Timy reviews Salt in the Wound, the first book in Benjamin Aeveryn‘s Grimdark Fantasy series, Rainfallen.
Thank you to Benjamin Aeveryn for providing an eARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.
|Genre:||Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy, Post-apocalyptic|
|Date of Publishing:||May 9, 2023|
|Trigger Warnings:||Gore, death, addiction, amputation|
Possible The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge prompts:
- Free Your Mind
- Bulletproof Skin
- Middle Fingers
Our world is lost to time. Only our myths remain.
Centuries after the rain turned, civilization is a distant memory.
Once rain was a symbol of hope and harvest. Now it brings only death. Shadowy rainwights form in rainfall, hunting for victims with their long teeth and claws.
Humanity survives in sheltered cities and canvas-covered towns. Travel between these patches of limited safety is rare and dangerous.
It’s what Galahad lives for.
While seeking a lost cache of salt—a fortune he plans to use to build a shelter over his hometown—Galahad is betrayed by the friends he holds dearest.
They leave him for dead. Unfortunately for them, he lives.
Torn between seeking justice or revenge, Galahad knows one thing for certain: that treasure is his, and he’ll do anything to reclaim it.
“They sat beside the river for hours. Old memories and plans for some imagined, distant future sketched in soft words. Eulogy and condemnation both for the friends they’d put in the ground. They pulled it all out. Guilt, anger, longing, hope. Conflicting feelings snarled together like a child’s messy, unbrushed hair. Their words a comb they ran through over and over, splitting the threads, tugging at knots until Galahad could say he simply remembered them, and that was enough.”
Well, I don’t often pick a Breaking Benjamin song for my reviews, because they are my favorite band and I keep them for special occasions. And somehow it felt right to pick one of their songs – they go particularly well with grimdark books. And so, my choice fell on Breath.
Sometimes it happens that a book just totally jumps at you out of the blue. You don’t know how and why, but one day you just find yourself reading a book that never even blimped on your radar, that you absolutely don’t have room for, and yet. And yet, here I am, writing a review for Salt in the Wound, with the strange feeling that I was meant to read this book. I don’t know why. It just happened. Sometimes it does. Every once in a while I get the feeling that I have to read a certain book at a certain time and there is not much I can do about it. Not that I want to.
Salt in the Wound first popped up on my Twitter feet a couple of weeks back when its cover was revealed. It immediately caught my eye and got me interested. I was hesitating about requesting an ARC, because one of the labels it got was “post-apocalyptic” and that’s usually not something I’m interested in. Having bookish friends with horrible influencing skills, I let myself talked into requesting it. And since it was on my Kindle and the release date was coming up, I had little choice but to jump to it as soon as I could (I know, woe is me).
I read the first 25% or so in pretty much one sitting. It definitely hooked me from the moment I started reading. Then things slowed down a bit – both for me personally and for the book too. This is not a complaint though, just stating facts. Salt in the Wound starts with us following a couple of treasure hunters of a sort, who’ve been following clues to find the legendary relics of the Long Haired Priest, who lived a couple of hundred years earlier. The book starts at finding the treasure and the story follows what happens next. This was kind of refreshing. As things are progressing, we learn about how things started and how the characters got to where they are now but in a way that’s not info dumpy at all. That said, I would have liked to learn more about this mysterious Priest, but based on the ending of this book, this might change in later books.
Salt in the Wound follows 3 main characters: Galahad, Elaine, and Fay. But their friends, Lance, Gwen, and Percy are also an important part of the story. Now, you might have noticed these peculiar names. And you would be right to assume it has something to do with the Arthurian legends. But before you think this is another retelling, it’s not. These are all given names, because 1) their real name is boring, 2) they wanted to express their shared love for those said legends, and it kind of fit with their group and their search for the Long Haired Priest’s treasure. And so, they named themselves after these beloved characters and their group became the Round Table. Until that is, it fell apart, but that’s not my story to tell.
There are two plotlines – one is Galahad and Elaine’s who want justice/revenge depending on who you ask and they are trying to track down those who crossed them. They definitely made an interesting pair, and I enjoyed their banter, although I never could see what Galahad saw in her.
On the other hand, we have Fay, who left the group earlier and tries to get her life together. But fighting addiction is not that easy, and going off on a quest in the wild on her own is probably not the smartest choice she could have made. But I think I still liked her chapters the best. Her struggles felt so real and poignant. It was easy to feel for her and root for her. Both she and the others are characters with depth and flaws and are overall pretty well-written.
I loved what little we learned about the world. The idea of a post-apocalyptic world where people leave in towns that need to be protected from rain, living in and around the ruins of our modern world. Well, the UK’s modern world, anyway. I also liked the idea of old mythical creatures walking on the earth again, although I’d have liked some more explanation, of how exactly these creatures came back to life, so to speak. And also about the rainwrights. While the idea is pretty neat, I found the worldbuilding lacking in places. That said, this was only the first book in the series, and Aeveryn’s choice was to focus more on setting up the characters themselves than the world, which worked for me overall. Then again, it might not be for those who like elaborate descriptions and all the details. I’m a simple girl, I believe that less is more.
For a long time, I wondered if Salt in the Wound could fit the grimdark genre. It’s not necessarily what you would expect from a grimdark novel. The characters don’t parade around neck-deep in shit and blood and gore (well, there is not much of those until the last 4th or so of the book, but then there is plenty). On the other hand, one of them is battling addiction, the other experiences a loss that would be hard to deal with for anyone, and the third is trying to come to terms with betrayal. Not knowing the biggest blow is still left to be dealt. Salt in the Wound is heavy, in the sense that it shows the uglier side of humanity. Most of the characters are on the morally grey side of the spectrum and it doesn’t get any better as we head toward the end. And it’s always a pleasure when an author gets to surprise you with how they are going with the plot.
Whoops, I got very rambly here, so probably better to wrap it up. Salt in the Wound is a very promising debut novel from Benjamin Aeveryn. Sure, it needs its edges to get smoothed, and a little bit more meat on the worldbuilding, but he got the vibe down and his characters are very relatable, if not necessarily likable. Aeveryn got something special and very imaginative here, so definitely worth keeping an eye on him and the later books in the Rainfallen series.
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