The Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly

The Silent Tower by Barbara HamblyThe Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly
Published: Open Road Media (1986), eBook, 369pg
Source: Scribd
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction

Someone was crossing the forbidden Void between the universes. In San Serano, Joanna felt the terror strike, before dark hands were seizing her to kidnap her and take her. . .elsewhere. In the Empire of Ferryth, Caris watched a wizard murdered by a figure that vanished into a tunnel of darkness. And abominations were crossing through the weakening fabric of the Void. And in the Silent Tower, where every stone was sealed and spelled against all magic, Antryg Windrose, student of the Dark Mage, was supposed to be going mad. Only Antryg and the Dark Mage had understood the Void, the Archmage claimed. Yet the Dark Mage had been executed for his evil twenty-five years before. And Antryg was helpless. Or was he?

Things that the world needs: more fantasy books with computers in them. The only one I can think of right now is High Wizardry, where the protagonist uses an Apple II1 to cast spells. Why isn’t there more? Think of all the amazing things you could do with a computer and magic at your disposal!

How strange that instead of taking advantage of all the great stuff technology lets us do, most fantasy books either ignore it or make technology anti-magic completely (think the Dresden Files, where Harry’s magic causes tech to explode just by proximity). I suppose steampunk is closest to what I want, since most steampunk books have some sort of scifi/paranormal element to them. But it’s not the same as a necromancer using her iPhone camera to steal someone’s soul, for example. Somebody’s got to get on that.

Anyway! The Silent Tower is not actually ABOUT combining tech and magic, not really. (Although Joanna’s programming skills come in handy when she needs to deconstruct a spell.) It’s really about good and evil, madness and love and all sorts of stuff. Family! Betrayal! Being confident and not dating losers just because they pressure you into it!

It took me a good chunk of time to understand Joanna’s character. She’s shy and withdrawn and caught in the grasp of a terrible person who’s taking advantage of her because she’s isolated and afraid of other people. She doesn’t have any friends, parents, or coworkers who could help her get away from Loser Boyfriend. She spends a lot of pages thinking about how she has to settle for LB because of reasons. And she’s very dedicated to her job, which seems to be mostly sitting in a cubicle on the computer while being ignored by everyone else in the company.

THEN she gets sucked into another world, and she’s forced to start opening up to people. She’s trapped with these two men, away from everyone she knows (which is not that many people anyway, apparently), and she’s forced to confront her prejudices about, like, everything. For example! She distrusts beautiful people and thinks they’re out to get her. (Bad high school experience, maybe?) But when she makes friends with Caris she’s forced to get to know the person behind the beauty, and she realizes that maybe not all pretty people are evil.

It’s pretty great, and I ended up liking Joanna a lot.

It helps too that she has a better romantic relationship in the other world than in her world. Admittedly, I am normally against relationships where the dude is decades older than the lady, because it gives me the skeeves. But Antryg is basically the opposite of skeevy, as un-skeevy as a person can get, and so I ended up spending a lot of mental effort trying to force them together because they are totally adorable. It’s hard being adorable while in the middle of a quest to save multiple realities from ultimate evil, but they manage it.

So I was very invested in the characters and their developing relationships, and I kinda forgot about the rest of the story except for how it forced them to do things like go on quests. It’s an interesting story! End of the world, evil wizard, etc. But it’s not as interesting as the characters themselves, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing.

Also, the book’s ending basically ruined my life. It is terrible in that way that makes me want to hide under the bed AND read the next book in the series immediately. Not exactly a cliffhanger, plot-wise, but it’s emotionally devastating nonetheless.

Read: November 6-7, 2014

  1. I think it’s an Apple II, anyway.

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