The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
For the people of Iraden, faith in the gods is a highly transactional and complex affair. Any prodigy of nature – be it a meteorite or a recurring swarm of insects – can take on awareness and power if given enough attention. Humans have given the gods language, and the ability to act on the world by speaking their desires into being. But language is a tricky tool for making magic, and any claim about the truth places a god in potential danger.
The Raven Tower tells two stories in parallel: that of an ancient god who has observed the world around it and quietly gathered knowledge for millennia, and that of Eolo, a young rural soldier thrown unhappily into a courtly conspiracy in the modern day. Passages of lyrical sciencefantasy and a god’s musings on philosophy and human behaviour are interspersed with Eolo’s dangerous attempts to solve the mystery of a disappeared religious leader.
These two threads of story may seem incongruous at first. One is gentle and meandering, while the other often reads as tensely as a detective story. But these settings and characters twist together beautifully by the story’s end, weaving through themes of identity, communication and humanity. The questions raised are tantalising and cryptic: who is speaking now? What can we safely assume to be true?
With an anthropological sensibility that fans of C.J. Cherryh and China Mieville will delight in, Ann Leckie delivers a thoughtful novel that will satisfy anyone hungering for a rich new world to sink into. After her enormous success in the science-fiction genre, this is Leckie’s first fantasy novel; I certainly hope she’ll write many more!