As promised, Festivus Book Pimping is here! And first cabs off the rank are Godblind and Darksoul by Anna Stephens. Yes, this is a two-for, and if you’re looking at hitting some grimdark, then buckle-up, grab your sword or axe (or both) and get ready for battle.
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS
The first in Stephens’ trilogy, Godblind, is a story of gods, sacrifice, political machinations, and no little amount of bloodshed. It’s a brutal story, no bones about it, and it doesn’t shy from the horror of war and those caught up in it. Told from multiple points of view, the chapters are short, pushing you through the book at a cracking pace as we’re introduced to the main players – and even with those, everything is not as it seems. The Red Gods are rising, and they will drown the world in blood.
Here’s the back-cover blurb:
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?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although there’s one scene that, even as a seasoned horror reader, had me wince, but there are no rules in a war between gods, and sacrifices must be made… the torturous the better.
It had me clamouring for the next in the series, Darksoul. The war is in full swing, and the kingdom of Rilpor is under heavy siege. Like, shit is really hitting the fan at this stage. This is hardcore battle here, with some pretty gruesome deaths, and a whole lot of sacrifices to please the Red Gods and bring about their victory, but hidden in plain sight is the Fox God, and the moment he comes to the fore… well, there are two scenes within this book that ripped out my heart and handed it to me. Stephens quite happily puts all your feels on an emotional rollercoaster. As a second book, it hits all the right notes. It’s a tough read in places because you feel for certain characters and are invested in their plight, and Stephens takes full advantage, as a great writer should.
Back-cover blurb below:
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.
All that stands between the Mireces army and complete control of the Kingdom of Rilpor are the walls of its capital, Rilporin, and those besieged inside.
But hope might yet bloom in the unlikeliest of places: in the heart of a former slave, in the mind of a soldier with the eyes of a fox, and in the hands of a general destined to be king.
It’s clear Stephens knows how to weave a tale and weave it well – her characters are well-drawn, fully fleshed out individuals, the magic is both awful and beautiful, and gods that pluck the strings of those major players are some harsh taskmasters.
These books aren’t going to be for everyone, no doubt, but if you’re looking for fantasy on the darker side of the reading spectrum filled with unique characters going through shitty things (and good things, too – yes, there is balance), then these books are definitely worth the read.
And the covers, oh my those covers. Mine are in beautiful hardback, and they are divine.
The third in the trilogy, BloodChild, is set for release next year, so why not grab the first two and in the lead-up for the release – you won’t be disappointed.
Recommended for those who like some grim in their fantasy and aren’t afraid to wade into bloody battle for their fix.
Rated for: blood, gore, violence, torture scenes, sex.