The Scarlet Star Trilogy #1: Bloodrush by Ben Galley

When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.

This is a story of murder and family.

In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.

This is a story of blood and magick.

But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.

This is a story of the edge of the world.

The first novel that I picked to read from the next batch of SPFBO novels sent my way was Bloodrush, Ben Galley’s entry, and the western/fantasy blend instantly drew my eye along with the intriguing cover. The Western and fantasy genres are something that you’ll see blended together rarely, and it was the potential that attracted me to this book coupled with an interesting sounding plot of a man named Tonmerion Hark finding his life turned upside down when his father is found dead. As per his father’s last will and testament, Tonmerion is forced across the Atlantic to Wyoming, however, it’s not the Wyoming that you’ll be familiar with in the present day. This is a Wyoming that’s on the other side of the Iron Ocean, and stands at the edge of the Endless Land. Dark things haunt Fell Falls, combining fascinating beasts like railwraiths with intriguing plots and conspiracy. It’s a richly developed, compelling fantasy novel that twists our own history very well. I loved reading about the world, and it’s something that I’m going to return to for sure in the future. The book could have easily fallen short and not hit all the high notes, including almost too much stuff for one novel to hold, but thankfully, Bloodrush is well written enough to avoid that trap, blending the characters and pacing strongly together with the richness of the world building to create a compelling story.

Tonmerion Hark is the son of the Prime Lord, the recently deceased equivalent to the Prime Minister. The backdrop of the alternate version of Victorian Britain is handled very well and the era suits the novel perfectly. Tonmerion allows for an interesting protagonist, who also happens to have a best friend who isn’t exactly human, but a faerie named Rhin who is on the run from the rest of his race. This is a world where despite knowing that the Fae exist, few people have actually seen one in the flesh. It’s not the only change to the history of the world that readers can come to expect when they read Bloodrush, but for obvious reasons, is the most important one. Other touches like Red King Lincoln are also mentioned, providing some great depth the scope and scale of the world and plenty for Galley to explore in the future. From the beginning you’ll find yourself supporting and getting behind the lead character, as Tonmerion undergoes a coming-of-age transition when he journeys to America, with Rhin, a secondary character who works just as well as the other additions to the cast do. His Aunt Lillian, the reason behind his travel across the Iron Sea, and Lurker, Lillian’s friend, are other more prominent people who you can expect to feature. It’s an interesting mix of characters that work really well together and is something that’s pulled off effectively.

Ben Galley’s Bloodrush then, is an incredibly strong read that fans of fantasy and or westerns should check out. It blends the two genres together very well, pitting the characters against the backdrop of an intriguing world that will appeal a lot to fans of the likes of Neil Gaiman (particularly if you’re a fan of American Gods) and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I can’t wait to see what Galley comes up with next and as a result, this is something that I can highly recommend.

VERDICT: 8/10

 

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