Bloodrush by Ben Galley
|Formatt:||Paperback / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Western|
|Release Date:||December 16, 2014|
Welcome to the Wild West, he thought. Last stop before Hell.
The fantasy genre has long been filled to the brim with coming-of-age stories. Chances are, if you’re perusing Fantasy-Faction and reading this review, you’ve read more than your share. Chances are also pretty good that you haven’t read one like Bloodrush.
The first book in the Scarlet Star Trilogy, Bloodrush marks Ben Galley’s eighth self-published book, following in the footsteps of his popular epic fantasy Emaneska Series, and is one of the ten finalists in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. Galley’s success in the competition isn’t surprising given his role as a self-publishing consultant at Shelf Help and co-founder and director of Libiro, an ebook store exclusively for indie authors and self-published books.
Bloodrush introduces readers to 13-year-old Merion Hark, a high-born British lordling whose hard-edged father boasts the well-deserved nickname of “Bulldog.” When his father is killed, Merion discovers that his father’s last will and testament forces him to cross the Iron Ocean and live with his aunt in Montana.
The setting proves to be the book’s best selling point, as Galley introduces us to a Wild West that’s infused with magick. Merion’s best friend Rhin is a faerie in hiding from his own people; when they arrive in the west, they soon discover a world where Shohani (playing a role similar to Native Americans) threaten to raid their new home of Fell Falls. Even more dangerous are the dreaded railwraiths, spirits who build their bodies from the newly-laid railroad being built to bring civilization to the west.
It doesn’t take long for Merion to learn that he has magick of his own rushing through his veins. Called bloodrushing, select individuals have the power to drink the blood of animals gain specific powers based on the type of blood they can bloodrush. It’s very similar to the magic system Brandon Sanderson uses in Mistborn, with the magic user’s power fueled by varieties of animal blood instead of metal. Merion discovers that he may be a “leech,” a rare bloodrusher who can use multiple blood types to provide a variety of powers.
Not surprisingly, the British lordling is horrified by his new surroundings – including the eccentricity of his Aunt Lilain, who turns out to be the town undertaker – and immediately begins to scheme to find a way to return to Britain, where he intends to find his father’s murderer and once again enjoy civilized society.
From the start, Galley has a firm grip on his characters. Merion is a likeable enough protagonist for a 13-year-old boy, even though he proves moody for much of the book and has more than his fair share of temper tantrums. Merion’s difficult adjustment to western life is well handled without going overboard, and Galley does a good job of making Merion believably obnoxious without making the reader hope one of the railwraiths brings Merion’s story to an abrupt conclusion. While Merion proves foolish at times, he’s foolish in a way that doesn’t sacrifice character for the sake of plot advancement – everything Merion does, even when ill-conceived, is believable.
Merion’s new family members have shrouded backstories of their own, from Lilain, the black sheep of the Hark family who seems to take her brother’s murder in stride; to Lurker, a war veteran-turned-prospector who isn’t nearly as wealthy as he probably should be, considering his bloodrushing ability allows him to sniff out gold.
The plot is slightly unfocused at times, which fits well with the fact that Merion is largely floundering and alone in this new setting, but also could have been streamlined just a touch. Galley also has a tendency to hop between points of view in a single scene, a habit that threw me out of a couple scenes as I retraced my steps to make certain I understood exactly where the point of view had shifted.
Nonetheless, the climax is really where the book shines, as Merion proves that the whimpering lordling who touched down on the shores of the new world actually has mettle. Watching him discover his newly-acquired abilities, even as he single-handedly fights for his life against a small army of henchmen and another bloodrusher, made me forget entirely about the sullen Merion we met shortly after his father’s murder.
Bloodmoon, the second book in the trilogy, was just published in July, and I’m looking forward to seeing if the focus and determination Merion displayed in Bloodrush’s climax carries over to the sequel. With Bloodrush’s conclusion, Galley has created some interesting dynamics amongst Merion’s new family, and there have been plenty of hints that Merion still has enemies back in London who would prefer he never return to his homeland again.