- Anna Stephens.
- 400 pages.
- Fantasy / Adult / Dark Fantasy / Grimdark.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
The Mireces worship the bloodthirsty Red Gods. Exiled from Rilpor a thousand years ago, and left to suffer a harsh life in the cold mountains, a new Mireces king now plots an invasion of Rilpor’s thriving cities and fertile earth.
Dom Templeson is a Watcher, a civilian warrior guarding Rilpor’s border. He is also the most powerful seer in generations, plagued with visions and prophecies. His people are devoted followers of the god of light and life, but Dom harbors deep secrets, which threaten to be exposed when Rillirin, an escaped Mireces slave, stumbles broken and bleeding into his village.
Meanwhile, more and more of Rilpor’s most powerful figures are turning to the dark rituals and bloody sacrifices of the Red Gods, including the prince, who plots to wrest the throne from his dying father in the heart of the kingdom. Can Rillirin, with her inside knowledge of the Red Gods and her shocking ties to the Mireces King, help Rilpor win the coming war?
I won an ARC of this book from a competition on Twitter, winning!
Godblind is the first in a new trilogy and also the debut book by author Anna Stephens. Unfortunately Godblind didn’t pull me in from the beginning, initially, it wasn’t a book that instantly grabbed me, the hook that absorbed me into Stephens dark and bloody tale came sometime later, but by the end, I had absolutely loved my time spent reading it.
My main and only issue is that there is a large cast of point of view characters (Rillirin, escaped slave. Corvus, war chief. Crys, Captain in the Rank. Durdil, Commander of the Ranks. Dom, Wolf and Calestar/Seer. The Blessed One, Lanta, High Priestess to The Dark Lady. Galtas, asshole extraordinaire, a close friend to Prince Rivil. Mace, General of the West Rank. Tara, Captain in the West Rank, the only female Captain in the Ranks. Gilda, Priestess of The Dancer Watcher) strewn throughout various locations, there aren’t many locations and often the PoV have some overlap to them, but it took a while for them all to be introduced, due to this, for me I felt that it took some time for the story to get into its stride, or if you prefer the grimdark equivalent, like an axe pulling back before letting rip with an almighty swing to decapitate the head!
However, with so many characters Stephens does a good job of managing to give them all individual personalities and development, not all their motives are clear and often the characters have shades of grey personalities. Her pacing works well with the story being told through the many multiple PoV characters, as she gives us short, sharp and to the point chapters, from a variety of perspectives that flit between locations on both sides of the conflict, keeping the story rapidly moving along as she pulls you deeper into her story, ramping up the tension, and finally building to the intense climax.
Crys made a noise that might have been a smothered laugh and Galtas glared at him. ‘Captains,’ he muttered. ‘Thick-as-shit jumped-up cunts, every one of them.’
‘As you say, milord,’ Crys said blandly, his blue eye shining in the gloom, the brown one invisible. ‘And not susceptible to your charms, either,’ he added with a touch of malice.
I enjoyed Stephens writing, she has a descriptive and often colourful style that works well. I personally like colourful language ‘fuck‘ is profanity, right? Oh, who gives a shit! The occasional emotion pulls at you and the sporadic humour she includes is spot on for me, some of the phrases, comments and language used by the characters and their interactions really had me smiling. There’s one chapter in particular though that is very descriptive in its torturous agony, male readers are warned, when hitting your hand with a hammer while attempting to hammer in nails utterly pales in comparison to the horror Stephens describes, ouch! Female readers, want to get back at a cheating husband or BF, have at it! Stephens is also a dab hand at writing both sides of the story, the action-oriented fight and battle scenes and the politically oriented scenes, which is a good thing as there is plenty of brutal action to be found in Godblind, and the intrigue, machinations and the ramifications of blood betraying blood that take place are an integral part of the story. There’s a nice contrast between them both and Stephens writes the two aspects really well.
Not to mention the mysterious entities of the God’s working behind the scenes, like puppet masters, pulling the strings, the epic conflict between the two faiths, The Light with the Dancer and the Fox God, the Trickster and the Red with the Dark Lady and Gosforth (the God of Blood). Godblind is the story of the Red God’s and their pawns blood-soaked attempts to break the weakening veil, shattering it and thus, returning the Red God’s to the lands of Rilpor.
‘Many of us carry scars we wish we did not, memories we would like to forget. Each of us has to decide whether those scars and memories will control us, or whether we can be free of them.’
To go with the story and characters, I feel that a book also needs a fully imagined and realised setting. Stephens has a keen eye for world building and while the lands of Gilgoras aren’t as epic in nature and scale as some other fantasy worlds out there, she has with Rilpor, its capital Rilporin and the surrounding areas created well-realised locations that she brings to life. Mention also needs to go to both, the Waystation for the Red God’s, it’s such a small and simple locale, a nondescript dark and dank cavern, but it added a lot to the story and I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions that took place there. And, the underground Yew Cove tunnels, as a gamer I know that more often than not, there’s a simple equation tunnel = bad, and that area late on in the book is part of the intense finale, and one long dramatic holy shit moment of oppressive and grim action.
Being the first book in the trilogy Godblind gives you a feeling that there will be much more to come in the subsequent two books, there are little hints and mentions strewn throughout that allude to more complex and deeper happenings taking place. That’s perfectly fine with me as the first book is always the foundation on which a trilogy/series is based, the opening salvo that introducing us to the world, characters and overarching main story that will last for the duration. After all, no author shoots their load in the first book by revealing everything that will subsequently transpire.
The tagline for Godblind reads ‘For fans of Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, and Mark Lawrence comes a brutal grimdark fantasy debut of dark gods and violent warriors’ it’s a bang on statement and they nailed it. Oh, it’s true, it’s damn true. I’m a massive Abercrombie and Lawrence fan I can safely say that fans of both will love Anna Stephens and Godblind.
Come the end of Godblind and in typical grimdark fashion, hope is a commodity sorely lacking, throughout the book you have been left looking down an ever-growing gaping maw of bleakness, anguish and desperation, that gets progressively worse with the final hundred pages ratcheting up the despair even more, it’s a fitting ending to a quality book and first installment in the trilogy. But damn, the conclusion is like a punch to the gut, leaving you reeling as you turn the final page, realising that Stephens, whilst closing of this first part and phase, has also simultaneously left the story balancing on a precipice, can you say cliff-fucking-hanger! You want to continue delving deeper into the story, see how it’s all going to play out, find out what the next moves are, the characters fates, it really gives you the feels and you are left wanting more.
Fast paced, visceral, bloodthirsty with plenty of gore-drenched action, an abundance of colourful language, humour, the occasional splattering (not the more common smattering, because, you know, blood splatters) of emotion, characters to root for, and assholes to hate all added together make Godblind a tremendous debut from Stephens and a fantastic read.
If I had to describe Godblind in one sentence, I’d give you this: Godblind is grimdark on steroids!
Pre-order Godblind (June 15th UK & June 20th US).
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