SPFBO Finalist Reviews: “The Forever King” by Ben Galley

I’m a judge for the first-ever SPSFC (Self Published Science Fiction Contest- see all my posts on that here), but couldn’t help noticing the parallel SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off) contest happening. I always love finding some new indie authors and books, so I decided to read through the finalists of that contest and review them on my site. As always, let me know your own thoughts in the comments.

The Forever King by Ben Galley

The Forever King is the start of a new series by Ben Galley that’s set in the same world as 4 novels he’s written before, the Emaneska series. I decided to go back and try those before reading this one. I enjoyed them well enough, but having now read The Forever King as well, I would say that this may be the best starting point.

The Forever King is in a world in which magick is banned with a death sentence. The current ruler of the land is fiercely trying to stop magick from spreading because, he argues, that’s how peace was brought to the land. Of course, there’s always more to the story.

Mithrid lives in a gentle seaside village, gathering flotsam from shipwrecks to see if it can provide a boon to her family. Other characters show up, and whether it’s a mage fighting against other mages, a vampire, or dragons, they all have interesting backstories. Some of them are from previous books in the series, but, again I think this is a fine place to start. The stories for individual characters are quite strong, and I hugely enjoyed the setting of the novel as well.

This is a long read, though, and you’ve got to be committed to some of the tropes of epic fantasy going in. Sometimes, it seems the evil characters are evil for evil’s sake and little else. Motivations at either the good and bad ends of the spectrum are fairly transparent. Mithrid went from being an intriguing child character to something a bit more one-dimensional than I expected.

My greatest complaint, though, is that Galley chose to use the name “Loki” for one of the gods in the world. I know this might be a little thing to some people, but it really killed my immersion in the world to have “real world” names for gods overlap in what is otherwise a completely fabricated world, including largely names that don’t sound similar to our own. I wouldn’t even have minded Loki as a name for a character, but having Loki be a trickster-ish god yet again and with no connection or reason to have the name be the same just made it feel strange.

The story itself is captivating, if somewhat predictable. The development of a resistance movement and the ways magic works, revenge and other motivations, dragons and other magical creatures–all of these and more feature in the plot of this sprawling epic fantasy.

The Forever King is a lengthy but rewarding read. It’s got plenty of action to go along with solid character development. It stumbles occasionally along the way, but ultimately delivers an experience well worth reading.

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