Summary: “Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts and vomit. You hear me?”
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.
Thoughts: I’m not much for westerns. They just don’t really interest me. So while I had it on good authority that Bloodrush was a good novel, I saved it for one of the last books of Round 2 just because I expected that it really wouldn’t end up being my thing after all.
So colour me surprised when it turned out that I really loved it!
This is more than just a fantasy with western elements. This is alternate historical fantasy. Or possibly it would be better to say that it’s a parallel universe rather than just alternate history, since alternate history tends to imply that a major event went a different way and history branched from there. This is alternate in the way that His Dark Materials is alternate; there are plenty of parallels, you feel generally comfortable knowing the place and time, but there are enough differences to make it stand out and the culture is noticeably affected. Whether you’re taking a stroll through London’s Jekyll Park reading about the politics of England’s Prime Lord and Queen Victorious, or you cross the Iron Ocean to visit the New Kingdom of America, Galley’s vision of a twisted past shows much care and attention to detail. The more small changes were unearthed, the further I fell happily into the book, because it was another layer for me to explore.
Tonmerion Hark, known to his friends as Merion, has been sent away against his will, following the murder of his father. For reasons unknown to him, he has been sent to live with his aunt in Wyoming, an ocean and a country away from the Empire he grew up in, until he comes of age and receives his inheritance. But the circumstances of his father’s murder are mysterious, and Wyoming is a terrifying place on the frontier and is filled with strangers and angry creatures, and Merion quickly finds himself with another ten questions for every answer. Together with Rhin, his faerie companion and exile in his own right, they won’t stop until they get to the bottom of the mysteries now plaguing Merion’s new American life.
While Tonmerion is only 13 at the outset of the book, this isn’t what I’d label a young adult novel. The tone is darker, more detailed and mature, and though the detail of blood and gore is kept to a tasteful level, details of dissecting mutilated corpses isn’t something you’d typically find in books where the protagonist is Merion’s age. So if you start off hoping to find a YA story within these pages, however creative, you’re probably going to end up disappointed. This is an adult fantasy with a young adult protagonist, something that isn’t commonly done but that Galley did very well. You can’t help but roll your eyes at Merion’s entitlement, which comes across very well as a young rich man who suddenly finds himself in what he views as an uncultured place full of ignorant people not giving him his due. He straddles the line between innocent ignorance and outright arrogance, which gives him the overall feel of being a lovable young jerk with the potential to grow.
Mention must be made of the magic system in Bloodrush, which involves ingesting blood in order to gain powers or abilities from the source. The power to do this runs on Merion’s bloodline, and to read that, you’d think that the his discovery of this would be one of those things that’s a huge surprise to him but not to the reader because of course the protagonist has to have magic when magic is available. The thing of it is, you go through more than a quarter of the novel before you even start to pick up hints that there’s something going on that involves blood, but full details aren’t really revealed until later, so it’s a slow building of small hints that creep up on you. I didn’t figure there would be magic at all in this book, or at least not magic that wasn’t Fae-oriented. Galley has this fantastic ability to bring you into it all so slowly, so carefully, that you don’t quite realize your view of the world is shifting until it’s shifted.
But for all that, Bloodrush isn’t a slow burn kind of novel. It starts off by throwing you into the thick of things and keeps bringing new situations in with a steady pace that begs to have you keep reading just one more chapter, just one more, so you can keep the story going and find out what’s happening now.
Echoing my comment on What Remains of Heroes, I can easily see this book getting enough interest that traditional publishers might want in on the action. It’s unique, it’s highly entertaining, the pacing is superb, and the characters varied and a lot of fun to read about. This is one is one of the best of the bunch, definitely worth paying attention to, and if it’s not one of the top 3 SPFBO novels, I’ll be extremely surprised.