The Forever King by Ben Galley

Short Note: This is Team LB=TC^2’s sixth finalist review of #SPFBO7. Please check out Lynn’s Books’ review for The Forever King here.

Rate: 7.5/10

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers)

The Forever King is an amalgamation of my favorite aspects in fantasy, encompassing a plethora of details, complex magical systems, and vivid worldbuilding. Initially set up as a war stemming from a decades old feud, the true conflict is eventually revealed as a fight of good versus evil, with larger powers pulling strings off stage. 

Mithrid is a young village girl for whom the larger world is relegated to the flotsam that washes onto her local beach. A seemingly simple act of childish defiance sets off a sequence of events that lead to misery and heartbreak as Mithrid is thrust into the machinations of powerful figures who had previously only occupied roles in legends or stories. Finding all that she once knew to be skewed, Mithrid must reassess fact from fiction in an impossibly short amount of time. In addition, she is deep in mourning for almost everything and everyone she’s ever known, leading her to develop quite an abrasive chip on her shoulder.

The other main perspectives are well-established players at the top of the food chain from the cruel emperor, to the two leaders of the rebel champ who have defied him for decades. These older characters provide the depth to a war that has waxed and waned many times, with both sides holding tight to a multitude of grievances that have matured into a blinding hate. That extreme loathing leads to deadly missteps on both sides, along with the opportunity for gods to mettle for their own murky ambitions. With these other characters having so much shared history, Mithrid serves to give fresh eyes to a conflict that has spanned significantly longer that she’s been alive. That said, there are very few characters I actually liked or felt emotionally invested in their survival, even during the most dangerous parts of battle. This feeling is compounded when despite poor decisions and impossible odds, characters on both sides of the battle lines had remarkable luck surviving or finding a miracle escape route just in the knick of time. 

Galley creates a varied magical system that feels as though we have yet to truly explore the full depth. We witness magic users training, discovering their powers, and the most powerful individuals displaying a wide array of skills, though the source and potentials of this magic are not fully fleshed out. In addition, there are a large variety of magical species present in The Forever King, from daemons, gods, and dragons, to vampyres, minotaurs, and quite a few other creatures. We are given a brief glimpse of the minotaurs’ home, but the majority of the other fantastical species are one dimensional, filling a fantasy bingo, rather than their culture being fully developed. That said, I am curious as to what diverse characters will find their way into the next installments of the series. 

Overall, The Forever King mixes together delightful worldbuilding and detailed characters with the resulting story being highly entertaining, albeit relatively predictable. 

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • Remina’s death was abrupt and unexpected, in addition to the added layer of not being able to access her magic due to Mithrid’s powers. She was highly unlikable as a character but I’d always assumed that she would reconnect with Mithrid or Bull. 
  • Does Bull have any hidden powers? He was definitely one of my favorite characters.
  • The fate of Littlest was indeed difficult too. How would it have impacted Remina to know her little sister was still alive? I enjoyed Mithrid seeing her potential fate had she not been rescued by Modren.
  • Inwick’s death was hard to read but it served to show the reader how madness can take the Written. Can this same madness take the Scarred? Will Farden go crazy?
  • Will Malvus kill Jeasin? Will she escape her prison and return to Farden?
  • Malvus was truly evil, but how did he get so completely bad?
  • Modren and Elessi were so cute together. Modren was probably my favorite character and the only one that I really felt attached to, but you could anticipate his death a mile away as he was the only character to have an added layer of depth with his relationship with Elessi.
  • I was left with so many questions regarding Durnus. Why was he so loyal to Farden when the Forever King was so bad to him?
  • Where did Farden, Mithrid, and Durnus end up?
  • Did Skertrict/Loki excurage Durnus/Farden to search for the spear as a distraction?
  • What are Loki’s true motivations?

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