The Seventh Tower
The Seventh Tower is a series of six books written by Garth Nix, the result of a joint partnership between Scholastic and LucasFilm. The series follows two children from distinctly different societies in a world blocked from the sun by a magical Veil which leaves the world in complete darkness.
Tal is a Chosen from the Castle, and Milla is an Icecarl from the Ice. Together they discover that an evil, long thought to have vanished, once more threatens their world, slowly and secretly letting its presence be felt. A pact was broken, and a war dormant for two thousand years is rekindling. Danger looms, and it is up to these two children and a small band of unlikely heroes to save their Dark World.
The books are as follows:
- The Fall (2000)
- Castle (2000)
- Aenir (2001)
- Above the Veil (2001)
- Into Battle (2001)
- The Violet Keystone (2001)
- 1 Background
- 2 The world and its people
- 3 Main characters
- 4 Ancillary Characters
- 5 Reception
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The series was born when an editor from Scholastic emailed Nix saying he liked Nix's previous book Sabriel, and that he'd be glad to work with him on something in the future. A few months later, Nix received another email from the editor saying Scholastic and LucasFilm were working to create a new fantasy series. He asked if Nix would be interested, to which Nix replied that he might be. They discussed it back and forth through email.
Several months later, Scholastic and Lucasfilm gave Nix a general list of "influences and ideas" to base the series on. However, Nix was still given much freedom to expand from it to create a story of his own. "In a way, each of the ideas and influences on the original list was like a seed," says Garth Nix. "The seeds were planted in my imagination and things have grown from them, and I have helped them grow and shaped them to fit into the story." Among the points included on the list was a world "where it is always night for some reason" and characters with magical companions of some sort.
The series was written at a rather quick pace, as fast as three to four months per book. By June 2000, the first book entitled The Fall came out. The Seventh Tower has since gone on to sell more than one million copies in the US.
The world and its people
These are the "Masters of Light and Shadow", possessing magical control over Sunstones and shadows. Sunstones have their own light and heat. They are grown from crystals, or sun seeds, originating in Aenir. They are "charged" by exposing them to sunlight for extended periods of time. The "charging" is done above the Veil in large nets. The larger a stone is and the longer it is exposed to the sun, the more powerful it will be. They are a part of everyday life for the people of the Dark World, used in everything from giving light to cooking food. Chosen children are given weaker Sunstones, compared to the Primary Sunstone which older kids and adults use. However, a Chosen who loses all of their Sunstones is demoted to Underfolk status.
The Chosen live in a Castle with seven towers that extend above the Veil. A Chosen is judged by their color level, which shows their ranking in society. In order of superiority, they are: Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red (the colours of the rainbow), and the lowest level is Underfolk. The entire community of Chosen is governed by an Emperor or Empress.
A Chosen ascends or descends color levels by his or her accomplishments and failures. If a person is demoted below Red level, they become an Underfolk, doomed to serve for the rest of their life. There are ways that a person may be demoted directly to Underfolk regardless of their current level, including losing all their Sunstones and losing their Spiritshadow. One tower and specific areas of the Castle are occupied by each color, but there are white levels throughout the castle that are neutral territory.
Underfolk are the servants of the Castle of the Chosen. They are born to serve their Chosen masters until they die, without any chance of promotion. They are not allowed to possess a Sunstone, have regular shadows, and are generally associated with the color white. A Chosen child can be demoted by gaining seven deluminents.
Aenir is a magical spirit world which can only be entered by using a Sunstone and reciting a spell. Unlike the Dark World, Aenir has no veil and is warmed and lit by the sun. It is inhabited by various creatures which the Chosen bind as their Spiritshadows or shadowguards. Because Aenir is a place of magic, not many things are what they appear to be, making the place quite dangerous. Natural features and locations are not fixed in place: valleys, hills, and even ruined cities wander across the land.
Every Chosen, upon being born, gets a shadowguard bound to them in Aenir. These creatures protect their master Chosen until their Chosen binds a much more powerful Spiritshadow when they come of age, at which point the shadowguard is released back into the land of Aenir. Shadowguards, unlike Spiritshadows, may shift their shape to anything. They sometimes appear like regular shadows, and are significantly weaker than a Spiritshadow.
