The Seven Towers: You’ve come a long way, baby

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Patricia Wrede The Seven TowersThe Seven Towers by Patricia C. Wrede

I was strangely dissatisfied by The Seven Towers but really couldn’t figure out what exactly was the problem until I sat down to write the review. I normally start with a plot summary, and I couldn’t figure out how to summarize the story. A lot of stuff happens, and a lot of characters run around and do a lot of things, but there is a fundamental disjointedness to the story that is exacerbated by the multiple points of view.

The Seven Towers is the story of one world’s attempt to defeat the Matholych, a magical beast that reappears at long intervals and eats magical power. The most power is gained from killing people, so the beast wreaks havoc when it appears. The seven nations must join together to defeat the creature, but this time of turmoil is also used for various people to advance agendas of their own. The sorcerer Amberglas may be the only one who can bind the seven nations together, but she’ll need Prince Eltion to figure out the secret of the seven towers scattered throughout the nations.

I had two big problems that detracted from my enjoyment of the book. First, Amberglas is an annoying character to read. Her style of dialog is so longwinded, vague, and confusing that I found myself skipping anything longer than one line that she said. As she is a major character, and a major explicator of backstory, that is incredibly problematic. Secondly, in a book entitled The Seven Towers, we only see two of the towers. If you are going to name the book after something, I want it to actually be a part of the story in a significant way.

This is a fairly standard fantasy pulp novel, and is one of Wrede’s earlier books that has recently been rereleased by Firebird. There are wizards and sorcerers, wild princesses, shy princes, corrupt advisors, magical creatures, and noble nomads from the desert. Any Wrede fan will recognize the precursors of her later books, but it lacks the finesse and humor of her later books, like The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The Seven Towers is a satisfactory book, but doesn’t live up to the standards of Wrede’s later work.

The Seven Towers — (1984) Publisher: Eltiron, Prince of Sevairn: caught in the web of his father’s intrigues. Crystalorn, Princess of Barinash: promised in marriage to a prince she’s never seen. Ranlyn, the desert rider: forced to choose between friendship and honor. Jermain, the outlaw: exiled from court for the crime of telling the truth. Vandaris, the soldier: who left the life of luxury to wield a sword and lead an army. Carachel, the Wizard-King: who does not understand the awesome power he commands and Amberglas, the sorceress: who may not be quite as fuddleheaded as she seems… Seven players in a game of deadly magic. Seven Kingdoms at the edge of destruction. Seven Towers holding a dark and dreadful secret.

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit’s staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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