REVIEW #49 | “The Written” by Ben Galley (Ultimate Blog Tour)

“The Written” cover

Title: “The Written”

Author: Ben Galley

Pages (eBook): 460 pages

Original Publishing Date: 1 December 2010

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

“His name is Farden. 
“They whisper that he’s dangerous. 
“Dangerous is only the half of it. 

“A spellbook has gone missing from the libraries of Arfell – a very old and extremely powerful spellbook from the time of dark elves and demons. Five scholars are dead, the magick council is running out of time and options, and the Arka is once again on the brink of war with the Siren dragon-riders. 

“It falls to Farden the Written mage to keep the world from falling into chaos. Entangled in a web of lies and politics, Farden must recover the spellbook before an ancient enemy rises, even if it takes journeying halfway across icy Emaneska and back.

“In his fight for answers, Farden will unearth a secret that not only shakes the foundations of his world, but threaten the entire future of Emaneska. Sorcery, death, drugs and the deepest of betrayals await.

“Welcome to Emaneska.”

Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:

  • character death
  • blood
  • gore
  • violence
  • drug use
  • drug addiction

Representation in the novel:

  • N/A

2/5 stars

Before I begin, I want to give thanks to both Ben Galley, the author, and Dave from TheWriteReads, who organized this tour, for giving me the opportunity to read this book (in exchange for an honest review, of course)! If y’all are interested at learning more about Ben’s other books and himself, I’ll have more information after the review. With that being said, let’s get into it.

The Written follows Farden, a mage, when a group of mage scholars end up murdered and a mysterious book goes missing. Farden is sent out to look for said book and try to prevent whatever evil is showing up along the way. That’s about as much as I can say without getting in to too many spoilers.

First, the characters. I…didn’t really like them. While I thought the different races/creatures were a fun touch (vampires and werewolves and dragons and mages? sweet.), the characters themselves were forgettable or, in some cases, frustrating to read about. Take Farden, for example. He is the lovely protagonist that the reader has to be in the head of for the whole story (or, well, most of it since the story likes to randomly change POVs sometimes, but more on that later). He is a complete and utter asshole. The first interaction with another character the reader sees is him yelling at his maid for no good reason.

This is not a one-off thing: Farden is an ass to nearly everyone he comes into contact with, whether it be a merchant trying to sell him something or someone he has known for years. And in the beginning I thought, “Okay, ya know, I can deal with this. An asshole protagonist who learns to like and trust others throughout the novel. I can get behind that.” Except. That’s not what happens. There is little to no character development. He is the same person he was at the beginning of the novel when the reader meets him, except more pissed off. Granted, this is the first book in a series, so maybe he has development later. But I still would have expected something, and nothing really happened. In the latter half of the novel, when something happens, it got to the point where I was somewhat rooting for a character I definitely was not “supposed” to be rooting for.

He also has a drug addiction for some reason, and I want to say that I have never been personally addicted to drugs, or have even used one. I cannot say whether this is a good representation of addiction or not, and I will not try to. However, I do think that it was handled as a mere plot device, looking back after I finished the book. Overall, I thought Farden was a flat character with no redeeming qualities, and I really did not like being in his head for 95% of the novel.

As for the other characters…they were also flat. Most, if not all, of them just seemed to be cut-outs of tropes thrown together: the innocent maid; the mysterious vampire friend; the wise dragon. Which, okay, sometimes I do like trope-y characters. There are certain character traits that I love seeing done. But what I do not like is when those traits are the character’s entire personality, and that is what happened in The Written.

On top of that, here is something else that really grind me gears whilst reading: I can easily name ten characters that are human men (or were the non-human equivalent) that were either main characters or side characters. Ya know how many I can count that were human women (or the non-human equivalent)? Four. And, once again, none of them really had much depth to them. Granted, that was the fate of a lot of characters, but it was especially seen in the way the characters that were women were written, which was all stereotypical and filled with character tropes. I could not stand it.

When it comes to the plot, I was pretty ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about it. Overall, it had potential and seemed intriguing at first, but the characters killed most of my initial excitement for it. On top of that, the writing did not help in this particular case. A lot of things like the setting and Farden’s appearance were described in far too much detail, and for me, that really took away from the story itself. I think it could have also been edited a tad bit better. There are a lot of instances where Farden is described as simply “the mage,” long after the reader knows who he is.

Along with that, from what I could remember, the reader does not find out Fardan’s name until the third chapter or so, even though the story is supposed to be from his perspective. Parts of the story are also told from another character’s perspective, which would have been interesting if it was not simply explained away by a character talking about their evil master plans at the end of it. A lot of it just felt disjointed to me, and I kept being dragged out of the story because of things like that.

The battle/action scenes also seemed disjointed to me, and I feel that, a lot of the time, they were a stand-in for actual plot-/character-related things. This book is steeped in fight scenes, and, me being a much more character-driven reader, I did not like that much, either way.

Like I stated before, there were a few things I enjoyed in the novel (…even if I did skim that last quarter of it). I liked all the different races of creatures. Some people may not like it because it seems to mix genres between supernatural (vampires and werewolves) and fantasy (mages, elves, and dragons), but I thought it was an interesting point of world-building. It did seem lacking in parts, but again, it is the first book in a series, so it has room to be fleshed out. Unrelated, but I really love the cover. Whoever designed it did a wonderful job, and I think it is gorgeous. Those two tidbits were the sole recipients of the two stars.

Overall, I thought the characters were flat and the writing could have been better. As a result, the plot was not as fun as it could have been. However, kudos for world-building and the cover.

Bio: 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.

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