Bloodrush by Ben Galley

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Rating 8.5/10
An accomplished coming-of-age story.

Bloodrush by Ben Galley merges alternate history and fantasy into an accomplished coming-of-age story infused with magic (or should that be magick?) and mythology. It is book one in the Scarlet Star Trilogy and an entry in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off. It is also one of my favourites amongst the ten finalists.

Here’s the synopsis:

Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts and vomit. You hear me?”

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.

I like my protagonists to be unlikely or even unwilling and so Tonmerion, the central lead, and myself got off to a good start. We meet him at a difficult time, his father has been murdered and he’s being sent halfway across the world to what is, in his own mind, a land a barbarity, far removed from from the elegance and courtliness of London. His journey to Wyoming from London is great fun to read about and when he finally arrives, the story settles down to both progress and fill in the back story. 

This is not my first encounter with Ben Galley’s work, I read and reviewed The Written a couple of years ago, and is was a book I really enjoyed. So I knew that the standard would be high and I found Blood Rush to be a very accomplished novel too. The book is very professionally put together, the cover art catches the eye and there are few typos found within. The story has all the ingredients fantasy book readers relish: travel, magic, intrigue, adventure and a little romance in what is ultimately a coming-of-age story. Elements within reminded me of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series (the magick) and Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy ( the humour and relationship between Tonmerion and the faerie Rhin). I couldn’t help be impressed with all the elements that made up this book and it deserves to stand shoulder to shoulder with all the professionally edited fantasy books released by the major publishers.

The parts I enjoyed most were those set in the Wyoming and in particular the relationship between Tonmerion and his undertaker Aunt, and the grisly work they had to perform. There were some lovely moments including Merion’s identifiable spoilt-brat teenage tendencies towards stroppiness and melodrama. In fact the relationships were a definite positive and Rhin the faerie, his Aunt’s enigmatic friend Lurker and the Serped family helped make up a strong and memorable cast. The settings of London and Fells Fall, Wyoming were also vivid and far more interesting than the real-life places they were based upon.

Negatives are pretty hard to think of, which is a great sign (maybe a little too long of I’m being completely honest). I would definitely recommend Bloodrush and now that I have read all the finalists in the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off I can happily say that it is - along with What Remains of Heroes and The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids - amongst the three best titles competing.

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