Synopsis: 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.
It’s my stop on the massive blog tour in support of the wonderful Ben Galley! There are four books involved & something like 140 bloggers. Or thereabouts. I don’t know, I’m shit at math! There’s a lot of us. A METRIC FUCK TON. I’m excited to be a part of it. It’s the first time I’ve ever joined in a blog tour!
Hi. Hello! For those of you new here – welcome to my humble, quirky, odd little place on the dark webs! Er.. no. Not *that* dark web. I just mean that I embrace the decidedly darker things in life. So that is generally what you will find among the swearing & the excitable gushing & yes.. the word vomit.
Anyhow. I’m rambling already. BECAUSE OF COURSE I AM!!
Speaking of darkness, Chasing Graves is the first installment in the trilogy of the same name, which was released in quick succession. Three books within three months. A series released in its entirety. That’s not only ambitious as fuck, but completely bonkers!
If the first volume is any indication, however, then Galley has certainly pulled it off.
“The knife was dragged from me, and the pain came, blossoming like smoke over a Scatter Isle volcano. It crippled me, and I would have fallen had it not been for the iron arms that grasped me.
My head was yanked skyward. The steel raked across my throat, merciless. My chest and lap became wet and warm. Every time I tried to breathe, I drowned.”
Having previously loved Heart of Stone, I knew I wanted to read more from Galley! When the glorious Chasing Graves cover art done by Chris Cold & designed by STK Kreations was revealed, I decided then that it would be my next journey into Galley’s work. I mean.. look at that cover! LOOK AT IT! It’s a beautiful grotesque feast for the eye holes & I AM LIVING FOR IT!! I bought it the minute it was released. I’m glad I waited a bit to read it, because now here we are!
From the beginning, we are thrust into the midst of Caltro Basalt’s story. He is a locksmith & thief that has been summoned to Araxes, the violent heart of the Arctian Empire. Araxes is also called the City of Countless Souls. Hmm.. why is that, you ask? Oh, just that Araxes is known for it’s gruesome murders. You see, “soul-stealing” is a thing in this world. Criminals murder people, then rip their souls out of their bodies & sell them illegally. These ghosts are enslaved as “shades” & must co-exist next to the living.
Despite these glaring cautionary obstacles, Caltro can’t help but be intrigued by the mysterious letter he receives offering him a job. He jumps on a boat headed to Araxes & as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now.. things do not go smoothly. Caltro was meant to arrive at the Cloudpiercer, but never made it. His boat was late, ensuing a shitstorm of events – starting with his vicious death at the hands of a gang of soul-stealers.
The plot then rages on like a steamroller. Everything moves forward at a fast (but never too fast) pace, deftly executed by Galley.
This is told through four distinct POV’s in both first & third-person. I’m normally not a huge fan of alternating viewpoints, but it worked well here. There was a decidedly unique flow to the narrative. Galley paints the characters so vividly. Love them or hate them, each of these characters matter. They are utilized in such a way that they never feel like they are just there, filling a role.
Along with Caltro, Chasing Graves follows Boran Temsa, a crime boss with a penchant for impaling victims with his gold eagle claw prosthetic; Sisine, a young princess who is attempting to take over the crumbling empire from her father; and finally, Nilith. Nilith was the most fascinating character for me, personally! She killed her husband Farazar & then dragged his corpse (& ghost) across the desert to bind his soul.
This is brutal, grimy, heavy, yet humorous. Extremely atmospheric, clever world-building & well-written. Chasing Graves flips the undead/ghost trope on its head with something delightfully original. I just fucking devoured this!
It’s clear that the pieces are being set in place for the second book, as Galley hooks his daggers into you & then.. it ends. ON A CLIFFHANGER, GODDAMNIT! As I mentioned earlier, luckily the entire series is completed so if you are someone who is turned off by cliffhanger endings.. at least you won’t have to wait years to find out what happens next!
Chasing Graves is a deliciously dark & wickedly fun start to a promising new series by a magnetic storyteller. Highly recommended!
I want to thank Dave from @TheWriteReads for putting this together. I’m sure it was no easy feat! Don’t forget to check out the other reviews during the biggest blog tour to ever blog tour!
About the Author:
Ben Galley is an author of dark and epic fantasy books who currently hails from Victoria, Canada. Since publishing his debut The Written in 2010, Ben has released a range of award-winning fantasy novels, including the weird western Bloodrush and the epic standalone The Heart of Stone. He is also the author of the brand new Chasing Graves Trilogy.
When he isn’t conjuring up strange new stories or arguing the finer points of magic and dragons, Ben works as a self-publishing consultant, helping fellow authors from around the world to publish their books.
You can find Ben at the following: