Bloodrush by Ben Galley
Bloodrush is a weird west fantasy is set in the frontier town of Fell Falls, America. It’s on the edges of a dusty, desolate desert. There are guns, wild locals, and monsters called railwraiths that eat up the railway workers attempting to lay tracks to expand the empire. There’s also blood magic and faeries. Yep, faeries!
The tale centres on Tonmerion Hark, a young teenager who is sent to live with his aunt when his VIP father, Lord Hark, also known as the Bulldog of London and the Prime Lord of the Empire of Britannia, is found murdered. Much to Merion’s annoyance, his aunt, Lilain, lives in the New Kingdom.
Off Merion trundles from his father’s ample estate on a boat across the sea and then by train to Fell Falls. Accompanied by his faerie best friend, Rhin, Merion is naturally very put out to find his aunt lives in a bit of a shack on the wrong side of town, and has a rather distasteful job as the town’s undertaker.
Determined to get back to London to find out who murdered his father and reclaim his substantial inheritance, Merion decides to work for his aunt to earn some cash for the train / boat fare. He also heads off on an enlightening (and hot) journey into the desert with his aunt’s friend, the strange prospector Lurker, and his magpie. When the wealthy Serped family, owners of the railroad company, come to town Merion spots his chance to gain support for his get-back-to-London cause. He also gets a tad distracted by Lord Serped’s daughter.
However, his aunt isn’t just an undertaker, the Serpeds aren’t what they seem, and Rhin has some dark secrets and vengeful enemies hot on his tail. Merion must also deal with the wild locals, the Shohari, raiding the town and a rather unpleasant post office master. He’s also coping with the revelation that there’s such a thing as blood magick. “Roots be damned!”
This was a really enjoyable read. I enjoyed the mash up of western and fantasy, the whole other world of the faeries as well as the stiff upper lip Merion who must grow up and decide who’s worth fighting for and who isn’t. It is a coming-of-age tale that is packed with laugh-out-loud humour, some grand battles, and a cool magic system.
The ‘magick’ was entertaining to read about – the blood of different animals and creatures did different things when ingested and in combination those things could be epic, or cause terrible nosebleeds or similar ailments. I like that there’s a detailed section at the end of the book all about bloodrushing and the different ‘shades’ with the positive and negative effects of each.
I recommend this book for those who like reading unusual fantasy that breaks the mould. It’s a refreshing concept with quite different elements that come together and work well.
Rosalyn Kelly, 9/10
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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