The Raven Tower - a god's tale

  • Posted on: 13 August 2021
  • By: Sevhina

The Raven God's vessel, a possessed raven, is dead. According to the agreement between the people of Vastai and the Raven God, their ruler, the Raven's Lease, must now sacrifice himself to empower the Raven while it incubates in a new egg. The Lease's Heir, his son Mawat, returns from his military post at the border to find that his father has vanished without being sacrficied and his uncle claims to be the new Lease. It's supposed to be impossible to usurp the Lease so Mawat is certain something is very rotten in Vastai. Another god, Strength and Patience of the Hills, tells the story of Mawat's revenge intermixed with its own history to Mawat's faithful retainer Eolo. Only Eolo senses the doom descending on Vastai.

The narrative style is unusual. That is partly because S&P narrates events and he must be careful how he phrases his thoughts because anything a god says is true as long as they have the power to make it so. If they lack the power, or speak a paradox, it will destroy them. S&P is describing both the current events to Eolo and telling his own story from his first sense of awareness until the two stories come together. There are many gods in this world but due to foolish mistakes few will survive long enough to gain enough prayers and offerings to acquire significant power. Much of what S&P learned as a stone in the northern tundra came from his friend The Myriad who travels as a large swarm of mosquitos. Strength and Patience of the Hills is well named because he has a habit of pondering questions for years before telling Myriad his conclusions. They are both drawn into a massive war between the gods when allies of a new aggressive god, The Raven, kill some of the northern tribesmen who camp beside S&P. S&P and Myriad agree to help others in their war against Raven but they are equally power hungry. Gods on both sides of the conflict will be destroyed.

Most reviews mention the Hamlet inspired plot of modern day Vastai but I thought that was overshadowed by the more compelling tale of a god discovering the world and examining how their power works. Here, assumptions and careless words can kill an immortal being. A pact between a gods and/or humans can influence events for centuries. It's a great world with a good story even though the ending for the human story seemed underwhelming. However, I feel that way about Hamlet too.

This was Ann Leckie's first fantasy novel and was nominated for a Hugo award but she pulled it from consideration saying that she felt there were more deserving books. Adjoa Andoh narrates the audiobook version and also did the narration for Leckie's sci-fi series Imperial Reach.