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Sunday, May 21, 2017

GUEST REVIEW: Godblind by Anna Stephens (Reviewed by Michael Everest)

Official Author Website
Pre-order Godblind HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)
Read Michael's interview with Anna Stephens

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Anna Stephens works in corporate communications for an international law firm by day and writes by night, normally into the small hours, much to her husbands dismay. Anna loves all things speculative, from books to film to TV, but if you disagree keep it to yourself as she's a second Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: There was a time when the Red Gods ruled the land. The Dark Lady and her horde dealt in death and blood and fire.

That time has long since passed, and the neighbouring kingdoms of Mireces and Rilpor hold an uneasy truce. The only blood spilled is confined to the border, where vigilantes known as Wolves protect their kin and territory at any cost.

But after the death of his wife, King Rastoth is plagued by grief, leaving the kingdom of Rilpor vulnerable. Vulnerable to the bloodthirsty greed of the Warrior-King Liris and the Mireces army waiting in the mountains....

Godblind is an incredible debut from a dazzling new voice of the genre.

ANALYSIS: Godblind is the exciting debut by Anna Stephens and here’s why I think it's a debut that marks itself out amidst grimdark fantasy.

THE GOOD: Gods meddling in mortal affairs, royal court-conspiracies, brimming with betrayals, battles and bloodlust, told via a distinct and diverse range of PoV characters.

THE BAD: The 2017 debuts are making me think this year – it’s tricky to pick anything ‘bad’ about them. If I had to say one thing, it’d be that if you prefer an ‘easy, light and bright read’ this isn’t for you. The multiple PoV approach can be a bit jarring at first, the plot at times complex, is grim, dark… to coin a phrase, grimdark? (I kid).

THE UGLY TRUTH: Godblind doesn’t pull its punches – it comes out swinging with a gut-buster of an opener, keeps on swinging, and after that KO of an ending, I feel like I’ve gone 12 rounds with a grimdark heavyweight, not a debut tyro. I hurt, I’m tired, I’m scared, I want a hug – but I want more!

This is not a story for the faint of heart. It’s grim, dark…and bloody.

I want to make that clear from the very beginning – which Godblind does in its very first chapter. And it only gets better from there! From treason to torture, sacrifice to sacrilege, bloodlust to a bat-shit crazy fanatic with a hammer and nails…this has everything you would want out of a grimdark book. And more.

Nor is it a story for fans of simple, straightforward, ‘a to b’ quest fantasy.

Plot twists aplenty, scheming and machinations to make the current real-world political landscape seem like a playground – but somehow, Goblind brings itself to life. The story and the world is real, oh so very real.

There are multiple POVs, some which you will enjoy more than others – and yes, there are a lot of POVs (think GRRM and John Gwynne), and that might even put some readers off, but they are done brilliantly, not just in terms of characterisation but also as a means to a page-burning pace. Not only that, but key with a story of betrayal, each POV brings a different perspective to the proceedings. As the saying goes: "one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter."

And on that note, of ‘man’, I’d like to highlight something here. Yes, this is a fantasy world in which there are elements of sexism, and yes, there is a rape plot-point of sorts (and we all know what kind of controversy this can stir up, especially on the interwebz). But they’re incredibly well-executed in terms of writing style and delivery. Not only that, because of their presence they define elements of the story and its characters.

On the note of the POVs and the characters, I would like to commend Anna Stephens for her strong female characters, both supporting and main. Yes, it’s easy to flame almost any author for treating a character (any character, be it a minority or otherwise) with prejudice or write with one of the many ‘isms’ (pick your poison), but at least for me, Anna strikes a bold balance in having characters (both male and female) who are heroes/heroines, and damsels/dudes in distress (I wanted to say dudettes, but let’s stick with damsels).

But this is a story for those that want something different – something new, something special. Something that will excite you and keep you coming back for more.

If I had to compare it to anything else, yes, as the publisher recommends, I’d agree with Abercrombie, Lynch and Lawrence. But you know what? I’d actually pitch it as the bastard whelp of John Gwynne’s ‘Faith and the Fallen’ series, and Brian Staveley’s ‘Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne’, if said spawn was then raised by GRRM and Kameron Hurley.

CONCLUSION: Every once in a while a book comes along that takes everything you have come to know and like, and doesn’t just raise the bar, it takes a step to the side and puts up its own bar. Sure, in a way it’s still everything you know and like, but for other reasons, you actually don’t know it, and you love it for it. Why? Because it’s going in a different direction, despite starting with similar ingredients.

Anna StephensGodblind is that book, and I cannot wait to see where she takes us – not just for the destination, but for the journey, too. In her own words: ‘My feet are on the path.


GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: Michael Everest is a Threat Intelligence Operator and Crisis Management Consultant; yes those are real jobs, but no they don’t come with an Aston Martin and a shaken-not-stirred martini as standard. His day-to-day is a mix of natural disasters, geo-political instability, war and terrorism, crime, corporate espionage, and most recently cyber warfare – and that’s just the home life, complete with a fiery redheaded fiancĂ© and two young children who went to the dark side for the cookies.

His job entails stopping all of the above events, not committing them, though we all have our bad days. When he isn't working you can find him on Twitter @MichaelWEverest or raving about books and writing over at


CTPhipps said...

Really impressive review! Thanks for doing this, ME! I wasn't sold on Godblind or, if I was, it was way down the list but now I want to read it right now!


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