Book Review: THE RAVEN TOWER by Ann Leckie

Title in white on black next to gold doorknocker shaped like a raven's head holding the ring
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 3 stars
Series: Standalone


Book cover for THE RAVEN TOWER: Title in white on black below a gold doorknocker shaped like a raven's head holding the ring

For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes.

But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods.

It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo–aide to Mawat, the true Lease–arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself…and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I picked up THE RAVEN TOWER because I was told it was inspired by Hamlet, and I will pretty much read anything that’s a Shakespeare retelling (there are a few exceptions *cough Romeo and Juliet cough.*) I’ll be honest, I probably wouldn’t have worked that out as the names are all different and there are LOTS of things missing from the play. It’s more “uncle steals power from nephew” and a few minor nods here and there. I think if I didn’t know it was a Shakespeare retelling, I might have settled into the “main” story without constantly looking for references and events that never happened.

This book is written in 2nd person, from the perspective of a god describing what Eolo does (interspersed with some sections in first person about the god’s life). 2nd person is not my favourite style as it actually creates a large disconnect between me and the text. Even though it’s directly telling me what I am doing or thinking or feeling, I am not feeling that or experiencing that, so there’s a jarring difference.

Plus, it took me a while (almost 100 pages) to realise the character the you was referring to was called Eolo. My copy does not have the blurb above, but rather author “soundbites” of praise and a tag line. Personally, a name helps make a character real to me. The disconnect was then made worse by the fact that the narrator is speculating about what’s going on in Eolo’s head, so there weren’t many emotional cues just “did you feel…?”

It took me a very long time to work out who the narrating god was, and why we were getting these long stretches of very ancient history and how it all related to the “main” story of Eolo and Marwat. There’s a nice a ha moment when it all comes together, but that took a while in coming. Not to mention that there are no chapters in this book, so you can’t even go “alternating chapter are different timelines” as you might have lots of scenes in one timeline until you switch to the next.

It was an interesting and different book to what I usually read, but ultimately not for me. I think THE RAVEN TOWER is one of those books where, if you appreciate a more literary style in your fiction, you will enjoy it more than I did. For me, style has to come very much secondary to being drawn into a world, its plot, and characters.

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