Godblind by Anna Stephens

Posted On 17 July 2017

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godblindGodblind is Anna Stephens debut novel.  Set in a brutal world this is not a story for the faint hearted and I would start by saying that it definitely will not be a book for all.  I have mixed feelings for the book and I confess that my thoughts have been difficult to pin down so this review may ramble.

In terms of the plot.  Basically, we have a swathe of people, the Mireces, formally of Rilpor, who have been cast out of the city for their worship of the Red Gods.  They live in the mountains and although there is a tentative peace their thoughts of resurrecting their Gods from beyond the Veil is never far from their thoughts and with a blood thirsty Priestess goading them into action and a new ambitious Warlord with plans of making a name for himself the threat of imminent war looms.

Meanwhile, in the City of Rilpor, unrest stirs.  Ruled by a King who is slowly descending into madness following the murder of his wife the City is vulnerable.  They’ve become complacent and seem to lack knowledge about the real threat that they face.

The catalyst to the story is a young woman, a slave of the Mireces who finally takes drastic action and escapes into the mountains where she is eventually picked up by a ranger patrolling the borders.  The Wolves, who take her in have little idea of the danger she really poses.

So, Godblind is a story with multiple POVs.  I enjoy stories told in this style although I admit that there are quite a lot here and for a while the short chapters really made it difficult for me to get a grip of them all.  I think overall there were possibly 8/9 different characters so I’m not going to elaborate on them all here.  Personally, I would have liked to have spent a little time with some of these characters, the main ones in particular, to get a better feel for them before moving on to the next one. I understand that the author was probably going for a fast pace but in a way I felt this led to the characters suffering from a lack of individuality.  They all eventually became distinct for me but I felt that this was something I had to really think about and even now I haven’t developed any strong attachments other than to a fairly minor character called Gilda who really pleasantly surprised me.

The world building is also a little light to be honest but I think in a book of this scope with so much action and such a lot of character shifts it’s difficult to really elaborate too much.

In terms of strengths.  Anna Stephens can certainly write.  This story bolts out of the stalls and pretty much doesn’t come up for breath all through.  Her writing is vivid and she has a real talent for painting action scenes and although this first in series may suffer a little bit from over ambition there is a distinct promise of bigger and better things to come.

Criticisms.  Well, this is probably where the rambling begins. I enjoyed this but at the same time I definitely felt irritated. There’s a lot of violence contained in this book and whilst that’s something that you expect from this type of story I couldn’t help feeling that the ‘shock’ factor was being strived for a little too hard.  I confess that I’m becoming a little exasperated by the constant need to paint books in blood and viscera in order to provoke a reaction from readers.  I have an excellent imagination and I don’t need everything placing in front of me and in fact sometimes I would like this to be tempered with something that prevents the story becoming too bleak and full of despair.  This is clearly a personal thing but I like a spattering of humour to accompany the spatters of blood and I think that this is missing here.  The other problem I had was the nagging question throughout of why anyone would follow the Red Gods in the first place.  To do so seems to mean you have no love for life or even desire to remain alive as you constantly face numerous threats, such as being used for war fodder or for the constant, and randomly chosen, blood sacrifices that the Gods (or their priestess) seem to demand.

Now, that probably all sounds overly negative, which isn’t my intention.  This is an impressive debut but I hope that as a series this will perhaps draw its claws in a little and offer a few rays of hope.  That probably makes me sound like a raging softie and doubtless the more bloodthirsty of you out there will be shaking your heads in disgust but there it is, warts and all.

So, a definite contender for most ‘grimdark’, a fast moving plot, lots of clashing of swords and an author with plenty of promise.  But, be warned, this book should come with a health warning and perhaps a cushion to hide behind.  I’m away now to think of happy thoughts, whiskers on kittens, and lots of hand clapping whilst whispering ‘I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies’.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Edelweiss, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.