The Raven Tower is a story of gods and people. It tells of what happens when the Lease’s Heir and his aide, Eolo, return to the palace to find that the Raven’s Lease, ruler of the kingdom and appointed sacrifice to the kingdom’s god, has disappeared. What follows is a whole bunch of intrigue, politics, and religious history.
It’s also told from the point of view of a god.
This tripped me up at first, because most of the plot centres around Eolo, and those sections are essentially told in second person, meaning the protagonist is always referred to as ‘you.’ This is an unusual choice in storytelling. I think the most successful second person novel I’ve seen is probably the Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. Here, it felt a little clumsy in the opening sections, but as you get to know the narrator better it becomes more natural to hear everything in its voice.
The POV choice also means that you never get to see the inner thoughts of Eolo, the main human character. I’m so used to first person and close third person, viewpoints where it is easy to get into someone’s head, that it feels like this would be a great limitation for the author. But Leckie deals with it really well. People show what they’re thinking through their speech and through their expressions, and we are allowed to make guesses. I’m surprised how connected I felt with Eolo given this more distant narration, and I take my hat off to Leckie for it.
The world-building is excellent. The rules are clear and their fairly well explained in a fascinating way. The gods in this story are powerful, and they have the trust of their worshippers, but they are also limited in various ways. The benefit of the narrator being a god, telling the story to Eolo, is that it is quite natural to have explanations about the world.
All in all, this book does well to keep the reader interested in both parallel plots that run through the book. It’s an absolute joy seeing everything come together at the end. It’s also a great example of how second person point of view can be used.
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