Book Reviews

Book Review: Godblind by Anna Stephens

Ken bought me this book as a gift when we went to the Grim Gathering event in Bath; I was there to see Joe Abercrombie, I’d read Prince of Thorns in preparation and so was excited to see Mark Lawrence, and I was curious about this Anna Stephens whose debut everyone was talking about. It’s hard to believe that was all the way back in September, and it’s taken me half a year to finally get around to reading Godblind.

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I absolutely should have picked this book up sooner.

A brief overview: Goblind is a grimdark (very grim and dark) fantasy, with a multiple point-of-view narrative. It’s a warring nations kind of fantasy, with gods pulling the strings from behind the scenes; lots of back stabbing, betrayals, prophecies, priestesses.

Yawn. Again?

Oh yes but this time it’s done so well.

It’s a plot-driven kind of book, fast paced and plenty of action, twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, moments that I actually gasped aloud at. Trigger warning, within the first character’s narrative there is an attempted rape; there is gory fighting, and extremely violent scenes. So as far as grimdark goes, Stephens sells it hard. She really hammers it home. The next time someone pipes up with the misguided opinion that “women can’t write grimdark”, I’ll relish reading them a particular excerpt as a bedtime story.
And I can hear your eyes rolling; yet another gratuitous rape scene in a grimdark.  But I would not accuse Stephens of being gratuitous; rather, it serves as a brutal introduction to what will become a major theme throughout the book, that of gender inequality. It’s not a point she drives home, I never felt that Stephens was trying to teach me any lessons per say; but it’s certainly something she attacks with sensitivity and aplomb that really struck me. Particularly one character’s story arc, her coming to terms with her experiences and her difficulty in learning to trust again. Absolutely fantastic character portrayal and growth, utterly believable and compelling.

“free women can accept drinks from free men without it requiring payment of any sort”

There are a lot of characters; if you’re not a fan of multiple POV then you may dislike just how many characters we experience the narrative through. Stephens flickers through these characters, never resting on one for too long; and yet she packs so much into these brief glimpses. It gives you a sense that you’re godlike, that you have an omnipresence over this world in which you flit in and out of perspectives, regardless of rhyme or reason or sides. You don’t quite get a chance to know the characters well enough; it’s harder to trust them and get a sense of who they are, making it harder to second guess them. Their actions are then all the more surprising because you don’t see it coming. It’s an absolutely fantastic use of multiple POV; I’m biased, I’m rather a fan of it on a good day, but to see it done so well with such affect is wonderful.

Now on top of these intricate character relationships and interactions, there’s the actual plot. Sometimes in fantasy you get either or; either great characters but not much happens, or loads happens but the characters lack depth. Stephens somehow manages to skip blithely over this pitfall with complicated characters and a driving, intricate plot balanced perfectly in her clearly capable hands. It’s astounding that this is a debut. The numerous battle scenes are well planned, exciting, quickly paced and flowing and yet you get the sense that you’re there with the characters. It’s visceral and real and you’re equally knackered by the end.

I didn’t want to put this book down. There were moments where I had to put it down because, wait, did that just actually happen? And oh god I’m so scared of what I suspect will happen next… So you pick it back up again and your heart wrenches all over again.  Stephens manipulates your expectations; she tells her story expertly and guides you through so many emotions. Whilst at the same time delivering one of the most brutal, gritty books I’ve ever read and after three days I am still not ok.

I really hope they’re ok.

Darksoul can’t come soon enough.


Godblind has just been released in paperback, you can find it here at the Book Depostory, where you can also pre-order Darksoul (which is what I’ll be doing on pay day).

You can also read an excellent interview with Anna Stephens on The Fantasy Hive’s Author Spotlight.


Purchasing books through the above Book Depository links supports this blog.

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15 thoughts on “Book Review: Godblind by Anna Stephens

  1. I’ve heard time and time again how good this book is, but no one has really explained why until now. So first of all, thank you for that. Secondly:

    “A brief overview: Goblind is a grimdark (very grim and dark) fantasy, with a multiple point-of-view narrative. It’s a warring nations kind of fantasy, with gods pulling the strings from behind the scenes; lots of back stabbing, betrayals, prophecies, priestesses.

    Yawn. Again?”

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m glad to hear this bucked that trend by being so great. We’re inundated with books like this to the point of delirium. It’s good to hear Godblind bucks that trend. Doesn’t exactly sound up my alley with all the multiple POVs and flitting from character to character, but I’ll certainly keep it in mind. If you recommend it, I trust your taste!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah wow Alex thank you so much!
      It absolutely felt like something different to the usual fare… I think if you’re going to try and do multiple POV, have sexist characters, have evil god’s using characters as pawns, and have political intrigue and backstabbing – all elements have to be spot on. And I really felt they are here. Her writing is excellent. I’ve read reviews where people accuse the characters of being too changeable or not being able to connect with them, but that’s what I found realistic about her characters… Omg im writing a second review 🤣

      Like

  2. I have a copy of this on my Kindle and have been avoiding it because of the rapey bits. Is it just attempted rape (which I can deal with) or is there full on rapey parts? Ekk! I really want to read this and support lady grimdark writers, but I just don’t do rape scenes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. …I’ll be honest, I’m really dreading reading this for Subjective Chaos. I’m so over grimdark – the world is quite dark enough these days. Ooph. I shall hold out hope for it just being so damn good I just can’t resist it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m probably not a great judge, because I do like my grimdark… I did feel it was a bit different though? It was more than just stabby stabby… It was clever in the way it played with your expectations, I love that it makes you hope and then plays with that too, I love that I have no idea where the story will lead next…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review, I haven’t read this but now I’m keen to! My one worry is that I’m not always a fan of books with lots of POV characters, and as you said, this has a lot of them… but everything else about it sounds great so I think I’ll give it a read at some point anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

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