I can categorically state: it did not let me down.
Darksoul by Anna Stephens
Publisher: HarperVoyager Publication date: 23rd August 2018
Genre: Grimdark Fantasy Page Count: 388
The Wolves lie dead beside Rilpor’s soldiers, slaughtered at the hands of the Mireces and their fanatical army. The veil that once kept the Red Gods at bay has been left in tatters as the Dark Lady’s plans for the world come to fruition. Where the gods walk, blood is spilled on the earth… Read more.
Oh she’s done it to me again. My Dark Lady has taken me, guided my feet upon this path, nurtured my love for these people, my deep-seated care for them; and shredded it all into tattered ribbons… it’s exquisite agony and I didn’t expect anything less.
I suppose you want to actually know something about the book?
destroy consume …
It’s emotionally engaging.
Rilporin is under siege. Whereas with Godblind we roamed quite freely across the land of Rilpor, following each character as the threads inevitably drew them in; Darksoul is a much more claustrophobic affair. We are ensconced in the camp of the Mireces, trapped behind the walls of the defenders, driven street-by-street by each new betrayal and heart break.
In this regard, Darksoul could have been a very different monster to her sister, but it’s like I never left. Stephens’ writing style is perfectly consistent, which made for such a smooth transition I felt immediately immersed in this world once more. I was drawn back into the story, and Stephens really doesn’t give you time to find your feet before she’s knocking you off them.
I suppose before we go much further we should address the Grimdark Elephant in the room; can you see her lurking there in the shadows? Now there are many differing opinions on the true meaning of Grimdark – Darksoul gleefully stabs each one. Her characters are morally ambiguous and she makes you consider the darkest recesses of the human condition under pressure. To visit the other Grimdark School of Thought; it’s gory AF. I never felt it was gratuitous, get-a-shock-out-of-you gory, but rather utterly completely lost in depravity kind of gory. The true meaning of blood-lust kind of gory. The Following Contains Images That Some Viewers May Find Upsetting kind of gory.
But please don’t let this put you off. Because more than anything, Darksoul is still about the characters. There were so many of them I missed, so many of them I cried for; but so many of them I hoped for. And as bleak as the story sometimes gets, as deep as you feel you’ve fallen, there is still a glimmer. A yellow glow of hope. It’s this which drove me on when I had no idea what else to expect.
As this was something that truly struck me about Darksoul: I couldn’t tell what side the narrator was on. I don’t think I have ever come across a more objective narrative voice. You generally get a sense in a book that the good guys are the good guys, the bad guys are the bad guys, and the good guys will triumph because what they are doing is just and true and… Nope. I genuinely couldn’t tell what was going to happen, because at no point did I feel Stephens had a preference for one side over the other. To be able to create this objectivity in such an emotionally fuelled piece of work is astounding.
There were so many moments during this book where I caught myself holding my breath, I had to remind myself to breath. My heart was racing; it’s visceral I felt I could feel every pounding of every heart beat. How can simple words on a page have this effect on you? Have this complete mastery over your senses until you’re utterly lost and you resurface dazed and torn asunder. At one point, she did it with three words. Three. “He didn’t run”. I had to put the book down.
Just with Godblind, there is no release once you reach the end; I’m left once more bereft and unknowing of what’s left in store for the characters. I am left once more in awe of Anna Stephens’ story telling genius. I am left in the belief that this is a trilogy which will forever haunt me and draw me back in.
I have a long wait for Book Three, but at least I can look forward to the re-read… gods what is wrong with me…
Don’t preach to me about the dangers of being a woman… because you have zero idea how it feels to be a woman… surrounded by men who want to fuck you, not because you’re pretty, but just because they haven’t seen tits in a year and they think what they want is more important than what I want. That they have the right to take what they like, and my only right is to give it to them.
Darksoul is released on 23rd August 2018 but is currently available for pre-order.
Anna Stephens will be attending a panel event at Waterstones Swansea on 30th August 2018. More info here.
Read my Q&A with Anna here.