Chasing Graves (The Chasing Graves Trilogy Book #1) by Ben Galley

Spook

Image credit: Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Today I’m reviewing Ben Galley’s most recent book Chasing Graves which, with it’s dark subject matter is definitely a good read for not only this time of year but also for Wyrd and Wonder’s Spooktastic reads event.

Chasing Graves Cover Reveal 6It’s unusual to pick up a book where the main protagonist is murdered from virtually the start but that’s the case here.  Caltro Basalt is a locksmith on a mission.  He’s heading to Araxes with a special invitation to the Cloudpiercer from which he has high expectations.  Unfortunately, as soon as he steps off the boat he find himself hounded down by a gang with murder on their mind.  Araxes may be the jewel in the Arctian Empire’s crown but it’s also known as the City of Countless Souls with very good reason.  Murdering and the resultant souls for sale is big business.  Called Shades these unfortunates are basically slaves, cheap labour that can provide an eternity of servitude , a business that came into being with the death of the Gods and a little manipulation of old customs and rites of passage.

In terms of the plot I’m going to give you a snippet of the blurb because it says everything quite succinctly:

‘While Caltro struggles to survive, those around him strive for the emperor’s throne in Araxes’ cutthroat game of power. The dead gods whisper from corpses, a soulstealer seeks to make a name for himself with the help of an ancient cult, a princess plots to purge the emperor from his armoured Sanctuary, and a murderer drags a body across the desert, intent on reaching Araxes no matter the cost.’

I have to say that the world and character building is very well done and and although I had a couple of issues this was without doubt a well written and incredibly unique book.

Told from varying POVs we primarily focus on Caltro who finds himself gone from an esteemed locksmith with prospects to an indentured ghost slave with no rights or belongings.  It is possible to become a free Shade and really if that happens I guess it’s almost akin to attaining immortality.  On top of Caltro’s less than desirable position he also finds himself the receptacle of attention from the Gods – one of them even speaking to him through a reanimated dead cat no less.  The whole place is one huge boiling pot of back stabbing, double crossing, dirty dealing, two faced, political maneuvering low lifes.  Including the nobles and the royals.

Alongside this we have Nilith.  Nilith is a very resourceful woman indeed and I particularly enjoyed her passages even though her current scheme is dubious.  Basically, and this isn’t a spoiler, she’s transporting her ex-husband’s dead body across The Long Sands (and never was an area more aptly named) to Araxes where she aims to bind his soul and take possession of all his worldly goods.  Her ex-husband’s shade is joining her for the trip across the desert and is being somewhat belligerent and unhelpful as you might imagine.  This aspect of the story is for the majority of the book wrapped in mystery but in spite of that I found it the most enjoyable thread and one that I was always more than happy to return to.

Alongside the above two we have a gang boss named Temsa who has very high ambitions.  He’s a ruthless, manipulative thug of a man who makes his way in life by murdering people and selling shades.  He’s got a much bigger scheme in mind though and his eye is fixed on the end goal which sees him making strange alliances.

Finally, Sisine,  A young princess who in spite of her youth is as manipulative as the other key players.  She also aims for greatness and with a life lived at court experiencing danger and scheming on a regular basis she’s quite well grounded in the art of cunning herself.

I think this is probably one of the most unique concepts I’ve read for a while and like many of the characters the author has been very ambitious here.  There’s a lot to fit into this story and I think the author makes a good job of giving his world a firm foundation to build the rest of the series on.  Of course, with such an ambitious story I did think the pacing of the first half of the book was a little slow and in fact on completion I would say this book definitely feels like a set up book.  Now, I realise that sounds a little bit negative but I don’t think it matters too much for this first in series.  There’s such a lot of new ideas that I think the author has taken the most sensible route by giving his creation room to grow in the minds of readers.  It would be easy to rush into a frantically paced plot but I think that way would have led to confusion for the most part.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, it did take me quite a while to become invested in the story.  I can’t say that Caltro has worked his magic on me at the moment but I’m still open to persuasion.  I think that this is a very cold and brutal world.  Nobody bats an eye at the taking of life and I have to be honest it felt almost a little too grim.  Araxes is so lawless that I struggled a little bit coming to terms with it.  In a place where the strongest wins it feels like the place is just one step away from falling into a murderous spiral of killing and mayhem until the last man or woman remains standing.  I guess it felt a little bit too cut throat  in a way and I would have liked a small glimmer of hope.  That all being said Nilith’s storyline was very entertaining and although filled with danger and tension the revelations along the way were surprisingly unexpected.

All in all, and little niggles aside, I think this is a very promising start to series – it does have something of a cliffhanger ending so bear that in mind when you pick it up and hopefully there won’t be too long a wait to see how these stories pan out.

My thanks to the author for a review copy.  The above is my own opinion.

Advertisements

Cover Reveal: Chasing Graves by Ben Galley

Posted On 13 September 2018

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: , ,

Comments Dropped 16 responses

Today I’m really pleased to be sharing with you the cover for Ben Galley’s forthcoming book : Chasing Graves.  This is the first instalment in a new trilogy that sounds deliciously dark and decidedly promising.  Chasing Graves takes place in the City of Araxes where the only thing you can be certain of is ‘death is only the beginning’.  More information below but for now feast your eyes on the cover:

 

Wait for it…

 

Wait for it…..

