Tower of Mud and Straw Review

Tower of Mud and Straw Review | Yaroslav Barsukov

I said I was going to get more reviews done on time this year and check this out – right on time!! Welcome back for another book review, this time on Tower of Mud and Straw by Yaroslav Barsukov.

Publisher: Metaphorosis Publishing | Date: 2021 | Genre: Science Fiction

Plot: The queen ruined his life. He would do anything to reclaim it… or so he thought.

Minister Shea Ashcroft refuses the queen’s order to gas a crowd of protesters. After riots cripple the capital, he’s banished to the border to oversee the construction of the biggest anti-airship tower in history. The use of otherworldly technology makes the tower volatile and dangerous; Shea has to fight the local hierarchy to ensure the construction succeeds—and to reclaim his own life.

He must survive an assassination attempt, find love, confront the place in his memory he’d rather erase, encounter an ancient legend, travel to the origin of a species—and through it all, stay true to his own principles.

Climbing back to the top is a slippery slope, and somewhere along the way, one is bound to fall.

I received Tower of Mud and Straw from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tower of Mud and Straw Review

Tower of Mud and Straw Review

Tower of Mud and Straw is a short, fantasy novel by Yaroslav Barsukov. The premise sounded engaging and I liked the idea of a compact book after reading lots of lengthy ones recently.

For a short novel, I was surprised by the pacing. We’re thrown straight in at the deep end, with hints of a back story and a protagonist who follows his heart rather than what is expected of him. The strong start drew me into what seemed a complex world.

But after that, it’s hard to identify exactly what happens. He wants to build the tower. Wants to pull it down. Save it: destroy it. The forward momentum of the plot is stunted by the main character continuously changing his mind. Although this is a character flaw pointed out to him and he tries to address it, it meant the plot didn’t feel it was going anywhere.

At the same time, we’ve got portals to other dimensions, mysterious technology that doesn’t appear to be connected to the portal, warring communities without any explanation as to why. There is a lot packed into a book that didn’t feel it was going anywhere. It’s hard to draw the connections between events and characters. I liked the book, but at the same time, am a little baffled by what actually happened.

“I drink just enough to keep my sanity.”

“Well, perhaps my sanity requires a higher dosage.”

Tower of Mud and Straw by Yaroslav Barsukov

Shea is a good protagonist. He wants to do what is right, which instantly makes him likeable. He follows his instincts, which is why he keeps changing his mind as he learns more about what is going on. He’s got a complicated back story and a lot is left unsaid about how he rose to his position. I like the mystery: we don’t know everything about him, and what we do know, we learn in snippets as the story unfolds.

I’m writing this review a little after finishing the book, but it’s not just the distance that means I can’t remember some of the other characters. There’s a love interest who is more than she seems for their short-lived affair. There’s the mystery benefactor/potential threat whose motives stem from revenge. And the friend who helps Shea make decisions – once they’ve stopped drinking themselves into a stupor. Again, for a short book, it’s interesting how many didn’t make it to the end.

This is a good book. It’s engaging, it’s full of potential and I read it in a day. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what works or didn’t, however, as I got to the end and wasn’t sure I fully understood what had happened. The world-building has a good structure in place and I think if this had the time to expand and breathe, go into a little more depth, it would have been a strong read.

If you’re looking for a fantasy book that won’t take you long to get through, and offers enjoyable escapism, then I’d recommend Tower of Mud and Straw. If you’re after in-depth characters and an intricate world, this maybe isn’t the one for you.

Do you prefer longer books with more world-building, or shorter, to the point ones?

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38 thoughts on “Tower of Mud and Straw Review | Yaroslav Barsukov

    • Well, this certainly had the slowness..! Yeah I don’t know if I necessarily would have chosen it if I realised how short it was, it needed more depth for sure!


  1. I love the sounds of a shorter book right about now and this book sounds like it has its drawbacks, like most books do, yet manages to be engaging in its title and protagonist. Thanks for sharing!


    • I’m not honestly sure if I’ve read a short fantasy before either – no wonder if threw me off a bit, aha. I hope you enjoy it if you get the chance to read it.


  2. I would rather read a full length book with adequate character development and build of the storyline versus a shorter book without these elements. I have read some great short stories however which do just that! Thanks for sharing!


    • Yeah, I’m not sure I would have picked this up if I had realised that it was such a short book to be honest. It needed the development more commonly found in longer ones.


  3. I have to be honest, I’m not sure this is for me. Like you, I’m fond of the occasional book you can read in a day but I do like to feel I understand what’s going on! Great and refreshingly honest review, Lindsey, thank you x


    • Thank you, lovely! I don’t think I realised it was going to be short which didn’t help but there was certainly nothing quick about the pacing that reflected that!


  4. Very good review..especially as you were honest about not really knowing where the book was going. To me that sounds frustrating and like too much in such a short book! Xx


  5. Great review! I’m not usually a fan of shorter stories, especially when it comes to fantasy, because I prefer when the book takes the time to build the world and characters, but once in a while, it’s certainly nice to read a book that’s fast-paced.


    • Me too – I love some decent world-building, especially when it’s other-world-y (totally a technical term), and that might have given this more depth. It was certainly something a little different though.


    • It didn’t work particularly well for me but I think that is because I had the wrong idea about it. It was definitely an intriguing premise with lots packed in!


  6. If I’m going for fantasy, I’d rather long books with a lot of detail and world-building. For shorter books, I read contemporary and romance books.

    Unfortunate that you didn’t enjoy this book aas much as you expected! But at least the protagonist was good 😊


    • I’m the same. It had potential and it wasn’t a bad read, it just wasn’t what I was expecting, which perhaps was on me rather than the book. Thank you!


  7. I usually prefer longer books with more description and world building,as well as a plot that doesn’t get rushed. It sounds like a good read if you’re looking for something quick to read though! Thanks for sharing x


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