The Raven Tower


  • Media: #Books #Books 2021
    • Author: Ann Leckie
    • Status: read
    • Date: 2021-01-27
    • Tags: #fantasy #fiction #shakespeare
    • Rating: ★★★★☆
    • Idea richness: ★★★★☆
    • Links: Highlights, Goodreads


"Stories can be risky for someone like me. What I say must be true, or it will be made true, and if it cannot be made true—if I don’t have the power, or if what I have said is an impossibility—then I will pay the price."

Fantasy Hamlet in an unique political predicament that oozes conflict created by centuries of god-backstabbery in a world where gods roam and can only speak the truth (by making it happen... or dying in the trying). It’s every bit as engrossing as it sounds.

We follow/are (it's one of those weird second person perspective things... but for once is pitch perfect for the narration style and the best use I've ever read of a POV I personally dislike) Eolo, as he navigates a city on the brink of collapse thanks to the disappearance of his leige's father before he could sacrifice himself to the land's resident (and also strangely silent) god.

Hamlet ensues as Mawat, the Raven's Heir, is usurped by his uncle (who may or may not be responsible for his father's disappearance) while they wait for the new instrument of the Raven god to hatch. Politics ensue and we get a split perspective, learning more and more about out mysterious watcher/narrator (who themselves may be an ancient god) and the history of the realm which is not what they've been told.

SPOILERS The once stoic and uninvolved ancient god/narrator is realllllllly ancient and actually basically acting as the Raven after draining them of their power for a bit of sweet revenge... at the expense of Eolo's land and city. /SPOILER

Which reminds me, I need to actually watch/read some Hamlet now.

"Speaking without thinking first had never been one of my besetting difficulties, but perhaps I was the more vulnerable to it on that account—I had no hard experience to tell me just how bad an idea it might be."



"Could you hear me, Eolo? Can you hear me now? I’m talking to you."

Ann Leckie is the master of politicking and fantasy schemes. What I love about her worldbuilding is instead of taking a classic storyline and layering interesting fantasy concepts on top, she starts with a few original concepts (what a god says has to be true, a ruler who binds themselves to a god and must die with their vessel) and then runs with them to explore all the brilliant, scheming consequences those kind of conceits could entail.

But back to The Raven Tower.

Things I loved...

"“I don’t know. I can’t tell them apart.” “I’ll have to kill them both, then,” she said, her voice slightly exasperated, as though she had just been presented with a minor, unexpected chore."

  • The choice and style of narrator, split between the past and present
  • The only good use of second person I’ve ever read
  • Refreshingly short and focused
  • The worldbuilding (the way gods work, the political system)
  • Favourite character: narrator god
  • Actually interesting fantasy political predicaments that aren't just a reskinned version of vaguely medieval monarchy succession
  • Shakespeare with a twist

Things I didn't...

  • The evil twins could have been interesting characters (prejudiced against their whole life and now feeling in the right as they go after our protagonist, who is also a victim of their prejudice while judging them as well? Drama!) but felt one dimensional. In the conflict riddled political climate riddled with scheming characters, they especially stuck out.
  • While many of the conversations with the Myriad and descriptions of history were engaging, others dragged a bit especially in the middle.
  • Eolo as a character felt oddly half baked. I like how we get the unique dual outside/inside perspective from second person and only guess as to motives but the hinted history and motives felt like they never came to fruition. But it's a tight balance with second person.

Scrapbook Concepts

  • A ruler who must die when the instrument of their Raven god does. Then wait for the next instrument to hatch (during which time it is silent).
  • the Council of Directions #factions
  • Motherhood in the Silent #factions
  • gods who can only speak the truth. What they say must be true or it will be made true (or they die trying). "To say something beyond one’s power to enforce can wound a god badly."
  • gods who are afraid of the ancient gods
  • A god who never moves only watches the sun. Submerged back into the land as time passes #creatures #characters
  • a god without language. Must be taught. Training a god to speak and serve... while it trains them #fragments
  • Have to save an enemy human sacrifice who is wanting to die to prevent enemy getting boost from god they have made a deal with #adventures
  • the Myriad #creatures
  • A god who is a meteor. All the scattered fragments part of the god.
  • "He seems entirely unworried about what the god might demand when this new egg hatches and the new Instrument is born."
  • Party with a petty(?) snake god up their sleeve. Innocent or plotting? Looking for permission to cross #characters #factions
  • The God of the Silent Forest #creatures
  • the House of the Silent #locations
  • "It so happens that in the very far north, on the icy shores of the northernmost sea, there are many very small gods who have attached themselves to a single family, or even a single person."
  • A place where twins are banned, must be left out to die or disguised.
  • Stone that was largely made up of the bones of once-living creatures accumulated over millennia --> god who can extend into stone walls, into the city itself #creatures
  • Magical army marching over waves