Blog Tour: The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley review

Hi everyone! Today is a bit exciting: my first time participating in a blog tour! Thank you to the lovely people at The Write Reads for letting me join in. So for the tour I’m reviewing Ben Galley’s standalone novel The Heart of Stone. Our main character is Task; a nine foot, 400 year old Golem, the last of his kind, who is sent to fight in a bloody civil war. He is sent to fight on the side of the Truehards, the king and his nobility, against the Last Fading who are mainly merchants and workers. After fighting in so many battles throughout the years, Task is a very jaded figure, refusing to let anyone get close to him. But things start to change when he meets a plucky girl called Lesky in the king’s camp.

Some people might remember I reviewed Galley’s Chasing Graves a couple of months back and really enjoyed it. The Heart of Stone might top the other novel for me, probably because it is a complete narrative. Galley really takes his time to build this world and immerse the reader in it. The pacing is quite slow which will be a turn off for some readers, but I found it really effective. You get to know these characters so well that you really connect with them and are sympathetic to their plights. Even when they are on opposing sides, you want them to survive this incredibly brutal war. The slow pace lets Galley look at themes such as politics, which I found intriguing. The reader also discovers more about the world through Task’s flashbacks, such as its history and religion. These snippets help provide the reader with information without interrupting the flow of the plot, as well as add a bit of mystery about Task’s past. The ins and outs of this world can be confusing at first, but I think readers will quickly pick them up.

The highlight of the novel was the relationship between Task and Lesky. It was such a sweet, funny, tender friendship – a contrast to the bloody warfare and political intrigue. Both characters develop due to their connection to one another and it was nice to watch their arcs. Task and Lesky have incredibly difficult (and different!) backgrounds but have this amazing strength which is admirable. You can’t help but root for them. Secondary characters as well are fleshed out, such as Alabast, a knight tasked with killing the Golem (no pun intended). You get to know him really well, which makes you conflicted whenever the Truehards and Last Fading clash; you want both of them to succeed.

Overall, if you like fantasy then you’ll enjoy The Heart of Stone and Galley’s other works. Whilst the slow pace might be off-putting to some, I enjoyed getting myself lost in the world of the Realms. Coupled with entertaining characters and Galley’s evocative writing, The Heart of Stone is a very fun fantasy read.

The Heart of Stone is published independently and you can find more information here.

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The Heart of Stone tour

Chasing Graves by Ben Galley review

Hi everyone! Another review I’ve done for Reedsy Discovery (I’ve left a link to it at the end); this time it is Ben Galley’s Chasing Graves. Meet Caltro Basalt. He’s a master locksmith, a selfish bastard, and as of his first night in Araxes, stone cold dead.
They call it the City of Countless Souls, the colossal jewel of the Arctian Empire, and all it takes to be its ruler is to own more ghosts than any other. For in Araxes, the dead do not rest in peace in the afterlife, but live on as slaves for the rich. While Caltro struggles to survive, those around him strive for the emperor’s throne in Araxes’ cutthroat game of power. The dead gods whisper from corpses, a soulstealer seeks to make a name for himself with the help of an ancient cult, a princess plots to purge the emperor from his armoured Sanctuary, and a murderer drags a body across the desert, intent on reaching Araxes no matter the cost. Only one thing is certain in Araxes: death is just the beginning.

Galley’s use of multi-character perspectives is incredible. It gives the reader a chance to explore this new world from various angles; from ghost to royalty to everything in between, as well as introduces the various intrigues that are presumably present in the trilogy. Caltro is set up as the main protagonist but all the characters are well-developed and never felt superfluous; all had their own part to play in the narrative. In particular, the relationship between Nilith and her dead husband Farazar is the highlight of the novel; a complex and emotional love/hate dynamic that Galley conveys really well. I was always sad finishing their chapters and I hope to see more of them in the second book. Caltro is also really well-written with a distinctive voice. Despite all the terrible things happening to and around him, he has this great sense of humour which stops the novel becoming bleak and makes him endearing to the reader. He is a great character for the trilogy to centre on.

Galley also blends Egyptian mythology and fantasy really well to create this unique world. The idea of the afterlife as a passing or voyage (hence the coins for the ferryman in corpses’ mouths) is turned on its head in the most terrifying way possible: the coins are used to ‘bind’ ghosts to servitude. Instead of setting them free, souls are effectively trapped. This idea is both a terrifying yet a clever example of Galley’s use of mythology throughout the story. The Styx river is renamed Nyx here and the mention of gods also highlight the mythical roots of Chasing Graves.

Overall, the book is a fast-paced, fun read. The reader is thrown into this world with little introduction, so very much like Caltro they must navigate this strange city. The reader learns about Araxes and the world very organically; there is no unnecessary information dumped in the middle of a chapter that the reader has to wade through. This helps to keep the story flowing and the reader engaged until the end. And what a cliff-hanger that ending is! I’m itching to read the second book. If you enjoy fantasy, then definitely check out Chasing Graves.

Chasing Graves is published independently and you can find more information here.