Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: Godblind by Anna Stephens

Godblind (Godblind, Book #1)
by Anna Stephens
Release Date: June 20th 2017
2017 Talos
Kindle Edition; 497 Pages
ISBN: 978-1940456935
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

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 harbours 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?

My Thoughts
Godblind is the first book in the Godblind trilogy and it definitely starts off with a bang.  Readers need to be aware that this is considered a grimdark fantasy novel which basically means that it is meant to be much darker and more brutal than your usual fantasy novel.  This type of fantasy has been around for a long time, but only recently have I heard the term grimdark to describe a novel where the characters tend to be more grey in nature, much more brutal, and where allegiances and betrayals happen at a moment's notice.  For me, this is why I read fantasy, so the grimness doesn't really bother me, nor the betrayals (anyone read Game of Thrones?) as it's what makes things that much more interesting.  

First of all, the book opens with quite a bang and you are left in no doubt as to the nature of what grimdark fantasy is all about.  King Liris of Mireces and King Rastoth of Rilporan had an uneasy truce; the first worshipped the Red Gods and sacrificed humans to keep them happy, while the second worshipped the Goddesses of Light, who worked through the Calestar, a prophet, to keep the people apprised of what was happening and to give them warnings if necessary.  With multiple betrayals afoot, the uneasy alliance ended and the Red Gods took advantage of the weaknesses and were now attempting to take back Rilpor and make it theirs once again.  And I do have to admit that one of the betrayals and its consequences left me unable to continue reading for about a week as the torture scene was really quite disturbing.  I definitely have no interest in seeing a hammer used as a weapon or an instrument of torture ever again. Just the scenes where a certain character pulls out nails as a threat can now make me shudder.  I have to give a lot of credit to the author here though as she definitely knows how to instill fear not only in her characters, but in her readers too.  And all through very descriptive prose.

I do think that readers really need to know what they are getting into with this book as I had no idea so it was a good thing I like grim fantasy.  The themes are very adult in nature; the first chapter of the book deals with human sacrifice and attempted rape, then murder.  So it was like BAM! You were left in no doubt as to the themes for the rest of the book.  And it didn't stop there.  I do have to admit that some of the twists caught me off guard, but I think I was paying too much attention to the grim stuff and not as much to the characters which is why I got caught.  Not because it wasn't easy to spot.  What I did like however, was the strong female characters in this book.  They pretty much gave as good as they got.  Rillirin, while suffering from PTSD as a result of being sexually, physically, and mentally abused for years, really came into her own throughout the book and I can't wait to see what she does next.  I mean, everything can't be brutal and dark, you have to have some balance or I think the book just wouldn't work.  There were some really nice moments throughout the book as well, some romantic, some just about friendship, some just for some relief from the brutality, I think.  I especially grew fond of Crys and really enjoyed his story arc.  The path of self-discovery that he was on was quite refreshing and I enjoyed it amongst all the dark elements and was just hoping he wasn't killed off.  

The book was written from multiple POVs and most of the chapters were quite short.  While I usually don't mind this way of writing, what I did find is that I didn't really get to know any of the characters this way to a point where I really, really empathized with them.  The story was quite seamless between characters though, and made the story quite easy to follow, but I did feel that some of that personal feeling you get by reading one or two person's POV was lost.  The author does have a way of writing that sucks you into the story and makes you care about what happens to everyone at that particular moment, but overall, I was more horrified at the way people died that at who actually died. 
There are many themes that permeate this novel, ones that could be explored in a book group: rape, attempted rape, brutal violence, betrayal, manipulation, religion and religious sacrifice, family, honesty, and loyalty.  

Godblind is one of those books that I did enjoy, simply because I loved the world-building and thought there were so many interesting elements happening at once.  The book ends in a pretty explosive nature and I am definitely looking forward to what happens next, although I am a little scared too considering that the second book usually tends to be the darkest in nature.  Do I really want it to be darker than this one?  I really felt that a lot of events were just building up to things that were going to happen later on and that they were going to get a lot more complex.  Hopefully, that doesn't necessarily mean more POVs though.  This book is definitely not for people who like lighter fantasy, but I enjoyed the pace and the many twists and turns and hope that the trend continues in Darksoul, the second book in this trilogy.