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REVIEW: The Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly

Seventeen titles in all are republished by Open Road Media and can be perused here.

Dear Ms. Hambly,

The Silent Tower by Barbara HamblyIn the discussion of my review of your book “Bride of the Rat God,” lots of our readers chimed in with their favorite Hambly books and with suggestions of what book of yours I might try next. The Windrose series was listed more than once and I added it to my “eventually going to get it” list of books. Then I was contacted by Open Road Media about possibly reading more of your newly available ebooks and when I said, “Sure! And here are some book titles that have been recommended to me” this is the one that was forwarded (thank you very much, Lauren). After checking out some reviews at Amazon and getting a rough idea of the plot, I dove in.

I won’t even attempt to describe the plot but instead will steal the blurb from Open Road Media:

A wizard and a computer programmer from opposite sides of an interdimensional portal must work together to save their worlds from destruction

In a world where wizards are relegated to ghettos, it is no surprise to see one murdered in the street. But for Stonne Caris, a young warrior monk who sees the killing and gives chase to the culprit, there is nothing ordinary about seeing a murderer disappear into a black, inky portal. The Archmage sends him in search of Antryg Windrose—a half-mad mage who understands the nature of these passages between dimensions.

On the other side of the Void is Joanna, a programmer as mild as Caris is deadly. She has spent her life in cubicles, staring into computer terminals, as far from heroism as she can get. But when the power that is crossing between dimensions draws her through the Void, she finds herself battling to save a world she never even knew existed.

Okay, so I dive in and almost immediately feel that I’m slightly over my head and at risk of drowning. I think some of my reluctance to read fantasy books stems from the initial feeling I usually get of being totally lost. As the world building is accomplished, I frantically dog paddle around trying to keep everything and everyone straight and oh, lets not forget the plot of the book. Once I know which direction shore is and strike out for it then get my feet under me, I’m okay but those initial “which end is up?” moments frustrate me. Add to this the fact that there is lots of information here that initially seems extraneous and the first 100 or so pages were, let me be honest, a slog. The sections of Joanna in our world were like a much needed oasis to me on a dry journey. The repeated descriptions of the waving grass along the roads and the silent, menacing tower in which Antryg is held seemed on an endless loop. I had to call to mind the number of people who raved about the book to keep going. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

Then I got my bearings and began to get caught up in the story. Things began to seem familiar, facts mentioned earlier came to mind, and your skill in painting another world sucked me in. I also enjoyed the wry, understated touches of humor as our band of enforced companions traveled along, dodging danger and becoming closer even as they, in truth, didn’t entirely trust each other. The gentle unfolding of the romance is almost as light as a butterfly as these two delicately and slowly realize what they feel – and that their feelings might be reciprocated. More of a “coming home” versus a “Hot damn! I’m in lurve!” It also makes sense how it spools out between two people who don’t actually want it, never expected it and have never experienced anything like it before.

And when the betrayals kick in, they’re all the more gut wrenching. Was everything Joanna felt a lie? Can she trust anyone on either world again? And worst of all, is the heartbreaking choice she has to quickly make the right one? Let me tell you I was madly reading at top speed by this point. “Wait! No, that can’t be! Nooooo, tell me it ain’t so. Is this the end? OMG, it’s not.” My kittens were regarding me strangely and no doubt wondering about momma’s sanity.

Some things seem dated and younger readers will no doubt be baffled or charmed by this vision of antique computer technology (Floppy discs! Yes, they were once state of the art. Go look it up.) but I’m perversely glad you didn’t update this. Am I set to immediately start the next book in the series? You betcha! Do I need to wait to do that in order to complete other reading commitments? &^%$#@ it, yes. But I’m caught up in the series now and will be returning to it as soon as I can. B- for the first part, B+ for the rest.

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

25 Comments

  1. Cally
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 04:32:44

    I had a hard time sorting the world building out initially, but this quickly became my favourite fantasy series. Book three is still my personal fave, but the whole series is wonderful. Time for a re-read I think. Especially since back in the day, I had quite the book-crush on Antryg.

  2. Mary Anne Graham
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 06:57:04

    This sounds like a fun read, especially since I’m married to a computer programmer.

    However, based on my personal experience, I must disagree with the plot in one wee aspect – Computer Programmers Are Wizards:)

    Thanks for the review!

  3. Jayne
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 07:13:26

    @Cally: I think I could crush on Antryg too as I kind of like a slightly dorky hero. They’re so lovable.

    Now that I’ve read the first book, am I set as far as the worldbuilding?

  4. Jayne
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 07:15:20

    @Mary Anne Graham: I think computer programmers are awesome too. And here Joanna actually actually uses her computer skills to help save the day – several times, in fact.

  5. Eliza Evans
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 07:20:23

    This looks fab! I’ve been looking for another fantasy series to sink into, and this book is only $1.99 for the kindle. Done and done.

