book review, fantasy, indie April, Joseph Sale

The Tower Outside of Time by Joseph Sale

In his latest book, Joseph Sale brings together the worlds of Dark Hilarity and The Tunnel with the four main characters meeting up and taking on the world of Dae’eshta.

Since escaping The Cretin, Tara and Nicola have moved to London and become successful fantasy novelists. I loved that they got a happy ending, and it was so nice to read about their meteoric rise to fame with their books, fictionalized versions of their time in Dae’eshta.

Georgie, the main character of The Tunnel, is having a hard time adjusting to her physical disabilities after her encounter with Jack, but her best friend, Tracey, has found fame and fortune with her blacksmithing art.

However, when a book starts with everything going so well for the characters, you know that the situation is going to go catastrophically wrong for them, and The Tower Outside of Time doesn’t disappoint.

Jed Maine continues to cause havoc in Dae’eshta, and this time the darkness leaks out into London, leaving the four women no choice but to journey to the land of the laughing god and stop the destabilization of reality.

The Tower Outside of Time has a lot going for it, and what it gets right it really excels at. It is the most complex and fully realized book of the Illuminad trilogy, with a darker storyline and deeper themes.

There is a strong reference to the occult in this book, and that thread throughout the story poses many interesting questions.

The attack of London is exciting, and it was nice to see some of the monstrous entities let loose upon our world. I don’t know how fictional people continue to live in the city, as it’s always being destroyed by all manner of nasty things!

Dae’eshta is more immersive and even better described than in Dark Hilarity, and the heart of the book lies with Jed Maine and his journey. His scenes are where the book truly comes alive, and I wonder whether the four women even have a place in this narrative.

Unfortunately, the problems I had with Nicola, Tara, Georgie and Tracey in the earlier books persist into this one. I’ve wracked my brain to discover what it is that stops these characters from working. They each have complex, compelling backstories and exciting character arcs, but I can’t visualize them as people. They fail to become more than the sum of their parts when I’m reading about them.

One of my problems with these characters is that they are merely reactive rather than active. They recoil from past trauma, rather than moving away from it or moving toward something else. When prodded, they eventually take action, rather than having any interior motivation, ambition or desire for self preservation.

This passivity is remarkably different to any other character within the book. Take for example Art, a relatively minor character, who is complex and filled with drive. His few scenes in the book are absorbing and compelling because of this, and his character leapt from the page.

Contrast can be made between the character development of Nicola and Georgie with Jed Maine. All three had abusive fathers, but while the two women seem to have gone from children to adults without any other experiences forming their personalities, Jed’s character and behavior has been grounded and twisted by his father’s abuse and his subsequent experiences, so that he has become a fully realized person.

I was particularly disappointed in Georgie’s character, whose battle with Jack and her subsequent physical disabilities gave her huge potential for character growth. In The Tunnel, Georgie works as a cam girl, using her looks to manipulate and control men in an effort to gain control after something that happened when she was 11. I hoped that her experiences would have taught her that she had strengths beyond her appearance, and that a woman’s value doesn’t rely upon her looks. Unfortunately, Georgie hates her physical disabilities because it condemns her to date fat men, and is rewarded in Dae’eshta by once more becoming whole and beautiful, where she can be adored in a brothel.

However, this isn’t their story and they don’t detract from the overall entertainment of the book.

The Tower Outside of Time is an epic and absorbing read. Dae’eshta opens up to reveal its secrets, and they are more complex and imaginative this time around. I particularly loved the description of the viridian grizzlies, whose multicolored coats reveal your deepest desires (before they eat you).

I award The Tower Outside of Time

6 thoughts on “The Tower Outside of Time by Joseph Sale”

  1. Thanks for this review Iseult – very detailed. My copy of the book has just arrived so I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I am going to shortly, so will post anon. Joe is extremely good at graphic descriptions so I am looking forward to those; your point about the female v male characters is interesting and I shall look out for that to see if I agree.

    Liked by 1 person

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