Have you tried Biryani? Remember that spicy taste burning through your tongue, the aroma of that hot pot of biryani you could not refuse but it made you cry Ganga and Yamuna (Missipi-Missouri or Thames, or whatever river you swear by) as it burned your tongue? Or think Tex-Mex. Godblind, the brand new grimdark fantasy novel by debutant Anna Stephens, is equally addictive. It stirs your emotions, tugs at your heartstrings, throws you against the wall and pulls you back to throw you again.
You are left with a dizzy buzz inside your head: “Where is the next one? Where is the next one? Where is the next one?” [Read with the rhythm of a choo-choo train]
Minor Spoilers ahead.
The world of Godblind is as bleak and cold as its antagonists and a perfect setting for the heat of violence it endures.
The author spends exactly the right amount of words building her setup and location. We get a pretty clear picture of every place even without a map (this review is based on the ARC which has no map). We know everything we need to know about the terrain, buildings, the towns of the wolves, the castle grounds of Rilpor. The explanations are just right.
One particular scene where one of the POV characters is escaping her pursuers, I could feel the chill of snow covered mountain and the rush of a waterfall. Got goosebumps.
Lanta is one of the most well-rounded villains I have read in the recent months. She is a walking talking living and breathing contradiction in her insecurity and arrogance, her cruelty, and fear of failure, her derision towards the king she colludes with for the plans her Blood Goddess has formed.
Lanta does something I wouldn’t ever threaten my man with, not even if he wipes out all my games from all the computers. But the publishers offer a fair warning. If you know you can’t take horror shit, stay the f*** away. Almost every kind of abuse you can imagine is mentioned in this book. You have been warned. The publishers are more polite in their message.
Gilda is the perfect counterbalance for Lanta. The scenes of Gilda and Lanta together were one of the best-written lines in this book.
The two main factions of Gods in this book are exactly like Gilda and Lanta. The Dark Lady and the God of Blood are malicious and enjoy a twisted abusive relationship with their followers, willing or not. The Dancer rarely is perturbed by her follower’s cries for help and appears only once in the book. Her bastard son, the Fox God or Trickster, remains an enigma.
Crys with all his flaws and morals remain one of the best-written protagonists in this book. I keep visualizing him as the Trickster and feel that the apparent absence of any direct action from the God of light indicates the existence of a human avatar in the world. Crys and Ash have a beautiful little thing going on. Their story brings a breath of relief into the stench of darkness. I know many won’t agree with me but this bit of romance was necessary after all the betrayal, brutality and the overall bitterness of power-hungry people using the Gods as an excuse for every action.
Gods who seem to be too happy letting their followers fight it out while they sit on the sidelines and haunt a poor man in his dreams.
Rillirin was intriguing in the beginning but I lost interest in her somewhere in the middle. She showed some promise right before the end. I understand that her start as a vengeful slave who battles PTSD and some justified suspicion from her rescuer’s tribe allows her some time to develop into a warrior of the light as has been hinted many times in the book. I do appreciate her growth throughout the book.
Rivil is stupid. I don’t about later but for now, he looks like a pawn in Lanta’s game and nothing more. Galtas is a cliched pain in the ass. Janis is tragic, Mace and his father are perfect examples of loyal servants, unsung heroes the royalty can’t seem to get rid of. Mace and Dalli‘s short romance comes at the right moment adding a soft touch to the ongoing brutality of war.
The ‘wolves’ are an interesting tribe. I hope we will see more of them and they aren’t obliterated completely before the next book is out. Each of the characters from that tribe has a story I am waiting to find out. Glossary, I need a glossary. Have to check if the published copy has one.
Dom is …I don’t know what to say. He is an almost hero who could have become an almost antagonist by almost betraying those he was supposed to protect. Or did he, already?
A list of characters would be helpful for the next installment if the POV count remains this sprawling. I had to keep going back and forth to get an idea who was whom as the first few chapters introduced a lot of characters with little information to identify them correctly. Once I got the hang of it, all my confusion disappeared.
Anna maintains a shifting suspense throughout the novel. Once you start thinking she is going to give away a secret, the next one starts building up. You are never sure of what’s going to happen next. You are usually right, but the anticipation never ends.
Overall, this was the grimdarkest fantasy I have ever read with some kickass villains. I loved the plot complexity, how each faction is driven by strong motives good or bad, and above all, Anna’s compelling voice.
Folks who say that they can’t think of a grimdark fantasy written by ladies beware. Anna Stephens is here. And she is here to stay. I say so with great hope and belief. And some pride, because you know, ladies and all…
I have to read Abercrombie now, just to find out why Godblind is compared to his work.
The other Anna’s book is nearly out and I am watching the Amazon buy button like a hawk. How long have I waited to have these two in my personal collection? *taps fingers, as a slow grin spreads across the face, eyes flash a glint of greed*
Received ARC for review from Netgalley and Harper Voyager. Neither the author nor her publishers have tortured anybody or performed any sacrifices to influence this review.
Godblind is the first of a planned trilogy.
Publishers: HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction, Harper Voyager, Talos Press
Genre: Grimdark, Epic Fantasy
Review copy: Kindle, 497 pages
Fantasy’s most anticipated debut of the year
There was a time when the Red Gods ruled the land. The Dark Lady and her horde dealt in death and blood and fire.
That time has long since passed and the neighboring kingdoms of Mireces and Rilpor hold an uneasy truce. The only blood spilled is confined to the border where vigilantes known as Wolves protect their kin and territory at any cost.
But after the death of his wife, King Rastoth is plagued by grief, leaving the kingdom of Rilpor vulnerable.
Vulnerable to the blood-thirsty greed of the Warrior-King Liris and the Mireces army waiting in the mountains…
GODBLIND is an incredible debut from a dazzling new voice in the genre.
GODBLIND IS NOW AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER