Being slightly obsessed with books and all things Fantasy-related, it comes as no surprise that I follow loads of other bloggers and BookTubers in search of my new fix. One of the blogs that I frequently visit, because of their excellent reviews, is Fantasy Book Critic. It’s been some years since the review in question was posted, but back then my eyes were glued to the screen due to some stunning piece of cover art. While I can appreciate a beautiful cover as much as the next one, I don’t coverbuy all that much – if a book has a cheaper mmpb edition available with the most ugly cover in history, I’ll pick that one over the expensive beauty. This cover, however, had me from hello and because the review was also far from bad, I had to have it. And so I met Ben Galley’s writings and because I really liked The Written, I bought everything the good man has written. Fast forward to today and here I am, finished with his latest offering, Bloodrush. The first in The Scarlet Star trilogy.
When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world.
If you want to read something different in the Fantasy-genre, you can’t go wrong with Bloodrush, I think. Whereas in most recent years, the tried and true tropes are slowly disappearing within the genre and making room for fresh settings and plots, a good ol’ Western story was a hole left to be filled. With this, consider the hole filled.
In this refreshingly new setting, Galley tells a tale of family, intrigue, war, politics and magick and puts his own spin on things. While there is a lot going on in this novel, the different elements are steadily introduced. This makes the first half of the book very much a slow burner. But whereas the excitement and grander shenanigans are containted in the latter half, this does not make the first 200 pages a boring affair. On the contrary, it allows for a steady introduction to the various pieces in the game and gives room for the plot to thicken without it feeling rushed or contrived. As the novel progresses, new elements are elegantly added and merged with the basics of the world. This slow approach creates some breathing room, not only for the story, but for the reader as well. It allows for you to wander around in this alternative Wyoming, to feel the dust and sand, to experience the danger of the Railwraiths and to get acquainted with the characters. All this is set against the backdrop of a people struggling to survive in the backwaters of a new continent and a cultural war brewing with the native tribes.
The second half sees the introduction of the magick and – oh em gee. If you think Brandon Sanderson is the master of magicsystems, Galley’s Bloodrushing can surely holds its own against Sanderson’s Alomancy. As is the case in Sanderson’s works, this type of magic is well thought through, bound to rules and comes with a cost. I won’t go into much further detail lest I spoil it all, but it’s exciting, a tad gruesome and exciting! Mix this with the blend of politics and war and you can spell ‘great’.
A nice little addition was the subplot of the Fae. This story was largely told through the little diary entries at the beginning of every chapter. While not the main focus of the novel, it adds an extra dimension to the world and stands in contrast to the progression humanity is trying to make. The days of olden are not gone yet..
The main protagonist is Tonmerion Hark, a lad of thirteen. This is perhaps the one thing that I didn’t really love about the novel. Merion’s being thirteen really showed in that he could be a real brat at times and he trowed the occasional tantrum. This stood in stark contrast to his wish of being taken seriously and wanting to partake in the affairs of adults. While he annoyed me quite a bit at times and a bit less at others, he never came across as unbelievable or such. He acted the way any other boy in his situation would, I think, like and angry young man who is looking for approval and the safety of a home to grow up but instead is forced out into the world and to grow up before his time. As such, Bloodrush could be the beginning of Merion’s coming of age.
His trials, tribulations and tantrums do allow for some great interaction with the secondary characters. Can we pause for a moment and take in the greatness that is Rhin and Lilain. While they have their own demons to face, they have already walked a long path as a character and it shows in the way they handle things. The seemingly lightness of their being also contrasts with the dark and brooding Merion. Add Rhin’s wisecracking and cursing, and you get a cast of characters that make you want to rush – pun intended – through this story.
While this might not be the perfect novel for every reader out there, in many aspects it stands out and manages to captivate so you can overlook the odd flaw. The first novel in a series is never easy, cause it asks a lot of set-up while also having to draw the reader in. Bloodrush, however, has it all and is a promising start to what will be a – hopefully – very exciting trilogy. Here’s to the lost! May this book let them find their way back.
★ ★ ★ ★
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