Godblind. Book Review

GODBLIND by Anna Stephens
Harper Voyager, p/b, 496pp, £8.99
Reviewed by Shona Kinsella

Most of you will have heard of Anna Stephens and her debut novel, Godblind. as it was one of the highly anticipated debuts of 2017 and it’s been well spoken of since.

Godblind is thoroughly grimdark, with coarse language and adult content. I’ll admit, there were times when the violence was a little too much for me and I had to put the book down, so be aware going in that this isn’t going to be to everyone’s tastes. However, if you like grimdark, then this will be right up your street.

The Mireces worship the Red Gods, (the Dark Lady and Gosfarth, God of Blood) who have been banished from the world by the gods of Light (the Dancer and the Fox God) who are worshiped by the Rilporians. The two nations have had an uneasy truce for some time but the death of one king and the madness of another threatens that peace.

I found myself racing through Godblind, always ‘just another chapter’ before putting it down. In part that was because the book was generally well-paced and in part because the chapters were very short. In truth, they might be a bit too short. In places, especially near the beginning, I felt the book would have benefited from easing us in a little more, letting us get to know the status quo a bit so we know what we’re fighting for.

The story is told from multiple points of view, a tactic I enjoy and definitely an advantage when trying to tell ad complex a story as this. In the end, I came to appreciate all of the viewpoint characters although it took a while for them to be distinguishable for me. I think I was about halfway through the book before I could stop checking back to see who some of the POV characters were. In my opinion, this probably ties in to the feeling of the beginning being a bit rushed, the chapters a little too short early on. Those very quick chapters, jumping from character to character meant that we didn’t really have enough time to get to know the characters and form a bond with them until quite far in to the narrative.

I would have liked to have seen some more world building, but I appreciate the fact that this is a fairly big book already so its hard to say where the author could have fit in more details. On top of that, this is the first book in a planned trilogy and it is not self-contained so perhaps we’ll see more world building in the sequel.

One of the things that I think the author does really well is her portrayal of female characters. They run the gamut from evil priestess to kindly devotee of the gods of light, warrior to mother to slave. They are rounded and active characters in their own right, and do not require male attention in order to exist. I love them, in particular Rillirin and Gilda.

My one main complaint with the book is the ending. It felt really abrupt and unexpected. Now, I knew when I started reading that this was the first in a trilogy and therefore was not expecting the story to be all wrapped up neatly but there was no sense of resolution at all, no indication in the later chapters that the book was drawing to a close. It feels like the story cut off mid-stride rather than reaching a natural resting place.

Although I have mentioned a few flaws above, I would point out that I really did enjoy this book and I’ll be picking up a copy of the sequel as soon as it comes out. I think we’re going to be hearing a lot more about Anna Stephens.