Review | Heavy Lies the Crown – Ben Galley

About the Book

You don’t have to save the world, you just have to survive it

The battle for freedom has left Emaneska reeling and desolated. Both Scalussen and Arka are scattered to the winds. With the Blazing Throne now empty and the Arka Empire for the taking, the race to claim Emaneska has begun.

Farden and Mithrid have been stranded alone in strange eastern lands by errant magick, They battle not to return home, but to uncover an ancient weapon capable of defeating a god. A god who desires nothing but chaos.

In Emaneska, Elessi leads the survivors of the Rogue’s Armada to safer havens, something rare and lacking in the uncharted waters of the south.

Treachery and pain await them both, but the price of failure is steeper. New enemies lie in wait on those foreign paths. Dark creatures born of nightmares and forgotten powers. Warlords set on mastering magick. And an old threat reborn, doggedly pursuing one fate:

The death of Farden.

550 pages 
Publishing on August 3, 2021
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When Ben Galley contacted me about editing this book, I kind of freaked out. You see, something you might not know, is this: Editors have inferiority complexes too. Ben is a big author. Everyone knows his name. When his books drop, the genre pays attention, and here he was, asking piddly old ME to edit his book. Yeah, I did freak out, and then I was super nervous the entire time. Then my stupid computer screwed up all the apostrophes and it was a whole thing (we figured out why it did that and how to fix it, but let me tell you, this is exactly what you DO NOT want to happen when you’re editing for a big author… or any author, for that matter.). But I did it, and Ben wasn’t terrifying to work with (except for the fact that he is such a big deal). He was a nice guy, and this book really blew me away.

I’ve been avoiding writing this review, to be honest. There are a few books that I just… have a hard time talking about, so I put them off, but I figure it’s time. It’s time to tell you how amazing this book is. It’s time to tell you why it matters.

I primarily edit fantasy. I write fantasy. I read fantasy. Sometimes, I can get a bit burnt out. Usually when I get burnt out, I read historical nonfiction and romance, but with my editing and writing obligations these days, needing a change of scenery happens more and more frequently. It’s not really the genre’s fault. It’s just, when your full-time job is eight hours of fantasy, five-plus days a week, and then writing your own fantasy on top of that, you start to feel it.

Sometimes, however, a book comes along that reminds me why this genre is so powerful. Why I love it so much. Dragon Mage did it for me when I was editing that book, and as I told Ben, Heavy Lies the Crown did it for me as well. It’s a book that reminded me of the stories I read when I first started to love fantasy in high school. It got under my skin and breathed new life into me. It stoked the flame of my passion for fantasy, and made it burn bright.

What I’m saying is, I was feeling really burnt out. Then I read this book, and I remembered why I love this genre so much. It’s due to stories like this. It’s authors who know their craft, and somehow manage to not only breathe new life into their books, but also touch on those bedrock elements of fantasy that bring up massive amounts of nostalgia at the same time.

In Heavy Lies the Crown, we have a story about a group of people on a quest. I am not typically the kind of reader who enjoys quest-fantasy, so understand, I was prepared to not be over the moon about this book. I knew it would be good, because everything Ben Galley touches is gold, I just didn’t think I’d like it as much as I ended up liking it. 

This book takes off after the events of the first book. There are a few groups, all of which are worn down, exhausted, and scattered. In a different part of the world. They are pretty lost, not just literally, in some cases, but metaphorically as well. Galley starts the book out with this incredible feeling of the characters being unmoored. The feeling was so pervasive, it seemed to infect every aspect of the book. It’s hard to find fantasy that realistically deals with the physical and emotional consequences of (insert big event here) but I felt the start of Heavy Lies the Crown did just that and did it magnificently.

At the heart of this book is a story about magic, and about how it’s changing and how people want it to change. (I know I’m being vague here, but spoilers.) An object must be found, but to find said object, the world basically has to be upended. There are a ridiculous number of tense scenes, and a whole bunch of parts where things happen I did not expect and I had to stand up and walk away from my computer for a few minutes to let the implications sink in.

Heavy Lies the Crown follows a few different perspectives, dipping in and out of their stories naturally. Each group of people are on their own quest, some for this object, some for safety, some for… other things entirely. Lands are visited I’ve never come across before. The map of Galley’s world is expanded by leaps and bounds, and you’ll run into peoples and cultures that are remarkable just for the fact that in the brief moment they are on the page, they shine. 

There is a lot of forward momentum here, and very little downtime. Every group in this book is almost constantly moving. Yet, for all that motion, the quiet moments Galley inserts into his narrative are all the more powerful for being there. Short and sweet as they are, there are quite a few moments I was brushing away tears, because I felt so profoundly, and I couldn’t help but ache for them. There were surprises, which not only upended the group as a whole and the characters themselves, but left me swearing at Galley in an email because HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO RECOVER FROM THIS? 

Mixed into all this human drama, is a saga of the gods, which really unfolds as a subplot in this book but added a rich layer of depth to everything that happens. The gods are, as it turns out, not really that pleased with things happening the way they are happening. Discontent amongst the divine is causing rifts, and while, as I said, this does sort of take a back seat to the main story itself, it’s present and the implications are incredible. I don’t know where he will take this in future books, but the setup is amazing, especially when added to this sprawling landscape he’s playing with. I have a feeling the next book may give me a heart attack, because the stakes are just so high, both amongst the mortal world, and the immortal as well.

The ending of Heavy Lies the Crown made me cry. I’ll admit it. By the time the ending came, I felt like I was living this story, and when the stuff happened that happened, I felt like I might not recover from it. That’s what Galley does. He writes a story that is so real, it becomes part of you. This book not only reminded me why I fell in love with fantasy, it showed me what truly remarkable storytellers are capable of.

I have the best job.

Heavy Lies the Crown is absolutely unforgettable.

5/5 stars