Our world is lost to time. Only our myths remain.
Centuries after the rain turned, civilization is a distant memory.
Once rain was a symbol of hope and harvest. Now it brings only death. Shadowy rainwights form in rainfall, hunting for victims with their long teeth and claws.
Humanity survives in sheltered cities and canvas-covered towns. Travel between these patches of limited safety is rare and dangerous.
It’s what Galahad lives for.
While seeking a lost cache of salt—a fortune he plans to use to build a shelter over his hometown—Galahad is betrayed by the friends he holds dearest.
They leave him for dead. Unfortunately for them, he lives.
Torn between seeking justice or revenge, Galahad knows one thing for certain: that treasure is his, and he’ll do anything to reclaim it.
"Legend said the Library of Dead Scholars was old even before the rain turned and the world became a place of scratched stone and mouldering skeletons. Truly a relic of ages. A place where knowledge might find eternal life."
Salt in the Wound is the first book in the Rainfallen series, and the debut novel of Benjamin Aeveryn. In a future post-apocalyptic world, we are going to be following Galahad in the search of revenge that will take him on a long journey through the Unholy Kingdom of Mercia.
All seemed solved when Galahad found the treasure of the Long-haired Priest, including a large stash of salt, among other artifacts. But world is not kind, and treason hits hard on Galahad, who is left for dead, after being robbed by his dearest friends; however, he lives against all odds, and after taking Elaine with him, so he can get medical health, he swears to recover the treasure, which would be used to improve the conditions of his town.
This revenge journey won't be easy, especially being accompanied by Elaine, who has lost a leg as a result of the treason, and needs to learn how to deal with the situation. All across post-apocalyptic Britain, where the rains bring the feared rainwights, and home to many mythological beasts.
“You look pathetic.”
“We c-can’t all be brave like you.”
“No, but you were supposed to be smarter than this.”
“I-I don’t think you’ll hurt me.”
“Would be more convincing if you weren’t stammering.”
Most of the story revolves around Galahad searching for those he called friends, all for recovering the treasure. Galahad is a complex character, who evolves with the journey; he starts being a young idealist that has been betrayed by those he called friends, but who progressively gets dehumanized. We see how a person that was kind is poisoned by blood lust.
Elaine will be his companion, and one of the characters who I found more interesting, because it's a great portrayal of disability, after losing her leg. She needs to relearn many basic things, and at some point, we can see how she's experiencing some depressive symptoms. But this is grimdark, and we shouldn't be fooled by her appearance, as there are really dark intentions inside her.
“The rocks that beg a prize both grand and dear;
A blade whet sharp and waxed by humble hands;
These drops that bite and sting: a panacea.
Gifts stolen, snatched from skylit hallowed lands.”
Outside of our two main characters, Fay also gets a prominent spotlight in one of the side quests, which allows us to explore more of Mercia, featuring mythical creatures. Marked by addiction, Fay is the clearest example of what we could call a redemption story.
The world of Rainfallen features some of my favourite elements, as Aeveryn, instead of creating a secondary world, uses a hypothetic post-cataclysm world, where magic and myths are starting to permeate into it; some technological details here and there from the pre-rain times.
While we don't have much time to explore it, as this is a story mostly about the people, there are many sneaky details we can appreciate during Galahad's journey, including some Arthurian references which I loved.
Aeveryn's prose deserves a mention, as it is a strange mix that features some lyrical expressions, that are perfect for transmitting that knighthood feeling, and more plain language; a prose that feels like a reflection of the own Rainfallen world.
“What we did was unforgivable. I admit that. But Galahad, this quest for revenge won’t bring you peace of mind.”
“Justice. Not revenge.”
“Is there any difference when the blood’s done being spilled?”
Salt in the Wound is an excellent debut novel, which puts Benjamin Aeveryn on my radar of must-read authors. If you like grimdark, this book is for you; and in general, if you like post-collapse worlds, try it. Returning to Mercia can't happen soon enough!
Benjamin Aeveryn is an author of SFF from Cambridge, UK, where he lives with his beautiful fiance and a grumpy old cat. Salt in the Wound is his debut novel. People say his work is grimdark fantasy, but for a vision of England where it’s always raining, infrastructure is crumbling, and nobody trusts their neighbours, he only has to look out of his window.