“The Red Gods Are Rising”
*Contains minor spoilers* I received a free advanced copy of Godblind in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Anna Stephens and Harper Voyager.
To begin with, I must admit that after reading the excellent Godblind I think I will be eternally afraid of betrayal and hammers.
The world of Gilgoras had an uneasy truce between King Rastoth of Rilporian and King Liris of the Mireces. The former were followers of the Gods of Light and the later under the direct command of the banished Red Gods. After recent events which caused the seemingly perpetual madness of one King and the murder of another, it seems like the Red Gods are now playing their hand, after years of plotting and they are hoping to send the world into bloodthirsty chaos. If so much blood and gore are delivered then the veil that has kept the Gods exiled from the physical world for so long will break and they can be made flesh once again.
Godblind is labelled as Grimdark for a reason. If Abercrombie presented lectures on how to write gritty, brutal and tortuous fantasy then I imagine Anna would have been his star pupil. To truly enjoy this book I think readers need to know what sort of journey they are getting themselves into beforehand. The themes and language presented and used are very adult. Towards the beginning of the narrative, there is an attempted rape, some good old fashioned cheating at cards, a savagely violent sacrifice and a regicide. This certainly sets the tone for the action which is to follow. A couple of early reviews have stated that they couldn’t handle the violence subjected to ladies in Godblind which I see could be upsetting to some people. At the same time, there are some very strong female characters here and the violence given is not restricted to just the ladies. There is one particular scene where it will be the men reading who are the ones cringing and perhaps even feeling sick. (I had to put the book down for ten minutes!) Returning to the statement regarding violence to women, the transformation of one character from being a recipient of the aforementioned to her position at the book’s finale made for an excellent character development arc. I believe that this book would not work if it was utterly and unconditionally horrific throughout and if the players involved were nothing but bloodthirsty cavemen-like individuals. The good news is that is not the case at all. There are some really nice moments here such as love found in unexpected places and there is a great amount of loyalty and honour amongst certain factions and troops. Stephens’ debut is typically a good vs. evil tale yet it is only about halfway through that the sides seem fully aligned and that leads to some amazing plot twists up until that point. Out of the main characters, my personal favourites were Captain Crys who is a brave and influential soldier and the warrior Dom who is a seer who receives often unwanted messages from the Gods.
The world of Gilgoras is not as grandiose as some recent epic fantasy creations but it works well presenting the tales the book is trying to tell. The ARC I received didn’t contain a map and this was fine so I would comment the final version probably doesn’t need one either because of how descriptive the book is. The world building is excellent from the short sharp chapters leading the narrative to be presented via approximately twelve points of view perspectives. As the world isn’t that large and the action normally only takes place in three or four locations at any time there will sometimes be a continuation or slight overlapping going from one character’s portrayal of an event to another character’s views of what comes next. The narrative will then switch elsewhere on the map to pursue what is happening in other areas.
This is the first book of a proposed trilogy. It concludes in pretty awesome fashion but it isn’t really self-contained and is the first portion of the bigger picture the same way The Lord of The Rings was. The intense and climactic ending definitely makes me want to pick up the next, currently untitled book as soon as I can. I noticed a lot of intriguing statement snippets which I believe are seeds to more complex events and happenings and Stephens’ is working hard on the groundwork here to ensure that the following books become more complex, deeper and ultimately fulfilling. There is a sort of cliffhanger during a certain siege and I am really intrigued to see how those events are concluded. Godblind is a thrilling, unrelenting and a brilliantly presented debut that lets readers walk on the darkest plains visited in the fantasy genre. Highly recommended. It is not for the faint-hearted but definitely for fans of Abercrombie’s The First Law and for fans of ASOIAF’s structure, characterisation and most brutal moments.