  6. DS
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 07:23:27

    Though not my favorite by Hambly, just reading the plot description gives me a warm glow of nostalgia.

  7. Jayne
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 07:30:32

    @Eliza Evans: Hambly has a couple of series you can check out and some stand alone books as well. Not all are fantasy though.

  8. Jayne
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 07:32:20

    @DS: Which are your favorites? With the sale going on today, it’s a good time to buy.

  9. Angela James
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 07:53:12

    Seeing all of these for $1.99 makes it impossible not to try a few. I’d love to hear what series Hambly fans think is her best. I’m always looking for great fantasy and it looks like she writes strong female leads.

    Just out of curiosity, do any of her books or series have romantic elements?

  10. Cally
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 08:04:34

    @Jayne: Two and one have the most world building but three is based on everything that came before. If I didn’t quite get something, I just shoved that thought aside and focused on Joanna as her perspective tended to make things easier to understand. If you got through The Silent Tower, then you’re ready for The Silicon Mage.

  11. Jayne
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 08:07:48

    @Angela James: I loved “Bride of the Rat God” and gave it an A. It has a lovely romance in it.

    This one sorta has a romance thread running through it but it has an open ending – I won’t say more to avoid spoilers.

  12. Jayne
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 08:09:43

    @Cally:

    If I didn’t quite get something, I just shoved that thought aside and focused on Joanna as her perspective tended to make things easier to understand.

    Yes, I understand what you’re saying here and it makes perfect sense to me.

  13. Bettie
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 09:55:33

    Though not my favorite by Hambly, just reading the plot description gives me a warm glow of nostalgia.

    @DS: Me, too!

    It’s so cool that these books are available in digital! I remember loving them when I was in junior high. I’ve wanted to reread this series and the Sunwolf and Starhawk novels, but have had a hard time finding the complete series.

    @Angela James: The Sunwolf & Starhawk books were my favorites, though I also have some nostalgia for her vampire novels (Those who Hunt the Night and Traveling with the Dead) as they harken back to the days when vampires were scary. *sigh* I miss those days.

  14. Barb in Maryland
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 10:03:00

    Jayne
    My favorite Hamble series features Sun Wolf and Starhawk. ‘Ladies of Mandrigyn’ is the first of three. Sun Wolf is the leader of a band of mercenaries and Starhawk(female) is his first lieutenant. The series is set up as a ‘continuing adventures of’ rather than cliffhangers at the end of the first two books If you enjoyed the Tiger and Del books by Jennifer Roberson then I think you will enjoy these. And yes, there develops a nice romance between our two leads.

  15. Carolyn
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 11:21:08

    I love all her books, but I think my favorite is still the Darwath trilogy. She’s definitely not a romance writer, but there are romantic elements in all her books and in the Darwath series we have two romance plots.

    I’m off to add to my e-collection of her books. :-)

  16. Laura Florand
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 11:57:24

    Joanna and Antryg! I absolutely agree with you on their relationship, it’s what I most like about these books. This series is my personal favorite of hers, although all are good. I’m glad you enjoyed the first book!

  17. romsfuulynn
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 13:07:57

    Well, I’d bought some of my favorites at full price and I went back and bought some more. These sales are DANGEROUS.

  18. Ducky
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 15:08:05

    Never read this one but have read ‘Those Who Hunt The Night’ and ‘Traveling With The Dead’ and loved those – no Twilight vamps in those books!

  19. Lauren
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 16:29:35

    Insightful post and interesting comments – I really agree about the Sun Wolf series! Ladies of Mandrigyn is excellent.

  20. Jayne
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 19:38:01

    @romsfuulynn: God, aren’t they? I just went and bought 3 more of these books myself. ;)

  21. Jayne
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 19:39:06

    @Laura Florand: Well, I just bought “The Silicon Mage” and am eager to see what happens to them next.

  22. Karen McCullough
    Nov 29, 2011 @ 17:08:41

    This is my favorite series by her, though I like everything she’s written. I bought The Silent Tower years ago, when it first came out in paperback, and then had to wait six l-o-o-ng months for The Silicon Mage to be released. That was not a happy time. Count yourselves fortunate that you can go right ahead and buy Silicon Mage when you finish The Silent Tower. If you make it to the end of TST, you will HAVE to have the next one.

    I loved Dragonsbane, too, though I didn’t like the sequels to it nearly as much.

  23. Jayne
    Nov 29, 2011 @ 19:10:02

    @Karen McCullough: Oh, I know I’m lucky to be able to have instant gratification. I remember talking with some Patricia Veryan fans about one of her series and they bemoaned that they had had to wait a year in between the novels whereas I could read them straight through. ;)

    I went ahead and bought TSM and Dragonsbane since so many people commented about it earlier.

  24. willaful
    Nov 29, 2011 @ 22:45:06

    Was that a 1 day sale? I’m no longer seeing the 60% discount. :-(

  25. Jane
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 05:52:09

    @willaful yes it was a cyber Monday sale

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