Today’s book review is for The Severed Tower, by J. Barton Mitchell, published by St. Martin’s Press. I received this book directly from the publisher, for free, in exchange for an honest review. I also received an extra copy, which I’ll be giving away in a raffle. Keep reading after the review for details on how to enter to win.
The Severed Tower is the second novel in J. Barton Mitchell’s Conquered Earth series. Earlier this month, I reviewed the first book of the series, Midnight City. The second installment didn’t let me down.
The book picks up with Holt, Mira, Zoey and Max journeying to the the Severed Tower in the center of the Strange Lands so that Zoey can fulfill the prophecy revealed to her by the Oracle. They know that reaching the tower will be difficult, but it proves to be more than they expected. To begin with, the Strange Lands, a dangerous region where the laws of physics don’t always apply, seems to be expanding. Then, the Assembly aliens, who usually avoid the Strange Lands, continue their pursuit of Zoey. At the same time, the pirate group that has a bounty on Holt arrives on the scene. And as the team gets closer to the tower, Zoey grows progressively weaker. Fortunately they’ll find unexpected help along the way: Mira’s old Freebooter associates, the White Helix (a cult that reveres the Strange Lands), a reluctant Menagerie team, and even a mysterious Assembly walker who has been stripped of its colors. Will it be enough? Holt and Mira don’t know, but they’re willing to sacrifice everything to ensure that Zoey reaches the Severed Tower–not just to fulfill their promise to her, but because they’re starting to believe that she just might be the key to overthrowing the Assembly once and for all.
As before, Mitchell has crafted an action-packed novel that keeps you on your toes from beginning to end. Since that was one of the things I loved about Midnight City, I was pleased to see that the pacing didn’t suffer from the sequel slump. Instead, he presented even more sources of danger to keep readers on the edge of their seat. I especially loved the introduction of the Anomalies in the Strange Lands, which were presented as puzzles that could kill. They definitely added a new level of suspense, especially since their appearance was unpredictable.
I also liked how Holt and Mira were forced to confront their pasts–and how it brought old weaknesses and self-doubt to the surface. They could easily have ridden high on the confidence of their victory at Midnight City. Instead, we were given more opportunity to see complex emotions and character development. By introducing people from their pasts, Mitchell also provided the audience a window onto why they behave as they do. And I especially liked the parallel development, that Holt and Mira are both confronting their issues at the same time.
Most of all, I enjoyed getting some more points of view in the narration. The first book was mostly from the perspective of Holt and Mira. Technically, this one might have been, too. However, this time we got much more from Zoey, as well as sections told from the perspective of the Assembly Hunter, Avril (from the White Helix), and an Assembly walker called “Ambassador”. This inclusion of more perspectives helped to flesh out Mitchell’s Conquered Earth world even more.
There were a couple of minor issues with the book. First, there were some flashback chapters that I found a bit jarring. The first time that I encountered one, I wasn’t sure what was going on–if it was the result of a Strange Lands anomaly or what. They could have been set up a little more effectively, so that readers didn’t have to expend so much energy trying to figure it out (since there are so many more interesting things to speculate about). Second, I was a little unsure about how well the book stands alone. As someone who enthusiastically read and enjoyed the first novel in the series, I was able to follow along with no problem. Names, place, and terms specific to the series were already familiar. I do think that people who haven’t read the first book will be able to read and enjoy this one; I just wonder if it might be a bit confusing at times. It’s always a challenging situation, though. Too much rehashing alienates established fans, too little alienates new readers.
Overall, I loved it. I’m a fan of the blending of dystopia, sci-fi and fantasy elements. I like the themes of alien invasion, survival, friendship, social organization, and morality. It’s not only one of the most unique stories I’ve read, it’s also one of the most exciting. The Severed Tower earns 4 stars and my enthusiastic encouragement that you get out there and read it, so I have someone with whom to discuss it!
You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads. And, if you have a US or Canadian shipping address, you can enter to win a copy of your very own!
Click the following link to find out how to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway