Friends! I’m sorry I haven’t been posting this week. I’ve been dealing with a sick child with a high fever. I’m also having a terrible week as far as reading goes- not only am I not getting much of it done, I’m not enjoying what I’m reading. It could be my mood or it could be that the books are really just not good.
I’m torn on which category The Raven Tower falls into. I’ll go ahead and qualify this review right up front by letting you know that I did not read all of this book. I read all of it up until about the 30% mark, and then I was so bored I flat out skipped all the parts told by The Strength and Patience of the Hill. Maybe I didn’t give it a fair shake, but at the same time, if I’m that bored 30% in, it’s probably not a good sign. It’s rare that I actively DNF a book. So I’m giving it three stars and splitting my rating down the middle. My review is much rantier than the typical three star book warrants.
Do you want to hear the story of a billion year old rock god that does nothing but sit on a hill and watch the world go by?
Well I sure didn’t.
There are two ways to get me to love a book.
1. Tell me a good story. Twists and turns, betrayals and deceptions, horror after horror. Tell me a good story. This is why I picked the book up. This is what I wanted.
2. If you aren’t going to give me a good story, you had better entertain me with some solid characters and funny banter.
If you can give me both- even better. I do on occasion like books with fantastical world building, or books that make me think, or books with a sweep me away romance, but if I picked the book up in the first place, it’s because I wanted one of the above.
The Raven Tower promises on the story and fails to deliver, and the characters were some of the worst I’ve read this year. No personality. No feeling between them. No connection to them. I mean- on the one hand they are flawed and feel human enough.. but just… ugh. Not even the villain here was evil enough to hate. At least make me hate that guy- make me eager for his demise, make me cheer him on to his death. It didn’t happen.
The interesting part of this book is the part that follows Mawat and Eolo. And there just wasn’t enough story there to support the book. I was skipping fifty page chunks to get past the rock god observing the way of humans and gods. Then I’d read a couple short chapters of the part I enjoyed and have to skip another fifty pages.
The ending felt rushed and abrupt. It all comes to this ecxiting climax in the Raven Tower and then it just ends. There’s no real conclusion. It doesn’t feel complete. It doesn’t even feel like an ambiguous open ending like those of VanderMeer and Erdrich. It’s like paying money to see a concert from your favorite band, impatiently watching a bunch of opening bands you’ve never heard of before, seeing your band come on stage, having them perform their most popular song ever, and walk off stage. Lights out. Go home. Nothing to see here folks. And you’re just sitting there stunned. Like, I paid money to see this?! And then you sit there for 20 minutes thinking it must be some sort of cruel joke. Until reality sets in and you leave with nothing but a bitter taste in your mouth.
Now- maybe I didn’t get it, because as I said, I skipped a lot. But I don’t feel like I didn’t get it. I don’t feel like I missed anything. Hell I wasn’t even confused. I felt more confusion over my beloved Terra Ignota series and I read them in their entirety.
I guess I should comment on the POV, because it seems to be a sticking point for some. The chapters of world history are told in first person and the interesting chapters are told in second person. This doesn’t actually bother me. I’m totally fine with second person and actually enjoy it when it’s done right. I don’t think Leckie used it to her full advantage though. I would have preferred that Eolo had no name. I would have preferred that his gender and sex were never referred to. I think it would have been a really interesting way to make the whole book significantly more personal. If you want the reader to be the protagonist- let them really be the protagonist. It’s not as if Eolo has all that much personality, just make them a blank slate. Let the reader impress their own identity entirely upon the protagonist. I just felt that second person POV was wasted here.
I guess what’s most disappointing about it, is that I know Leckie is capable of better. I know she’s capable of fantastical world building with complex societal issues. I know she’s capable of building sprawling galaxies full of vibrant life and colors. The Raven Tower feels incredibly small and narrow in its views. One town. One Tower. One guesthouse. A handful of characters. Vague mentions of competing nearby people. One character from another society who’s purpose in the story is never really explained and whose culture is never really explored.
Again- I didn’t read many of the parts told by the god. So maybe my issues are unfounded and I’m just an impatient ignoramus.. but honestly I doubt it. I have an idea of what those passages were about and I still don’t care enough to go read them.
So take this review with a heavy grain of salt. I can admit when I’m being a jerk. But honestly I’m sending this back to the library today and I’ll be hesitant to pick up anything else set in this world in the future.