The Obsidian Tower starts where the second of the Jewelfire trilogy, The Sapphire Throne ended, with the forced abdication of the high Queen Helan and the assumption of power by Vaugroth, priest-king of the asexual alien Bhahdradomen. This was a brilliantly conceived surprise, and Freda Warrington devotes much of this third book to exploring its consequences: Vaugroth is a fanatic, but not a stupid one, and his rule convincingly combines apparent benevolence with real terror. Warrington's gives a large cast of good characters--perhaps too many to keep track of--whose bravery, neuroses and generally messy emotional lives provide much incidental entertainment. They mill around a standard fantasy landscape collecting those allies and weapons with which Vaugroth might be defeated--there is nothing new here, but a lot of good passing moments.
What we are waiting for is for Warrington to come up with some genuine surprises to top those which cause the climaxes of the two earlier books, and of course she does. Warrington has a real gift for playing fair with her readers and nonetheless pulling the feet out from under us, more than once; the real success of each of these books is that some routine fantasy plot manoeuvring always turns out to be the structure which enables something genuinely shocking to creep up on us. --Roz Kaveney [via]