Breaking Chaos by Ben Galley (Chasing Graves #3)

One of the signs of knowing that you’re reading good series is realizing how much your perception of it has changed over time. Chasing Graves introduced me to a world without hope, where the rich dine on the poor, and where death is no escape from an eternity of torture and indentured service. Grim Solace offered a shred of hope that there are still values worth fighting for, and people worthy of taking on that fight. Breaking Chaos is the payoff we’ve been waiting for. It is a cathartic release of all the angst and terror and scheming plots and secret vendettas, all tightly woven into a massively entertaining conclusion that far surpassed my expectations. It left me immediately wanting more stories from this world, as we leave Araxes in a perfect state of opportunity for more fresh stories to tell.  

“Wealth was a never-ending mountain, littered with the bodies of fools craving a summit.”

One of the most enjoyable aspects of these books – or really, any of Galley’s stories -- are his vivid descriptions of the surrounding environments. At times, Araxes feels so real I could almost taste its foulness. Whether we are inside the city, the Outsprawls, the desert, or within the lavish towers of the elite, Galley’s carefully-worded depictions convey not only a visual sense of order, but also paints a clear picture of the socio-economic class divide that mirrors our own cities’ sufferings from similar bouts of urban decay.

I try to keep all my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, so I won’t delve too far into the plot. Grim Solace left our cast in a series of dire cliffhangers that was a substantial step up from the conclusion of Chasing Graves. I’m happy to report that these cliffhangers are dealt with in surprising and interesting ways. Some have perilous and lasting implications that carry through to the end of the story, and the final fates of our anti-heroes and villains kept me guessing. It’s hard to predict who lives and dies when half your cast is already dead!

Although Caltro and Nilith once again carry the weight of the story, it’s the supporting cast that really shines. A couple of minor characters get their chance in the spotlight more so than in previous books, and we learn a great deal more about the various machinations that have been driving some of the story’s greatest mysteries from the beginning of the trilogy. Galley’s dialogue remains sharp and self-aware, and its pace quickens with each chapter. Breaking Chaos is the longest of the three books, but I read it the fastest.  

“Chaos is an art, seeming random but made of small and subtle changes.”

The only part of the story that felt ‘unrealistic’ (in a world full of enslaved ghosts and giant centipedes) was how often our main characters happened to run into each other in the street. This is a metropolis of untold millions, spanning hundreds of miles, yet there were a couple of instances that felt a bit too plot-convenient. However, Galley does address this issue late in the story, mentioning that the fates of these players might be tied to the whims of the gods. I’ll buy into that idea, but the chance meetings did feel a bit off at the time.

Breaking Chaos, at its heart, is a story about the choices we make -- especially under duress -- and how fighting against your instincts to make these tough choices help to define your true character. It is a genuinely thrilling conclusion to a series that gets progressively better with each book. The conclusion delivered far more than I had anticipated, and although Galley has an ambitiously full writing schedule ahead of him in 2019, I hope he returns to Araxes soon. The expansive world-building and rich environments are too compelling to stay away from for long.

9/10 Breaking Chaos is the payoff we’ve been waiting for... a cathartic release of all the angst and terror and scheming plots and secret vendettas, all tightly woven into a massively entertaining conclusion that far surpassed my expectations

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