Each Chosen, upon reaching the age of thirteen and three quarters, must go to the spirit realm of Aenir and bind a creature to serve as his or her Spiritshadow until the Chosen's death. The power of the Spiritshadow directly affects the Chosen's ranking in society. A law states that Spiritshadows may not harm other Chosen. Spiritshadows are usually the complete servants of their Chosen, but in some rare situations a Spiritshadow may be bound to a Chosen without having their wills bound. This is very taboo.
Spiritshadows may be large or small. They are more powerful than the shadowguard they replace, but after their master's death they fade away. Spiritshadows without a master ('free Spiritshadows') are prohibited from the Castle. A Spiritshadow feels, to some extent, what their master feels, including pain and emotions. The reverse of this is also true. Without light Spiritshadows are quickly weakened; they may also be constrained by gold (solid or mesh).
Day of Ascension
Occurring once a year, this is the official day when every Chosen enters the spirit world of Aenir. For those coming of age, this is their chance to bind a Spiritshadow. It is forbidden to enter Aenir before the Day of Ascension.
The Icecarls are a semi-barbaric population living in a matriarchal society outside the Castle of the Chosen on the Ice. Unlike Chosen, they fear magical shadows and curse anyone who possesses one. Honor is considered of high importance to Icecarls, and they traditionally commit suicide ("go to the Ice") if they have done something dishonorable. The Icecarls are separated into clans, each clan having their own ship which travels on runners over the ice. Each clan is headed by a Crone, some clans have more than one, but all have at least one. Clan ships follow the Selski migration around the Dark World. One trip around the world is called a circling, which equals roughly one year.
Housing high-level Crones and Shield Maidens, the Ruin Ship is the most important ship of the civilization of the Icecarls, and has been resting for centuries in the foothills of the Mountain of Light. Unlike the rest of the ships, which are made from bone and hide of animals, the Ruin Ship is made of a golden metal called ethren that never rusts. It is five times the size of an average Icecarl ship, and is the model upon which all ships are based.
There are also different "special" clans of warriors. Shield Maidens are a group of experienced Icecarl warrior women residing in the Ruin Ship. They hunt down dangerous creatures and function as law-enforcers among the Icecarls. Shield Maidens are led by an older, higher ranking, and more experienced warrior known as a 'Shield Mother'. A hand of Shield Maidens consists of 12 warriors led by one Shield Mother.
Sword thanes are usually extremely brave men who are willing to leave their clan and journey across the ice and help anyone in danger. They are the male equivalent of Shield Maidens, although they are less prominent in the Icecarl community and work alone. All sword thanes are heroes, but not all heroes are sword thanes.
Creatures living on the Ice
- Selski are huge beasts that inhabit the Ice, and are the main source of food and materials for the Icecarls. They are described as large terrestrial whale-like creatures - many as large as the Icecarls' ships - that feed with a baleen type of system on worm-like creatures which drives their migration.
- The Merwins are dangerous, snakelike creatures bearing four flippers and a glowing horn, which can be fashioned into swords which shine with light, allowing it to harm the otherwise incorporeal Living Shadows.
- Wreska are the antlered creatures that pull Icecarl sleighs across the ice. Their antlers are large, branching wracks and their feet have several sharp nails with which they can grip the ice.
- Norrworms are large, predatory worms capable of bursting through the thick ice that covers the Dark World, and are capable of easily killing the most skilled of Icecarl warriors.
Wilder or Berserker
A sword thane who has been injured mentally and unable to keep their anger under control, can also be called a Wilder. Jarek is one such Wilder, whose skin was enhanced by swimming in Norrworm blood. He primarily uses a metallic chain, capable of damaging shadows as well as living things. His anger was controlled by his keeper, Kirr, though he loses his control when she is killed. This ultimately leads to his tragic death as after his initial rampage, the anger leaves him and due to his sorrow does not return when he needs it, thus showing that the rage can be influenced by one's deepest emotions. To some degree a Wilder is different from a Berserker in the sense that he will not randomly attack his allies while his enemies remain.
The Veil is a shroud of darkness that covers the world from the sun, resulting in eternal darkness in which only the Sunstones can provide light. It was created to protect the people of the Dark World from the creatures of Aenir, and is generated by the seven Keystones in the seven towers. The Veil is presumably quite thick, as it takes many moments to cross. Inside the Veil, there is absolutely no sunlight. The darkness of the Veil is so intense that it not only blinds anyone within it for the duration of their presence within, but also leeches all heat from them and prevents breathing, causing a drowning sensation. The Veil is also so dark that Shadows with no source of light energy will be destroyed, as Shadows can only exist if there is light. This is how it provides defense from Aenirans, as they always take the form of Shadows when in the Dark World.