 

Chasing Graves Cover Reveal 6.jpg

Are you not entertained? Maybe scared?  Or just downright intrigued? Of course, you’re all three and so below is a little more information to whet your appetite:

Meet Caltro Basalt. He’s a master locksmith, a selfish bastard, and as of his first night in Araxes, stone cold dead.

They call it the City of Countless Souls, the colossal jewel of the Arctian Empire, and all it takes to rule is to own more ghosts than any other. For in Araxes, the dead do not rest in peace in the afterlife, but live on as slaves for the rich.

While Caltro struggles to survive, those around him strive for the emperor’s throne in Araxes’ cutthroat game of power. The dead gods whisper from corpses, a soulstealer seeks to make a name for himself with the help of an ancient cult, a princess plots to purge the emperor from his armoured Sanctuary, and a murderer drags a body across the desert, intent on reaching Araxes no matter the cost.

Only one thing is certain in Araxes: death is only the beginning.

Now, if you’re anything like me you probably need just a tad more information.  So, firstly, and most importantly, I think, when is this little beauty due for release: December 7th 2018 (eBook & Paperback).  That’s right, make a note in your diary, free your schedule, pre order one today 😀

If you want to know more about the cover, which obviously you do, look no further:

Finally, Mr Galley – everything you need to know in order to get in touch with the intrepid author himself – go stalk, I mean, go check him out:

And, if that wasn’t enough and you’re scratching your bonce thinking ‘hey up, don’t I know this author’- well, yes, you probably do.  Go check out his goodreads page for a starter – very impressive list of books right there.  And, here are my reviews for Ben’s SPFBO book, Bloodrush and his emotionally loaded Heart of Stone.

I’m very excited to read this one.

 

 

The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley

Posted On 30 March 2017

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 18 responses

heartThe Heart of Stone is a wonderful, bitter sweet and richly detailed book about a golem created with destruction in mind.  A tale of harsh times that takes place in a country torn by civil war where fighting and death have become the norm and yet unexpectedly amongst the bloodshed, out of a small kernel of hope, a strange and unlooked for friendship grows and changes the outcome of the conflict.

The country of Hartlund has been torn by civil war for many years, divided between the loyalists who follow the Crown and the people’s uprising, people who are tired of living on the edge of desperation and have finally rebelled.  As the story starts the rebellion is actually making headway and the royalists stand on the brink of defeat until, that is, they unleash their newest weapon.  A wind-cut golem, the last survivor of it’s kind.  Created during an era before magic was condemned and stamped out golems were bred with one thing in mind.  War.  Without heart or soul these were fearsome creatures, I suppose an early days Terminator if you will, they certainly know no pity or remorse.  They kill people ruthlessly at the whim of the masters they serve.

Task is the last golem.  He’s an unusual war machine because he does actually have feelings.  He may be made of stone but deep down he cares.  Naturally, over the course of his many years, he’s learned to stay remote.  To not engage.  He carries out his orders and learns to numb or ignore the feelings he may have.

This is a very easy story to engage with.  The writing is good, the place is well imagined and the true focus of the piece is the characters.  Obviously we have Task, the indestructible golem.  What really drew me to him was listening to his inner thoughts.  Yes, he has become very closed off, disappointed even, I suppose 400 years of war can lead to a good dose of cynicism when it comes to the motives of man, and yet, his hard exterior isn’t quite as tough as he likes to think.  He’s more bark than bite really and it only takes a young girl, without anything to gain, just simply wanting to talk to him, to bring down his defences.  The young girl is a stable hand known as Lesky, it takes a while for her story to finally be revealed and so I won’t go into that.  Lesky is one of those characters with a ‘good head on her’.  She talks a lot of sense and in spite of being a young female amidst a battle angry army she can look after herself.

On one side of the field we have General Huff, Task’s latest master – a bully of a man, keen to display his prowess on the field of battle by wielding his newest weapon.  Definitely a man with no finesse, the term, taking a sledgehammer to a walnut could be written with him in mind as he uses Task to bludgeon his way through the enemy lines.  Fighting on the other side is Lord Lash – a cunning opponent who has also tried to gain his men their own weapon in the form of a notorious, sword wielding dragon slayer known as Alabast.  Regrettably, Alabast has spent so many years peering closely at the bottom of a bottle that he’s actually become a little reliant on strong liquor.  Maybe not the best ‘weapon’ to have to rely on although don’t be fooled, sometimes stung pride and a well placed challenge can be all the motivation that a man needs. Then we have Ellia Frayne – also a great character surrounded by mystery.  Like Lesky her story will slowly be revealed so, again, I won’t spoil it.  Basically these characters are so easy to get on board with.  They’re well developed and you can’t help loving some and equally hating others.

I can’t deny that this is a bloodthirsty number.  There is plenty of death and destruction but there’s also hope, a light at the end of the tunnel and a chance at redemption.  Which for me seems to be the main thrust of the story.

