Pros: I couldn’t think coherently for at least an hour after I was done
Rating: 6 out of 5
Review copy courtesy of Penguin Group.
That “6 out of 5” rating up there isn’t a typo. I try to avoid doing that—out of more than 700 reviews I’ve only done it a couple of times—because it feels like hyperbole. Really what it means is that, to me, a book is on a different scale when compared to “normal” books. Fiona Patton’s The Golden Tower is one of those exceptional books. Have you ever read a book that swept you up so thoroughly, so completely, into its world that you came out of it feeling like you hadn’t quite left it yet? Like its echoes were still present around you? That’s how I felt after I finished The Golden Tower.
One of the down sides of being a book reviewer is that sometimes I end up starting a series in the middle. One of the awesome parts of being a book reviewer is that sometimes I discover stunning authors I might never have heard of otherwise. This is both of those times wrapped up in one. At one point while I was reading The Golden Tower I stopped to read two pages to my husband. As soon as I was done, he asked me to order the first book from Amazon so he could start at the beginning. I was all too happy to oblige, and I’m even happier to say that I’m now impatiently awaiting delivery of The Silver Lake. While I was able to dive straight into this book without the background (and with only some minor difficulty absorbing the new vocabulary terms), I highly recommend starting with the first book first. A series this good should be read in order.
Anavatan, the magical City of the Gods, rests on the shore of shining Gol-Beyaz, the silver lake. The city and its outlying villages are surrounded by the God-Wall, a magical barrier that protects all who dwell here from both the nomadic human invaders that attack each year, and the hungry spirits which are drawn to the living energies of the silver lake yet can’t break through the spell wall to claim this life force for themselves. It is here in the heart of Gol-Beyaz that, long ago, the Gods were born …
But five years ago three unsworn children were caught in the open during the chaos known as Havo’s Dance, and, attacked by the wild spirits that had somehow found their way into Anavatan, they were forced down new pathways of destiny. The boy called Graize was flung beyond the God-Wall, and in struggling to survive a deadly spirit attack, he forged a newborn godling—Hisar.
Brax, desperate to save both himself and his young comrade Spar, called upon Estavia to rescue them, giving his oath to the God to seal the bargain. And Spar, gifted with a seer’s untrained talent and still too young to choose his own future, followed in Brax’s shadow into the haven of Estavia’s temple.
Now an inevitable confrontation looms. Graize wants revenge, and fashions a terrible future from the woven-together fates of the nomadic tribes along with that of his Godling. Brax would put both Graize and Hisar out of their misery if he could. Spar, however, doesn’t want to move forward. In one year he’ll be forced to choose, to swear to one of the gods, and he doesn’t want to. He also hasn’t broken contact with Hisar despite what Hisar did to Brax, instead acting as his teacher whenever Hisar comes to him. A confrontation is inevitable, with the temperamental whim of a childling God all-too-powerful in deciding its outcome. But it’s the actions of three humans that will shape the actions of the new God.
I’m struggling with how to communicate the sheer beauty of The Golden Tower. Fiona Patton manages to take what could be an absolutely fascinating discourse on theology, sexuality, and relationships and instead turn it into a riveting plot-filled stunner of a book. The characters are fascinating, with Graize, the “villain”, equally as fascinating and three-dimensional as any other character. Not since Tobias Buckell have I seen such an ability to tell part of the story from the point of view of the supposed bad guys without spoiling anything, and instead making certain parts of the story far more poignant and gripping because of it. Brax was perhaps the least well-explored character in this book, but I’m hoping that either the previous or next book will expand on his character.
I will say that if you absolutely cannot handle the thought of homosexual relationships, then this isn’t the book for you, because they do exist in here. The relationships in this book are handled so beautifully that they make my heart ache. The societies in question handle relationships very differently than we do—as they handle many things differently from us—and it’s presented so naturally that it seamlessly creates a vivid and fascinating world for the reader.
In particular I adored the theology of the book. The priests, their temples, and the gods come alive in the details:
The Hearth God was so agitated that the temple was filled with the smell of burned toast.
Watching a Godling try to understand people, the world, and its place in the world is just… fascinating. I know I’m using that word a lot, but it applies too well. I can’t do it justice in trying to describe what makes it so beautiful. I just hope you’ll go out, grab a copy of The Silver Lake, and check out this series for yourself!