Grim Solace by Ben Galley
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars
Thanks to Ben Galley for providing an ARC of Grim Solace, in exchange for an honest review.
Spoiler-free review. Please note that the quotes in this review are taken from the ARC edition and may change in the published edition.
Grim Solace is a brilliant second book in this original and grim trilogy. Ben Galley wove a brutal tale of murder, treachery, greed and deception in a world that mastered death and bent it to the whims of the living.
Something I really appreciated in this book in particular, but also in the other books I’ve read by Ben Galley, is how honest his writing feels. Be it in his characters’ way of thinking or speaking, or in his philosophical reasoning about human nature and motivation or about civil and consumer societies, it is all blunt and extremely relatable and believable. And while some truths are delivered raw and without adorning, the description and the introspection are always beautifully written.
“People could always be relied on to stare at tragedy. It made them feel better about themselves; to still be a breathing bag of skin rather than a pool of blood on a dusty flagstone.”
“Life is made of many paths. The cruel joke is you can only choose one, and move only forwards along it. Regret is the bitch that follows behind you and paves the paths you didn’t take with gold and glitter.”
Despite a rather slow start, readers, be prepared to take a pretty tense and surprising journey. Or more accurately, journeys! The story mainly revolves around Caltro, more determined than ever to get both his justice and his freedom and Nilith, still racing against time in the dangerous Duneplanes. I really enjoyed the change of pace and scenery and the contrast between bloody Araxes and the unforgiving and untamable desert, despite them both being packed with their own monsters and different forms of greed.
“I’m not mad. Just desperate. There is but a fraction of a line between them.”
Nilith and Caltro’s POVs are still a pleasure to read. I love how passionate and driven Nilith is. The fact that her plans are still cryptic makes me all the more eager to follow her wherever she goes, cheer whenever she succeeds and fret every freaking time a new setback or obstacle arises. Caltro’s narrative was also gripping, but for different reasons. Despite all the messes he created or in which he was mercilessly and constantly thrown, his honest selfishness and dark humor made for a fun (albeit bloody and dark) narrative and about the main relief you will encounter in this book! Though to be honest, some of the encounters Nililth made were pretty heartwarming. Too clever and impudent for his own good, Caltro was an interesting main character to follow and his development, though slow, was extremely satisfying and very believable. The other POVs fleshed out the story and gave just enough of the antagonists’ plans to keep you intrigued. The mysterious agendas and secret schemes were masterfully disguised and I believe we will be left guessing until the end of the trilogy!
“Now look at it: the so-called greatest empire ever known. More dead than alive. More wishing for breath than taking it.
Despite several mentions of other nations in the Far Reaches, the story was still confined in the Arc. Aside from Nilith’s arc taking place in the wild desert, most of the story happens in the deceptively opulent and successful Araxes, where the despair of the indentured dead clashes horribly with the luxury, debauchery and self-indulgence of its nobility and where murder often goes unpunished; better yet: rewarded.
Though Galley didn’t expand his setting in Grim Solace, he did expand and flesh out the mythology and lore by finally giving us precious information about the dead gods, the Church of Sesh (the god of death and chaos) and the different, fascinating and revolting ways of binding the dead.
“Greed cannot be blamed on a poor foundation, but on the man that continues to build atop it.”
Be prepared to dive in a pretty unique and grim story of power, greed and betrayal, readers. Whom to believe in this world where alliances are as fickle as the shady characters that forge them and where trust and kindness are as scarce as the remaining reserves of Nyxwater? I once again enjoyed my journey in the Arc and I have extremely high and reasonably confident expectations for the third and final book that will come out in March!