2010; 460 pages. Book 1 of the “Emaneska” series. New Author? : Yes. Genre : Epic Fantasy. Overall Rating : 7½*/10.
Someone has stolen a recently-discovered elven Summoning Manual, and butchered the five mages that had been examining it. It is up to a young mage, Farden, to retrieve the book and defeat the UE (Ultimate Evil) before something terrible is unleashed upon the world of Emaneska.
Farden has his work cut out. He doesn’t know who the thief is, where the book is, when the summoning spell might be invoked, and what exactly might be loosed upon the world. And the fact that the various nations of Emaneska are at each other's throats doesn’t make the task any easier.
What’s To Like...
The setting has an Arthurian feel; indeed, one of the nations is called Albion. For the most part, we are dealing with humans and dragons, although there is also a vampyre and a werewolf. Elves are hinted at, and we encounter both good and bad mages.
The vampyre is one of the good guys; that’s a pleasant change. Farden is anything but your perfect hero – he’s got a drug habit, is short-tempered, and frankly is not the smartest mage on the block. I like that.
The world-building is nicely done, and each chapter starts with a neat pseudo-quote. There aren’t any slow spots, the UE is a worthy foe, and Ben Galley throws in a couple twists to keep you on your toes. The ending is satisfying – the theft of the spell book is resolved. The next book of the series is also set up, which means you shouldn’t expect all loose ends to get tied up.
Farden patted the sword resting against his shoulder-blade. “Politics can run a city, or define a nation, but men and magick are still what counts. You can’t hammer in a nail with words.”
“No but you can start a war with them, that’s why we have to be careful with the Sirens,” said Vice, and he slowly came to a halt. He looked at his friend. “Can you handle this, Farden?” (loc. 1558)
“Beware the monster behind the door, watch out for
The spiders all over the floor.
Be brave like your father, proud warrior and all,
Something is gnawing at bones in the hall.
Maybe you’ll run, or maybe you’ll fight,
Or maybe you’ll sleep soundly all through the night.
Never you mind, now close your eyes,
Pray you sleep well, not be food for the flies.” (loc. 5164)
“It’s not even noon yet and a man has to deal with dragons.” (loc. 240)
There are some weaknesses. The overall plotline is predictably straightforward, and the aforementioned twists are for the most part telegraphed. Farden retells events to his colleagues that we’ve already read, and Ben Galley has a penchant for certain words, like “leant” which appears 53 times. The storytelling is interesting, but not compelling.
Still, for a first effort by a 23-year-old author, this is very good, and in the blurb to the sequel, Galley writes, “PALE KINGS aims to leave THE WRITTEN quivering and whimpering in the shadows.“ If he achieved that goal, then this could develop into a very memorable series. 7½ Stars.