It’s absolutely wonderful ... it reminded me of nothing so much as Hamlet—if Hamlet were told from the point of view of Elsinore Castle addressing itself to a Horatio who mostly couldn’t hear it ... The god’s voice is mesmerizing, tender and careful ... I was struck by how deftly Leckie anchors the vastness of divinity to the intimacy of language and grammar, how the gods need to be taught to speak before they can be bargained with ... it’s managed so tightly with reference to the narrating god’s perspective that it feels closer to the register of folk tale than epic, and is all the more riveting for that ... The Raven Tower is also that rarest of creatures, a stand-alone fantasy novel that’s relatively short ... In some ways the book has the affect of an elegant short story overlying the complications and concerns of a novel ... It’s proof that a story can be entirely told instead of shown and still be utterly brilliant.
Leckie has a knack for constructing conflicts where bureaucracy is the primary field of battle, and here she gives governance the epic-fantasy treatment ... [Leckie's approach is] deeply focused world-building as well as a handy character shortcut — there's nothing quite so immediately illuminating as seeing how a character works around, or bristles under, the political status quo ... Eolo, the soldier and ad-hoc royal advisor at the heart of the story, is an engaging subject ... [The book is] also a concentrated study — the book is slender for epic fantasy — and not all the stylistic choices are easy going. (Though its deep concern for language is one of the nicest recurring narrative touches, the voice of the Strength and Patience of the Rock speaking directly to Eolo for long stretches will likely make or break a reader's affinity for the second person.) But at its best, The Raven Tower examines details of power, politics, and the nature of a divinity that can shape our ends, rough-hew them how we will.
Leckie has created an enthralling and well-realized fantasy world, full of not only magic and gods but also characters representing a broad spectrum of gender and sexuality. Highly recommended for Leckie’s existing fans and anyone looking for exciting and boundary-pushing fantasy.
Leckie’s readers have come to expect and enjoy this sort of experimental voice in her work ... The omniscient strangeness imparted by this latest adventure in viewpoint is perfectly suited to conveying the reality of an immortal being ... The end of The Raven Tower comes crashing down with the weight of both inevitability and surprise.
Leckie plays in the world of fantasy, rather than science fiction, and proves that she is a great writer no matter the genre ... I suspect that as much of the fun of reading The Raven Tower will come from assembling an understanding of its supernatural environment as from following its human plot’s mashup of Hamlet and sword-and-sorcery adventure. This is a thoughtful reimagining of a genre, a re-examination featuring the same kinds of variations, inversions, and overturned expectations that Leckie visited on the military SF/space opera formula in the Ancillary books. Everything here will repay close attention, and much will draw a smile of recognition or of plain old pleasure at smart writing and surprising reinvention.
The second person can be a little off-putting at first, but Leckie uses the device skillfully. Parts of this book move slowly, but Leckie’s examination of power, politics and governance is fascinating and well-conceived. The conclusion comes in an explosion of events. As in the beginning of the story, words matter at the end.
[Leckie's] ambition continues to show in The Raven Tower, her first novel-length published fantasy—and shows itself in some interesting, unconventional narrative choices ... The Raven Tower is an enormously compelling novel ... I didn’t love The Raven Tower the way I loved Leckie’s Ancillary trilogy. It’s a very different book, striking in very different ways. But it is striking in ways I deeply appreciate. I admire it. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The story’s voice is a curious but compelling mix of first and second person ... It is a common fantasy trope to suggest gods gain strength through faith and worshipers and that they can employ that strength to bend reality. But few authors have really explored all the implications of what happens when multiple beings with that power come into conflict. There is so much story and careful thought packed into this short volume ... Sharp, many layered, and, as always for Leckie, deeply intelligent.
...complex ... Leckie’s tale takes on a mythic, metafictional quality; the Strength and Eolo truly inhabit their roles, and the story’s elements weave into a stunning conclusion. This impressive piece of craftsmanship cements Leckie’s place as a powerful voice in both SF and fantasy.