Sunday, 19 May 2013

Pale Kings by Ben Galley

Emaneska is crying out for a saviour
The only question is:
Can they kill a child to save a world?

Emaneska’s Long Winter remains as bitter as a blade between the ribs. War is fast approaching. Gods and daemons are hovering on the horizon. Long-lost revelations arrive to haunt the lives of three men.

The Pale Kings are rising.

While Farden busies himself digging up his past in the strange deserts of Paraia, the storm-clouds begin to gather for Durnus, Elessi, Cheska, and Modren.

Together with Farfallen and his Sirens, they must fight to survive against the Long Winter, the vicious machinations of the new Arkmage, and the arrival of something much deadlier than both combined. War, deception, and murder are quickly becoming the only paths to salvation...

Ben Galley has given his imagination free reign in this action packed story. We return to Farden, the troubled yet powerful mage, as he journeys through the desert in search of... well, in search of answers, of advice, of anything to help him in the battle with his enemies. We join him as he finds unlikely allies and is given the toughest of choices to make. We follow as he goes from one landscape to another, from frying pan and into the fire, trying to save a world that doesn’t always want his help.

The cast of characters grows impressively, and the scope of the story becomes truly epic in the best sense of the word. It’s to Galley’s credit that the growth feels organic and natural. I think it is one of the author’s strengths that each of the characters is fleshed out and fully realised. He adds just enough hints or redemption or damnation for each that you never really know who will end up on which side. You think you know, and that’s the delicious part.
In The Written, the first in the Emaneska series (you can read the review here) there is an intriguing blend of new creatures and races with the more familiar fantasy or supernatural ones. One of the main supporting characters is a vampyre, there are dragons aplenty and they are searching for wells of Dark Elf magic. Pale Kings takes this one step further, with some excellent development of the Sirens and their culture, and we are introduced to witches and fauns and shape shifters. I was worried that it would take me out of the action as I’m not generally a fan of these traditional monsters and I have found them to be tired tropes, but with a few minor exceptions what we expect is turned around and used to an advantage or as misdirection. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed these as much as if he’d invented entirely new and mystical races.
The story does take a little while to get going, with some soul searching and character history taking centre stage for a while. I would have liked this spread over a larger section of the book. It was all very interesting and necessary stuff, but if it had been delivered whilst getting the narrative rolling it would have enhanced the experience.
There are some fascinating interludes where we glimpse daemons and gods at work, all of whom are as flawed or as warped as some of the mortal characters! It is in these segments that we can truly see Galley’s imagination fly, and you start to appreciate how ambitious he is being with Emaneska and how far he wants to go.
I really enjoyed The Written, but Pale Kings is cleverer, grittier and a real evolution in the author’s craft. It bodes well for the final parts of this series, Dead Stars Parts 1 and 2. It’s going to be hard going to keep up the pace, so I can’t wait to read them!

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

1 comment:

ramalan said...

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