Keystones (which are large Sunstones) are placed in each tower (e.g. the orange tower has an orange keystone) and maintain the Veil. A Chosen from each Order is assigned as a guardian to protect their Order's Keystone. The Keystones must be unsealed for periodic renewal or tuning by the guardian, and if all Keystones are unsealed at one time the Veil will shut down. A single Keystone can power the Veil for a short period of time. The Red Keystone (the weakest of the seven) can power the Veil alone for seven days, though not at full strength. The Violet Keystone is the most powerful and is in the charge of the Emperor or Empress of the Chosen - possession of the Violet Keystone gives the bearer the right to take the throne.
The Hall of Nightmares
Dreaded by the Chosen, the Hall of Nightmares is a room used for punishment in the Castle. It is run by a man named Fashnek, a man who was badly wounded and whose Spiritshadow now forms part of his body. The victim is placed inside a glass globe powered by Sunstones. Sleeping gas knocks them out and puts them into a dream state. Fashnek enters and controls the dream, turning it into a nightmare from which the victim cannot awake until Fashnek allows it. Those who have been to the Hall of Nightmares are forever changed. The victims often twitch uncontrollably, cease to laugh and smile, or lose the ability to communicate altogether. Ironically, the glass globe used for the nightmares was originally created to help people with bad dreams.
Wise leaders of the Icecarls. There are crones for each Icecarl clan. As crones age, their eyes appear to become cloudier or give off an unnatural light. Crones are aware of the Chosen, but the Chosen believe that there is nothing beyond the castle. There is at least one crone in each clan of Icecarls. They share their knowledge in a powerful mind link established by their ancestors at the beginning of time. Younger crones have blue eyes and older crones white eyes.
- Tal — A thirteen-year-old Chosen boy from the Orange Order.
- Milla — An Icecarl girl approximately Tal's age. She belongs to the clan of the Far-Raiders and her strongest aspiration is to become a Shield Maiden.
- Adras — A not-too-wise Storm Shepherd who becomes Tal's Spiritshadow. He is the brother of Odris.
- Odris — A Storm Shepherd who becomes Milla's Spiritshadow. She is the sister of Adras.
- Ebbitt — Tal's eccentric Great-Uncle, once shadowlord of the Indigo order.
- Shadowmaster Sushin — A Chosen who is ranked as a Shadowmaster of the Orange Order.
- Sharrakor - Shadowdragon, Shapeshifter and Overlord of Aenir.
- Crow - Rebel Underfolk who joins Tal and Milla.
- Malen - Crone in training, joins Milla in Book 4 and plays a pivotal role in the final battle with Sharrakor.
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- Rerem - Tal's Missing Father, Supposedly sent on a mission for the Empress, Wielder of the Orange keystone.
- Graile - Tal's Mother, Poisoned by Sushin into a Coma using Waterspider Venom, has Owl Spiritshadow.
- Gref - Tal's Younger Brother, Abducted in Book 1 and doesn't appear again till Book 3.
- Fashnek - Half-man, half-shadow. Torturer of the Chosen, runs the Hall of Nightmares.
- Arla - Shield Mother of the Ruin Ship who is slain by Milla in Book 4 using the Talon of Danir.
- Zicka - Kurshiken who rescues Milla in Book 3, and assists the group just before engaging Sharrakor
- Bennem - Crow's older brother, trapped in a dream state after being sent to the Hall of Nightmares.
- Jarnil - Leader of the Freefolk and former Chief Lector.
- Jarek - Wild Icecarl barbarian with light magic resistant Blue-skin.
- The Codex - Object of Chosen magic that is only able to answer questions.
- Hazror - Zombie-like creature in Aenir tasked by Sharrakor with guarding the key to the Codex's location.
- The Keeper - Spiritshadow at the top of the Red tower in the castle, appears in Books 1 and 4.
- Shadowguard - Never given a name, Tal's shadowguard saves his life in Book 1. We find out in Book 3 that its original form was a Dattu.
The series has been generally well received:
- "Garth Nix has created a wonderful fantasy world with this series...The young boy Tal and his reluctant (and somewhat grumpy) companion Milla are an interesting pair and their journey is full of surprises. Garth has a great gift for characterization and pacing, and he has a sly sense of humor which always entertains."
- — Claire E. White, The Internet Writing Journal