I read this book back in February, picked it up while I was in Australia visiting the folks, and even though it’s been months since I’ve read the book it still ranks as one of the most memorable Epic Fantasy novels I’ve read.
The Tower of Fear is a standalone novel, but the strange thing is that it really does seem to be a truly *epic* story – a massive cast of characters and an involved and intricate plot. It was a truly surprising novel!
The tower in question is a tower in a conquered city that was the home / command centre of the city’s previous ruler, a sorcerer of brutal power whom the city’s inhabitants lived in constant fear of. During the city’s fall to an empire from across the sea, many betrayals took place; this left the city’s inhabitants under the rule of the invading empire, with some people choosing sides and others trying to live out their lives.
Some of the characters belong to a resistance group who are focused on throwing off the invader’s shackles; others belong to a group of tribesmen that helped the invading empire to conquer the city; one of the characters used to work for the sorcerer as his most trusted aid; and then there’s the woman who loved the sorcerer, holed up and holding onto the dreams that she lost. There’s also wives, children, young soldiers, bar tenders, governors… In short, characters from practically every walk of life. And not only are there many characters, but they’re handled beautifully – they’re memorable, surprising, and alive. They all have believable motivations, stubbornness, things that give them joy and things that terrify them, and proved to me that Glen Cook knows how to write characters amazingly well. I’ve wanted to read his work ever since I read his name in Steven Erikson’s work and, just for the characterization, I’m damned impressed.
Bit Glen doesn’t only write excellent characters – the world he creates in the novel, from the city with is dockyards, alleys, barracks and mansions to the rooms that families share, and even the hints of the larger world beyond the city – there’s enough here to create a palpable sense of place, a thriving atmosphere, a landscape that unrolls in your imagination in an utterly effortless manner – Glen also doesn’t bog down the narrative; his descriptions of concise and beautiful and evocative. To say I was impressed –and that a writer of Steven Erikson’s calibre wasn’t bullshitting us- is an understatement.
But what also makes this novel so good is that there’s a sense of truth and realism to the story – there might be soldiers, magic, battles, and the story may take place in a world and city that doesn’t exist, but Glen respects not only Fantasy as a genre but also the fact that he’s telling a story about people, whether they exist or not. He remains true to what it means to be a story-teller.
All in all, if you’ve never made the time to read Glen Cook’s work before and want to get a taste of his work before getting in to The Black Company or Instrumentalities of the Night, then The Temple of Fear is an excellent place to start. It showcases Glen’s abilities wonderfully, and if he’s this good in a standalone novel then he’s gonna rock in a series, and I’ll definitely be getting into The Black Company soon. 🙂
I give The Temple of Fear a respectful and enthusiastic 9 / 10!
To order your copies of the novel, click here for Amazon US and here for Amazon UK; the book is available in South Africa thanks to Pan Macmillan SA and can be ordered from Exclusive Books in any of the many branches. If you want to get more info about Glen and his work, then check out this link.
Until the next review (Pittacus Lore’s The Power of Six),