|Series: Emaneska #1||Rating: 4.5/5|
|Date of Publishing: October 25th 2010||Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy|
|Publisher: self-published||Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble|
|Number of pages: 460||Author’s website: http://www.bengalley.com|
Quote of the Book
“The Book carved into a Written’s back was strictly not for reading. Th raw magick in the script could warp the mind of a weaker person.”
His name is Farden.
They whisper that he’s dangerous.
Dangerous is only the half of it.
A spellbook has gone missing from the libraries of Arfell – a very old and extremely powerful spellbook from the time of dark elves and demons. Five scholars are dead, the magick council is running out of time and options, and the Arka is once again on the brink of war with the Siren dragon-riders.
It falls to Farden the Written mage to keep the world from falling into chaos. Entangled in a web of lies and politics, Farden must recover the spellbook before an ancient enemy rises, even if it takes journeying halfway across icy Emaneska and back.
In his fight for answers, Farden will unearth a secret that not only shakes the foundations of his world, but threatens the entire future of Emaneska. Sorcery, death, drugs and the deepest of betrayals await.
Welcome to Emaneska.
I’m quite familiar with Ben Galley‘s work as I’ve read his latest trilogy, The Chasing Graves in a matter of few months. I’ve been eyeing the Emaneska series for a while now, but probably wouldn’t have gotten to it yet if it weren’t for Dave at TheWriteReads bullying me into participating in his Ultimate Ben Galley Blog Tour. I was supposed to make an interview with Ben and before I knew what was happening, I was picking a book to read… Thanks Dave, really… Seriously though, I’m happy to participate in this tour and without it The Written would still be gathering dust on my Kindle…
Song of the Book
Goddamn, this was hard. First I thought I would go for Three Days Grace – I’ve been listening to them while writing up my review – but then I realised that Seether is a much better choice. So, I only had to find a fitting song… I narrowed it down to a couple, but man, it was hard to choose one. In the end I decided to go with No Resolution.
The Written was the 4th book I’ve read from Ben Galley and I managed to do that in about 7 months. I think it was only the first 5 Harry Potter books that I’ve read in less time. Interestingly, I’ve read Galley’s latest trilogy, The Chasing Graves first, then continued with his debut. Normally people do it in reverse order. On the other hand, it gives me the opportunity to see how far he had come in the past 10 years or so. Of course I won’t compare the two series as they are completely different and besides that wouldn’t be fair. Despite the fact that lately I’ve been in a reading slump and started to get tired of epic fantasy, I really enjoyed The Written. It has some flaws, sure, but it also had some ideas I was really digging.
But first things first. Our MC, Farden is one of the famous Written. They are powerful mages, all of them carrying a Book on themselves. To be a Written is a privilage and not everyone survives the Ritual where one becomes one of the elite. Farden is one of the most powerul one and the one everyone fears. Farden is that kind of hero who stays in the background, does his job and doesn’t complain. Which doesn’t mean he isn’t battling with his own demons. He is far from being perfect – he is quick to anger, sometimes acts without thinking and likes to bend the rules. I found myself screaming in my head at him to stop being an idiot at times. Which shows that I got invested enough to have such strong reactions, and that’s always a bonus!
Farden is a lone wolfe type, but loyal to a fault toward a few people he cares about, and toward his people, the Arka. Thus when an important relic, a spellbook gets stolen, the council and the Arkmages turn to him for help. And Farden starts his journey to solve a mystery, to identify a traitor, to prevent a disaster and to forge a new alliance which seemed impossible for decades. All the while he not only sets out to save Emaneska but at the same time he discovers some new truths about the world he used to know and himself as a person. Admittedly, this road is not full of joy and laughter, especially when you have to face mortal danger and betrayal in every corner.
Besides Farden, we meet a large set of characters. Most of them are pretty well fleshed out. One of my favorites besides Farden were Eyrum a Siren warrior, Cheska a candidate to be a Written, Durnus the vampyre and Farden’s friend, Lazy the cat and Farfallen. Oh and let’s not forget about Vice either. Eyrum intrigues me for some reason, the fact that he and Farden find common ground pretty fast and forge a friendship, makes them a unusual pair. I really hope he’ll get a bigger part in rest of the trilogy. Cheska provided one of the surprises that actually caught me off guard. I really, really wish I could go into details (or share my notes I made during reading), because I want to rant so much. Let’s just say, even though I’ve guessed most of the twists, hers were one of the few that I didn’t see coming.
And since I’m talking about twists. The plot is really well crafted, but then I didn’t except anything less from Galley. It’s a bit predictable – or it was for me anyway – but The Written is nothing sort of enjoyable. Especially because Galley threw in quite a few fight scenes, and a couple of fanged clawed creatures to keep up the level of entertainment. There were a few ideas that I was really digging – the storm giants, for example. I’m pretty fascinated by storms and I’ve been toying with short story ideas featuring storms, though I suspect I wouldn’t be able to pull it off quite as well. The other thing I loved – besides anything about Nelska, seriously, read this book for the inhabitants of Nelska alone – was the Book of the Written. I’m a sucker for tattoos so I was all in for this idea. I wish it was a bit more explained how it works and the whole process of choosing magic schools and stuff, but hopefully – as they were a few hints and comments about the Book – there will be enough time to do that in the rest of the trilogy.
One thing that amazed me about The Written, was the worldbuilding. Emaneska is a vast place with Empires and countries covering it. There are the 3 ruling nations: Arka, Nelska and Skölgard with a few smaller ones besides, like Albion where Farden lives in one of the Arkabbeys, under Durnus’ command. We have Krauslung, the main city of the Arka where the council is ruled by the two Arkmages and the Undermage. Near to it there is the Spire, the home of the Written. Then we have Nelska, home of the Sirens and their dragons. Skölsgard haven’t got much role in The Written, but the ending predicts that they won’t be idle bystanders.
Although the main mystery of the book got solved – namely who was behind the attack on Arfell and the scholars – there are quite a few questions left open and plotlines which need to be resolved throughout the trilogy. And I’m totally here for it. Even though The Written is Ben Galley‘s debut novel, it already showed that he is a pretty skilled author and can create a vivid, cold – literally – world with full of life and magick. It already shows his affection toward dark fantasy, though he is not quite there yet. Admittedly, there is plenty of blood flowing and he doesn’t shy away from violence – hell, one of the characters pretty much enjoys it.
The Written is a character driven epic fantasy which features magic, swordplay, dragons, mythical monsters, betrayal and badass tattoos. If you haven’t tried Ben Galley yet, this is a good place to start, and if you did, well, then you know what you can expect. An exhilarating ride from start to finish.