The Written is the first book in the Emaneska series. All of Emaneska books were self-published by their author Ben Galley. The Written opens with a mysterious mage murdering some librarians to steal a book for some nefarious purpose. From their readers are introduced to Farden a sword wield, fire-flinging gauntlet wearing mage known for his temper and the fact that his father’s mind buckled under the power of his magics. Farden, we quickly learn is tasked (by his vampire mentor) with tracking down the mysterious book thief and murderer. Of course it isn’t quite as simple as tracking down the thief thanks to the fact that the book was a powerful grimoire once held by the mages of Arfell’s ancient enemy: the Sirens. Farden’s quest leads him down dark paths full of conspiracy, adventure, and magic.
The Written is a solid debut book. This is by no means a perfect novel and it doesn’t necessarily do a lot of new things but it a solid swords and sorcery adventure. Farden is an interesting lead equal parts confident and flawed; capable of both deep insight and disastrous oversight. The world of Emeaneska is interesting though at least on the surface a fairly generic fantasy landscape. Over the course of the novel Galley focuses his attention on two main cultures: the mages of Arfell and their once enemies the Sirens. Galley’s narrow focus on both cultures and their differences are where the novel is at its strongest and it becomes easy to see how the radical differences in each of these two cultures has lead to conflict and misunderstanding. I do think that Galley is a bit less than even-handed in his presentation of both Arfell and the Sirens. The Sirens, who were the ones defeated in their war with the mages of Arfell, are definitely painted in a more forgiving light that paint’s the mages’ claims of Siren aggression in a very different light.
Galley plays fast and loose with the magic of The Written, there are no big Sanderson-esque magic systems here and the limitations of the Farden’s abilites are not made explicit. The magic of The Written involves writing, particularly in the form of tattoos born by mages like Farden, and that the process of tattooing is dangerous bordering on deadly. What we never find out is precisely what that magic can and cannot do. For the most part Galley offers just enough detail to keep the sorcerous action interesting without being confusing. Galley also show a deft hand at action scenes and crafts several exciting set pieces that unfold in epic situations. The plot is quick and constantly moving forward with at least one major twist that even experienced readers will not see coming.
The Written is currently available for free in Kindle form so there really isn’t any excuse not check it out now. I’ll definitely be giving the rest of Galley’s Emaneska series a shot in the future.