Review | The Forever King – Ben Galley

About the Book

Revenge loves company. 

Mithrid Fenn wants nothing to do with magick. Magick is a curse word, banned by the vast Arka Empire and punishable by death. Its purging has finally brought peace to war-torn Emaneska. Only a stubborn rebellion, led by the warlord Outlaw King, raids and pillages the empire’s northern fringes.
 
To cliff-brat Mithrid, this is an age of tranquility and childhood games. That is until an illegal spellbook washes up on her shores, and she finds herself thrust into a war she never knew existed.
 
Now hunted by daemons and mages, she is dragged inexorably north to Scalussen and its rebels fighting doggedly to preserve a memory of freedom. Mithrid holds no such ideals. She fights for revenge and nothing nobler. If spilling blood means helping the Outlaw King, then so be it. Even if it means all-out war.

659 pages (paperback)
Published on December 1, 2020
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Ben Galley is an author who has really rocketed to the top of my Need To Read list. He intimidates me a bit because in the indie scene, everyone knows who Galley is. His books are everywhere, and just about everyone I know has read at least one of them. Dude has attained a level of popular I admire, and yet somehow I know I will absolutely never reach with my own books.

In truth, I’ve been a bit burnt out on epic fantasy. I love it, but I really need to be in the right mood. I was a bit reluctant to give Galley’s epic fantasy a shot, but I decided, since I’ve loved his other stuff so much, I wanted to give this one a try. He has a way with doing things just different enough to make it feel fresh and new, and his obvious passion for the stories he tells is felt in every page.

The Forever King was the book I chose. Reason being, I felt like it. I should also note, as soon as I finished this book I picked up The Written and devoured that beast in about three days flat. If you’re looking for an early summarization of this review, there you go. It was so good, I instantly went and read the first book in Galley’s other series because I wanted more.

The Forever King is its own series, but it takes place years after the events of his Emaneska series. You do not need to read the Emaneska series to appreciate, understand, or enjoy this one. Though I will say, if you have read his Emaneska series, you might get a few more of the layers and nuances in this one. Don’t let that stop you. I haven’t read his Emaneska series before reading this book and I absolutely loved it.

The action in this book kicks off almost from page one. Instantly, the reader is thrown into a situation full of tension and strife, where the government is pitted against a growing dissenting population who are looking for saving from an Outlaw King. War is in the air. In fact, the feel of impending strife and war fairly leaps off the page. If Galley does one thing really well, it’s working with tension, and moving pieces around a gameboard really well, and creating ripples with all those motions. 

The Forever King was so much fun to read. Galley takes readers on a nonstop ride. The plot is fast moving and addicting. There are a lot of twists and turns that I never saw. Probably what I loved the most was how Galley played with some of the themes he used to tell this story. For example, the emperor uses disinformation to manipulate public opinion about magic, and to manipulate the public in general. This sort thing finds its way into fantasy every now and again, but I think Galley really used it well. It is cleverly used and showed a division, of a sort, between message and reality, and the devastating consequences that result.

Mithrid, our protagonist, has been raised a certain way, and throughout the book, you follow her as she finds herself embroiled in events that surpass anything she ever anticipated. Mithrid both ends up questioning her engrained beliefs, her place in the world, and herself. She was a fascinating character to follow, and Galley dealt with her development flawlessly. On the other side, Galley marches out a bunch of antagonists you can really love to hate. I absolutely love a good antagonist, and he really knows how to craft them. 

Mithrid, though, really grabbed my heart and pulled hard. She’s a strong female protagonist who is hellbent on revenge against the people who did her wrong. She’s got an axe and some magic no one has ever seen, and she goes all over the place on her quest. She joins up with a group of interesting characters, each of them well-crafted. Galley plays his characters off each other well, but Mithrid was really the star of the show. 

The magic in this book was both central to the plot, but also really interesting. It was darker than I expected it to be. One of my favorite things about really good magic systems is its balance. Positive and negative are balanced well, and while I expected that with Galley, I don’t think I expected it to get quite so dark (and sometimes horrific). I have to put the dragon in on the positive side. I know, I know, a dragon is its own thing, but this one talks so I’m counting it as part of the magic system.

All in all, Ben Galley is an author who has breathed new life into epic fantasy. He knows how to tell a good story, and his writing is superb. Never too much, never too little. Each scene blazes to life. His characters live and breathe off the page. Galley is incredibly talented, and solidly falls on my Instant Buy list. The Forever King is one of the best epic fantasy books I’ve read in a while. In fact, it’s so good, I’ve basically began devouring all of Galley’s other work.

If you haven’t read Ben Galley’s books yet, you really, really need to rectify that. 

5/5 stars