In terms of criticisms.  There is quite a good deal of set up here, and, I almost reached a point where it felt like Task, rushing into battle and pounding, punching and pulverising his way through the opposing side, risked becoming repetitive –  wash rinse, repeat – on reflection I can’t help wondering if that was a deliberate ploy by the author to give you a small glimpse into Task’s world, to see how it felt to relentlessly be at the whim of tyrants and to constantly be squashing the life out of people and watching the light in their eyes disappear.  Fortunately, at that point the story went in a completely different direction and one that I really wasn’t expecting.  Now, this is quite a hefty novel and there is plenty of character development and thoughtful speculation and some readers may feel this slows the plot a little.  I didn’t personally feel like that, I enjoyed the build up.  The character growth was really impressive.  Sometimes this aspect is rushed, we’re simply ‘told’ how the characters have developed rather than being allowed to read about it as a natural progression as the story unfolds.  I felt like this unforced development made me much more attached to the characters and to really care about them, which naturally helped to increase the anticipation as the situations they faced become more dangerous.

I can’t deny that this is an unusual tale with a bitter sweet ending that left me actually wanting more (I understand this is a standalone)?  I enjoyed it, it’s not a book that you will race through, simply because you need to take the time to read it properly and absorb all the nuances, the betrayals and the twists.  Well written, unique and with plenty of heart a book that put me in mind of Frankenstein in more ways than one.  Both ‘monsters’ were created by the hand of man – but who was the real monster?  At the end of the day Task was simply a weapon, used indiscriminately by which ever master currently held the key to his control.  A good story, a thought provoking piece and definitely a tale with plenty of heart.

I received a copy from the author in exchange for a honest review.  The above is my own opinion.

 

Friday Firsts: The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley

FridayFirsts
Friday Firsts
 is a new meme that runs every Friday over on Tenacious Reader. The idea is to feature the first few sentences/paragraph of your current book and try and outline your first impressions as a result. This is a quick and easy way to share a snippet of information about your current read and to perhaps tempt others.  Stop on by and link up with Tenacious Reader.    This Friday I’m reading, well, like last week, a couple of books but I’ve gone with Heart of Stone by Ben Galley.  Check it out:

Hos Final XS-1‘Keep still!’ a voice demanded.  ‘Keep still or it will take root in the wrong place, mercy me!’

He remained motionless as the soft hands dug inside his mouth; checking, shuffling, fixing.  His face felt so wide, so open.  He could feel his body tingling, as though he wore the dying embers of a fire.

‘There!’

He felt the fingers crawl back to his chin and cheeks.  Always touching.

Bite down, and slowly mind!’

His jaw did the work for him, clicking back into place under the guiding hands; teeth crunching, finding their nests.  The tongue began to burn in the pit of his mouth.

There came a clanking as the room swivelled about him.  Something tugged at him without touching, pulling at every corner of his body.  He felt heavier than a mountain.

‘It is time to open your eyes, my new friend!’

My First Impressions

I am absolutely intrigued by this start.  It makes you want to read on doesn’t it?  I can’t help but have at the back of my mind Frankenstein and his monster – don’t ask me why but just a feel of new creations.

What you reading this Friday??

*The above excerpt was taken from an advanced reader copy and it is possible that the final version may have further changes.

Cover Reveal: The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley

Today I’m really pleased to be able to reveal the cover for The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley.     Firstly a little bit about the book – to whet your appetite as it were:

Mercenary. Murderer. Monster. He has been called many names in his time.
Built for war and nothing else, he has witnessed every shade of violence humans know, and he has wrought his own masterpieces with their colours. He cared once, perhaps, but far too long ago. He is bound to his task, dead to the chaos he wreaks for his masters.
Now, he has a new master to serve and a new war to endure. In the far reaches of the Realm, Hartlund tears itself in two over coin and crown. This time he will fight for a boy king and a general bent on victory.
Beneath it all he longs for change. For something to surprise him. For an end to this cycle of warfare.
Every fighter faces his final fight. Even one made of stone.
And, now, I won’t keep you waiting any longer, feast your eyes on this gorgeous cover!
Hos Final XS-1
The first book I read by Ben Galley was part of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off last year.    Bloodrush which is the first book in the Scarlet Star Trilogy.  I really loved it (my review here) and have just started the second in series.  Seriously, on the strength of Bloodrush alone Ben Galley is definitely an author on my wishlist!
Finally, a few more details of the whens, wheres and why fores:
Release Date:
Spring 2017 in eBook and paperback
Pre-Order Link:
You can sign up to be notified of The Heart of Stone’s release (as well as get a few pre-launch freebies like ARCs and sneak peeks) at: http://www.bengalley.com/heart-of-stone
And a few details about the author:
Ben Galley is the is the author of the epic Emaneska Series and a new western fantasy series, the Scarlet Star Trilogy. When he’s not dreaming up lies to tell his readers, Ben works as a self-publishing consultant, helping fellow authors to self-publish and sell their books. Ben can be found being loquacious and attempting to be witty on Twitter (@BenGalley), Facebook (/BenGalleyAuthor) or at his website www.bengalley.com.
Next Page »