the Raven Tower

Authors: Ann Leckie

Publication year: 2019

Publisher: Orbit

Genres: fantasy

Pages: 405

My rating: 4 out of 5

Last read: from 2019-06-01
to 2019-05-30

Owner: Frome Library


Something like the clash of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, (which yea, same story but also very different stories), and Greek myth, narrated in the second person present-tense of an MUD. The story of the rises and falls of… dynasties, gods, and the story of a faithful servant. I guess. This one is hard to describe.

What I think and stuff

So, even more so than in the Ancillary series, Leckie does a really great job of slowly parcelling out information, keeping action driving forward while obfuscating the truth of the situation (but still leaving hints all along). It’s really satisfying to play the conjecture game along with the narrative, and slowly see everything come together at the end.

OK I’m not even going to try to avoid spoilers, because any real description of this novel is going to spoil it. You have been warned.

Major wins:

  • the sheer strangeness of the narrator’s being
  • the slow evolution they go through as the story reveals itself
  • their pattering tone of voice, as they refuse to state most things as unequivocal fact, which makes the punctuations of direct statement all the stronger
  • strong trans protagonist
  • strong women
  • allies taking only as much spotlight as is necessary for them to back up the protagonist

I… I’m finding it hard to have much to say about this book. I think the thing that sticks with me most is its tone and framing. The plot is pretty prosaic. Some cross between the Trojan War and Hamlet, these are honestly pretty familiar stories by now. Sure, there’s a cool dimension with the way the gods interact with the world, but it’s not that far off of Greek myth.

The way that The Patience narrates in direct address, and the fact that we never see Eolo’s own thoughts though… and the fact that we still get so much of Eolo, is very cool. As is… how well Patience camouflages their power and purpose until the very end. Leckie is incredibly good at writing characters that keep their own counsel despite being focal, narrators, or points of view. The Patience is probably better than Breq. Which, fair, the Patience also has the benefit of being in a direct address mode, rather than first or third person mode, but still. They keep things very close to the chest.

I think… yea. The thing that will stick with me from this book is not so much the narrative, but the form. Which is no bad thing. It’s just so… alienating, yet welcoming at the same time.

100% worth the read, and might make it into my list of most thought about books, but not my list of favorite books (which I know, is a strange and maybe contradictory distinction).