Review: The Tower by Jean Johnson

The Tower by Jean JohnsonFormat read: print book borrowed from the Library
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Fantasy romance
Series: Guardians of Destiny, #1
Length: 385 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Date Released: May 7, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

In a fertile valley undisrupted by the aether-shattering death of the old Aian Empire, the Tower and its Guardians have entertained generations of wealthy mirror-scrying mages while adventurers from around the world risk their lives for fortune and fame. But on the one day the Tower stood unguarded, an intruder tried to seize the magic powering the vast structure. Now, locked out of the Tower’s innermost chambers, Kerric Vo Mos must brave the deadly traps keeping trespassers at bay in order to reclaim control.

Unfortunately, Kerric wields a pen far better than a sword, and the way into the Tower’s sanctum is treacherous. Only the help of an experienced player like Myal the Mendhite can get him to where he must go. But mutual respect will not be enough. Passion must also be employed, along with armor and weapons, as they embark on a perilous quest past monsters, riddles, and other dangers that even the Tower’s most dedicated viewers have never seen before.

My Review:

The Sword by Jean JohnsonThe Tower is set in the same world as Jean Johnson’s very enjoyable fantasy romance series The Sons of Destiny. If you like fantasy romance, start with The Sword. They’re great fun.

And just like The Sons of Destiny series, The Guardians of Destiny series looks like it’s going to be eight books. The waiting game in between tends to be torture.

About The Tower itself…so far, the tie between series seems to be a loose tie. Same world, but not the same characters. There was a handoff at the beginning, and a conversation at the end, but in-depth previous knowledge was not required.

The story of The Tower is that it’s a tower of magic. I know that sounds redundant, but it’s pretty cool. It’s a tower that controls the magic for the surrounding region, and it uses its excess power in a surprising way.

It creates adventure runs, dungeon crawls a la Dungeons & Dragons, complete with treasures and puzzles. Even better, it broadcasts (magically, so they’re called scrycasts) the adventures of people running the dungeons.

Of course, a whole economy has grown up around the running of the Tower and the scrycasting.

But the heart of the Tower is a powerful magic fountain, and that requires a Master. The Master of the Tower is Kerric Vo Mos, and he takes his responsibility very seriously. Of course, where there’s a lot of power at stake, someone always wants to take it, and that’s where the story comes in.

Kerric takes one day a year to leave the Tower, and while he’s away, the security protocols are breached. With him on the outside the Tower has no master. He has to get back in and retake control. The only way to do that, is to run the adventure gauntlet himself. For that, he needs a partner.

And because the easiest, for very elastic definitions of the word “easy”, adventure run to the heart of the tower involves a trip through the passion-trapped Seraglio rooms, Kerric needs to run the gauntlet with a female partner who is not just a top-flight adventurer, but is also someone he might be willing to let into his heart. She also has to be a woman who has the chance of feeling the same way about him.

There’s not exactly time for a courtship to figure it out, either. The clock isn’t just ticking, it’s counting down to potential disaster.

It’s not a long list. The woman Kerric really wants to take with him on this most perilous quest is Myal the Mendhite, the woman the scrycasts call Myal the Magnificent.
Kerric has no idea whether she’s willing to help him. Most important, because his position as Master of the Tower has forced him to remain apart from the adventurers, he has no clue whether or not she might be interested in him.

A fact which doesn’t just matter for the purpose of saving the Tower. He’s always been interested in her. But he’s never believed that the statuesque and gorgeous adventurer could possibly be interested in him just for himself.

He has no clue that Myal has asked herself whether the powerful Master of the Tower could ever be interested in an adventurer who has no magic.

Escape Rating B: Reading The Tower is a bit like reading a D&D game but with more plot and including a love story — but also including the snarky back-chatter that makes D&D so much fun.

The story is about two people becoming a team by working through adversity. Myal and Kerric are acquainted, but their normal roles don’t give them much chance to interact. However, they do find each other attractive.

This is also the classic opposites attract scenario, and not just because Kerric is a mage and Myal is a warrior, although it’s nice to see the woman being the sword swinger for a change. Myal’s people are all tall, and Kerric is a head shorter than she is. Myal is taller than most people in the area around the Tower, but Kerric is a short man who has had to adjust to being shorter than average.

Also, Myal has given up her ability to have children in exchange for magical tattoos that enhance her fighting ability. Her people back home consider her flawed. The decision about being childless is handled within the story as a choice both of them have made and what their reasons are.

They don’t fall instantly in love the minute they start running the gauntlet of the tower. They grow to respect and like each other through working together. Love becomes part of the package as they realize how good they are together over the intense experience.

The Grove by Jean JohnsonWaiting for book 2, The Grove, is going to be torture.

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