Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Written by Ben Galley

His name is Farden. They whisper that he’s dangerous. Dangerous is only the half of it. Something has gone missing from the libraries of Arfell. Something very old, and something very powerful. Five scholars are now dead, a country is once again on the brink of war, and the magick council is running out of time and options. Entangled in a web of lies and politics and dragged halfway across icy Emaneska and back, Farden must unearth a secret even he doesn’t want to know, a secret that will shake the foundations of his world. Dragons, drugs, magick, death, and the deepest of betrayals await.

I found this book thanks to the clever online campaign of the author and self-publishing guru, Ben Galley. I don't normally mention this in reviews but if you are thinking of self-publishing check out his Shelf Help segment of his website,

They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but, well, how can you not be intrigued by that cover?

Anyway, onto the book.

It's been described as 'Sin City meets Lord of the Rings.' I don't know about the Lord of the Rings comparison, but the world Ben has created certainly has a dark underbelly, rife with hallucinogenic drugs and crippling magic.

We follow Farden, a reluctant hero forever running from the shadow of his uncle, as he travels the length and breadth of Emaneska to prevent a dark and malevolent evil being unleashed on the world. Farden is flawed, damaged goods, but far from beyond redemption.

The story starts with a bang and rarely lets up. Farden is thrown from one confrontation to another and, in the best tradition of Fantasy, more often than not magic (or magick in this case) is used to blast a way clear. Farden contends with werewolves, vampires and, of course, dragons. This is definitely a book for fans of the fantasy genre, especially if you like the action heavy with magic and mystical creatures.

The best part of the story for me was how well Ben made these creatures familiar, yet different enough to avoid the more obvious tropes of the genre. The hierarchy of the dragons was particularly fun. The relationship between the dragons and their Siren riders is brilliant and honestly made me jealous I wasn't a Siren!

The magic system isn't complex by any means, but it is fun and consistent with good drawbacks. It's not used as a get out of jail free card at any point.

The mythology is interesting, with tantalising hints as to what might be to come and daring you to try and figure out why certain things are happening.

There were some predictable twists which fell slightly flat, though they add up to a good and satisfying ending.

Sadly, there are some spelling and formatting issues with the e-book version which Ben has acknowledged and plans to correct once the series is complete.

Despite that, this is a very good read and an excellent look into this debut series. Ben has created some enduring characters that have to work hard to succeed and battle to be the better person. Nothing comes easy in this hard world, where magick must be permanently written in your skin and you have to fight for the right to love who you want.

P.S If you're a fan or graphic novels, Ben has just run a successful kick-starter campaign to turn The Written into one. Keep an eye out!


About the reviewer:
Alex can be found in the rolling hills of Oxfordshire, splitting his time unevenly between fighting crime and raising two little boys (which is surprisingly similar). When he does find a spare moment he crams it full of fantasy or basketball, and due to rapidly ageing knees it's mostly fantasy these days. He's trying to learn the writing craft through sheer bloody mindedness and dreams of the day he has to do nothing else. If you're so inclined you can watch him stalk writers on Twitter - @shep5377


Ken said...

I found the same problems as you in this book but too thought it was a promising start for a debut author. One thing I admire the most is that Ben really knows how to promote his works.

Anonymous said...

Alright, Shep. I'm going to read it. Good job! :)