Bloodmoon by Ben Galley
|Formatt:||Paperback / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Western|
|Release Date:||July 24, 2015|
“Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of bloodrushing.”
In the opening book of the Scarlet Star Trilogy, readers get to immerse themselves in an alternative Wild West, complete with deadly railwraiths, fairies and blood magic. In the sequel, Galley immerses us in circus life, even as he builds upon our understanding of Tonmerion Hark’s enemies.
Bloodrush, book one in the series, introduced us to Merion, a young British lord who is forced to quickly grow up after the murder of his father. Shipped off to live with his aunt in the American west, Merion soon discovers that his father didn’t just send him overseas for the climate. It turns out that his Aunt Lilain can teach Merion about his bloodrushing ability, which allows him to gain magical powers by drinking the blood of different animals (others have also made this comparison, but it’s similar to the way the magic system in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn novels requires the characters to ingest different metals to utilize specific magical powers).
In Bloodmoon, Merion, Lilain, their friend Lurker and the fairie Rhin find themselves heading east and leaving the ruins of Fell Falls behind them. Merion remains determined to return to Britain and defend his father’s estate from those who seek to claim all the Harks have built, but the quartet soon learns that it can be dangerous traveling across the desert alone. To remedy the issue, they join up with a circus headed east to Washingtown to perform for King Lincoln.
While the setting changes, the characters continue to display the growth they experienced in Bloodrush. Merion is no longer the whiny lordling we first met; his brush with death has changed him, making more focused, worldly and determined. While his goal to return to Britain remains the same, he’s no longer motivated by a simple desire to return to his pampered upbringing – instead, he seeks to defend his family’s legacy and do battle with those who would use the Hark fortune for their own purposes. Galley does an excellent job of depicting a young man straddling two worlds – the British lord who is now battle-hardened after surviving the west, and the adolescent on the verge of manhood.
Following the events of Bloodrush, Lilain has learned to place more of her trust in Merion, and recognizes that the Merion who fought for his life at the end of that book is no longer a normal 13-year-old. In Bloodmoon, she doesn’t have to play as motherly a role, and we see her relationship with Lurker begin to change.
Meanwhile, Rhin discovers that the fairy queen has not forgiven or forgotten him, and this time she’s sending the legendary bean sidhe after him. Rhin’s revelation at the end of Bloodrush presents some problems in this book, as things quickly return to normal between Merion and Rhin. Early in the book, Merion isn’t speaking to his friend, and while this seems in character, it isn’t much fun. While it’s more enjoyable to see those two return to their prior relationship, it feels a touch too soon – I can’t help but think that it needed a major, end-of-the-novel event to bring the two together. While I was intrigued by the aforementioned revelation in Bloodrush, I don’t know that it was worth the inevitable issues it created in Bloodmoon.
Ultimately, though, that’s a minor criticism. We got a chance to see more of what’s taking place in Britain, and I found that to be fascinating. Mr. Witchazel, the Hark family attorney, was a surprisingly interesting character, and I found myself wanting to know more about both he and Gunderton, who apparently served Merion’s father for years and still hold a surprising amount of loyalty to the Hark family. We also saw more of Lord Dizali, his plans for the Hark fortune and the lengths he will go to achieve his goals. I’m certainly looking forward to learning more about him in the series conclusion.
Ultimately, this is a different kind of book than the first in the series, a shift from a Wild West coming-of-age story to a tale about a young man using magick as part of a traveling circus. The pace has picked up just a touch, and the focus has improved as Merion no longer needs to spend time adjusting to the basics of American life or learning about his magick. Rather than continuing to rely on the magick and setting that made Bloodrush such a success, Galley successfully shifts some of his focus to Britain while allowing his characters to continue to grow and develop.
Bloodrush was a worthy finalist in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and Bloodmoon is a strong successor. If you’re looking for a fun fantasy story in a very different setting, both of these books are worth a read.