Let’s first do a round-up of our characters: Caltro, our First-person PoV protagonist continues to be treated like a sack of potatoes – if sacks of potatoes had lockpicking skills beyond value – passed on from one awful, greedy character to another, trying to make the best out of his half-life, which I would describe as “The horror that keeps on giving!”. What I’ll say about Caltro is this – he continues to be a remarkably memorable character and one who I can’t imagine disliking. This novel sees him go through a number of new challenges, and finally get a sense of the overall events in Araxes. He also makes an unlikely friend with quite the sting to him!
As for Boss Temsa, the unscrupulous criminal’s ambitions rise to new heights during a series of events which cause his character to become more and more volatile. Every setback he meets, every time another resists his will or undercuts his authority, I feel such satisfaction. I don’t recall taking such a dislike for him in Chasing Graves but over the time spent with this sequel, I really came to loathe him.
Nilith barely gets a break over this one, just like last time around; when she is successful, though, nothing is quite as satisfying. The only scene I found mildly annoying was during Nilith’s storyline, and even as I was reading it, I figured out why Ben Galley had decided to do it this way, and the pay-off is indeed worth it. Gosh, it’s difficult not to spill what exactly I mean, but…must…wait…release date in order to…gossip!
A new character makes her way, and though I hoped for a bit more time with her, Scrutiniser Heles is one hell of a likeable, if slightly trope-y “bad cop”. She’s likeable in her dogged search for justice, and her voice is that of hundreds of thousands of the disillusioned innocent of Araxes. Woah! That sentence had four preposition phrases! I must’ve gone mad!
That one moment excepted, if I thought some of the twists and turns of Chasing Graves were a little bit predictable, it would seem Grim Solace has been written with the express purpose of throwing in one surprise after another! I have so many questions, especially on account of every single plot thread ending on cliff-hangers. And yes, I took a point off my personal enjoyment on the previous book of the series for ending on a cliff-hanger, but these are a whole lot more gripping! I am, in fact, bursting with desire to find out what happens next, even more than after putting down Chasing Graves! Truly, the ending of each of these characters’ treads makes for shot after shot of adrenaline.
But before I finish my review, I’d like to discuss the tone of the Chasing Graves trilogy. Over the first book and the vast majority of this second one, the citizens of Araxes and the great desert beyond it have been shown as ultimately corrupt, self-serving, cutthroat, and borderline psychopathic in their willingness to murder others to better themselves. Whether they do so openly or through complex political intrigue is beside the point. That makes for a bleak, hopeless atmosphere, as thick as the vapours of the uncountable millions of shades in Araxes. Where, finally, the author offers us a hint of hope is with the characters of Nilith and, of course, Caltro – especially in the later part of this second instalment in the series. Again, I won’t go into specifics but I do believe that Caltro’s progression speaks of, or at least hints at, an underlying hopefulness about the human condition, and the ability to overcome our worse demons. Whether that sense of hopefulness blossoms in full over the closing book of the trilogy or things fall apart…we’ll know in March, when the third book comes out!
Ben Galley is one of the Primarchs of independently published fantasy! (Bit of a weird compliment to throw around, but I’ve been listening to a bunch of Warhammer audiobooks, so there’s some weird mental leakage going on in this ol’ head of mine). For this one, a score of 4.9 out of 5 is in order! Why not a full 5/5? Because I hope to see the closing chapter of the Chasing Graves trilogy outdo this superb second chapter. Hell, I hope it’ll blow my bloody mind away!
Disclaimer: I got an e-ARC (Advanced Reader/Reviewer Copy) from the author in exchange for an honest review.