dietrich.
1,146 reviews140 followers
August 12, 2021

3.5 stars

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso is the first in the fantasy/sci-fi Rooks and Ruin Trilogy.

First, let me thank NetGalley, the publisher Orbit Books (and in particular Angela Man) and of course the author, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

My Synopsis:   (No major reveals, but if concerned, skip to My Opinions)
It is a time of magical and non-magical people living together. Powerful Mage's can be identified by a colourful ring around their pupil, while other less magical people show no sign at all.

Ryxander, a royal atheling, is the Warden of Gloamingard Castle.  She is responsible for protecting the people within her domain, and building strong allies.  Unlike the other family members, Ryx's magic is broken.  Others keep the land fertile, the crops growing, the flocks healthy. She only brings death to whatever or whoever she touches. Her grandmother is the immortal Witch Lord of Morgrain, the Lady of Owls.  The family's main responsibility throughout the ages is to protect the magical artifact within The Obsidian Tower.

This tower lies deep within the castle, and is sealed by magic.  No one knows what is behind the door, but many are curious, and recently there are attempts to access the unknown.  Ryx tries her best to prevent access, but fails, and as she fails, the mage who attempted access dies.  Just as Ryx has been negotiating peace, this death could be the start of another great war.  If only her grandmother hadn't disappeared.  It will be up to Ryx to fix things.  When a group from the Rookery arrives, they may be able to help, as their sole job is to correct magical mishaps.

Ryx and the members of the Rookery have a touch job ahead of them, as many want access to the magic behind the tower.

My Opinions:   
I admit to putting off reading this one...just wasn't sure I wanted to get into another magical kingdom, and involve myself enough that I would want to read all three books.  However, I found it more enjoyable than I had anticipated.

The author does a lot of world-building in this book, as well as character-building.  Both have been done very well.  But hopefully Book Two will rely more on the story.

I love Ryx, even though she repeatedly lets herself to get walked upon.  As well, the author gave her a rather disturbing weakness in the fact that she cannot touch any living thing (unless they are magical), without killing them.  This became a big part of the story.   Ryx is still learning her strengths.  I love the relationship between Ryx and her grandmother, even after everything that happens.  Then there is Whisper, who is an enigma, and I love him.  However, that is it...the rest of the characters (and there are many), were rather lack-luster.  Again, I hope the next book will add some dimensions to all of them.

The plot was very good (but occasionally wordy).  However,  the main antagonist was a little too easy to spot early on, although there were enough unpleasant characters that you could easily pick more than one.

I look forward to the second book in this series!

For a more complete review of this book and others (including the reason I chose to read/review this book, author information and a favorite quotation or two from the book), please visit my blog: http://katlovesbooksblog.wordpress.com/
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549 reviews51 followers
May 16, 2020
3.5 stars. Full review to come closer to the date of publication.

It's finally time to post my review! Great start to a series. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. If I had read Caruso’s other series based in the same world, maybe I would have been able to better predict things, but I’m glad I could be surprised by the direction the story took. I don’t know how to talk about the things that surprised me without spoiling the plot, but I’ll say that there are demons, and I loved it.

This was a first-person past tense narrative, and it’s been a while since I’ve read a story like that. I missed it. First person is always appealing to me, better to completely immerse myself. I also loved the Rogue from X-Men vibes I got from this (and it’s so strange that I read this right after another book that was also about a powerful girl who couldn’t be touched or she would kill any human or animal, and they’re both bisexual MCs, and they’re both smart but initially submissive). There’s a good amount of diversity in this book as well, with a nonbinary character, bisexual character, and lesbian characters.

My main complaint here is that it was a pretty stressful and frustrating read. It felt like almost everyone was either stupid, greedy, or selfish and almost nothing good happened. I was grinding my teeth so much I gave myself a headache. I know that’s a petty thing to complain about because it takes nothing away from the talent of the author, I just personally prefer not to be an emotional wreck the whole time reading. I was furious at almost every decision made by every single character, even Ryx, who made some seriously stupid decisions despite her inherent goodness.

So this isn't a comfort read, if that's what you're looking for right now, but I do recommend it to anyone looking for a good dark story with some mystery and great representation.
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