#SPFBO Review: The Forever King (The Scalussen Chronicles #1) by Ben Galley

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Stage 2 of the  SPFBO competition is now well underway and the Critiquing Chemist and I have been reading the finalists.  Today we post our review for our sixth finalist The Forever King by Ben Galley.  Don’t forget to stop over to the Critiquing Chemist to check out their review.

TFK

If you love your fantasy epic then The Forever King could be just the book you’re looking for.  This is the first in the Scalussen Chronicles and it has an almost old school fantasy feel with battles, magic, mythical creatures, Gods, dragons and plenty of twists and turns.

This is a story from the same world as Galley’s Emaneska series but I wouldn’t say that I had any issues picking this up without having read the earlier novels.  That being said, clearly if you decide to start your reading at this point you will probably unwittingly spoil the earlier series for yourself so be aware of that before you make this your starting point.  So, for example, as much as I’m interested in reading The Written and reading more about Farden’s backstory, I probably won’t backtrack now I’ve started the Scalussen Chronicles.

As the story begins we meet a group of children scavenging wreckage on the shore.  Unfortunately what starts out as an innocent game has grim repercussions and becomes the trigger for bloodshed and destruction.  A number of the children are taken captive and this eventually is the platform used to reveal the duplicity behind the Emperor’s ban on magick.

From here on the fate of the children from the village diverges and we predominantly follow Mithrid who is taken to the rebel fortress.  

I liked the world that Galley has imagined and the magick that he’s come up with.  Magick has been forbidden for many years now, the purge drove magick users underground and many look to the Forever King and his rebel movement to free them from the tyranny of the current emperor.  The irony of course is that although magick has been banned and its use punishable by death the emperor searches for ways to use it himself to strengthen his ranks.  The world is poised on the brink of the war and it takes only one trickster God to push it into action and for the empire’s forces to descend on the rebel fort with the intention to finally wipe out the Forever King.

There are a few characters to follow along with.  Mithrid who is well drawn and goes through a range of emotions.  Grieving for the life she has lost she eventually settles on a need for vengeance that overrides everything else.  Farden is the Forever King – he also struggles with the expectations of others and his role as hero and saviour doesn’t sit easy with him.  Farden is one of a few characters known as the ‘written’ which basically means his back is tattooed with spell runes.  The process of writing a ‘book’ onto a person’s back is a difficult one to survive but having survived it the runes give the written a lot of power and Farden’s magical abilities are practically unparalleled.  Malvus is the tyrant emperor intent on stamping out magick whilst at the same time seeking to create his own ‘written’.  I liked the characters but to be totally honest I didn’t feel like I totally connected with them, or, at least I struggled to initially, probably half the book at least before I felt like I really got on board,  Which isn’t to say I was finding it hard to read because that’s the furthest thing from the actual truth.  I was always happy to pick this up and considering the length of the book it felt like a breeze to read which is a testament to the writing which I liked a lot.

The plot in a nutshell is the age old strife of good vs evil.  I really liked that Galley used the deception/hypocrisy/ propoganda tool as an intrinsic part of the Empire’s rule and the way to keep the general populace in the dark.  Farden has plenty of followers and believers who want to free magick users from the oppressive lives they lead, but, make no mistake, the Empire is a huge force to be reckoned with.  In the past the rebellion has mainly been involved in small skirmishes and hasty getaways but with the appearance of a God on the scene the balance is tipped and Malvus assembles a huge army to wipe out the rebellion once and for all.

In terms of criticisms.  I felt to an extent that some of the world building was a little thin but at the same time I appreciate that writing from an already established world is something of a balancing act. There was also a little foreshadowing at certain points that took away some of the tension and also a slight feeling of things conveniently working out.

Slight issues aside, I felt this was an enjoyable epic-old-school-type fantasy and I would be interested in continuing the series to see where Galley takes these characters next.

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

My rating 7.5 out of 10 stars (I would round up to 4 stars of 5 for Goodreads).