BLOODCHILD by Anna Stephens (Book Review)
The Good: Everything. Seriously. *SPOILERS*
The Bad: IT GAVE ME FEELINGS – I DO NOT LIKE FEELING FEELINGS.
The Ugly Truth: THIS. IS. HOW. YOU. END. A. SERIES. (If I could somehow capitalise a full stop I would use it in this review.) Pulse-pounding drama and action to the heart-breaking end. 11/10, A++, all of the stars.
Review: Bloodchild is the third and final (no, you’re crying!) book in Anna Stephens’ debut Godblind trilogy, published by Harper Voyager. Whilst I would like to extend my thanks for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, I also have to ask: where do I send the bill for my therapy? Because DAMN, that ending!
Before I continue, this review contains minor spoilers for Godblind and Darksoul so as to set the scene for Bloodchild. You have been warned…
After being chewed up and spat back out by the invading Mireces, the Rilporians’ only hope of seizing victory is to reach into the jaws of defeat. To do that, they will have to tear Rilporin, the heart and capital of Rilpor, away from Mireces control, and hope there is still enough life in it to keep the country going. But the Mireces’ victory is hollow in the belly of the beast, as the loss of the Dark Lady has created a power vacuum leaving some asking ‘what now?’ while others try to fill it before someone else gets there before them. So many have fought and fallen in the war, but with the final battle yet to come, it’s yet to be decided whether a handful of heroines and heroes can save the day – or at least, what remains of it.
Stephens come out swinging from the get-go. Bloodchild has a pull-no-punches plot where, when it’s everything or nothing, anything can happen. And it does! In a world where gods have torn through the veil to walk among mortals (and in Gosfath’s case, walk ON and grind under heel) there are plenty of surprises to be had throughout the story. But despite the inclusion of the deities, their ‘champions’ and followers, this is very much a human story, and with it comes twists and turns aplenty. Besides the obvious contest between the Rilporians and the Mireces (and their collective allies) each camp has their own ‘inside issues’ to deal with, which are just as compelling as the conflict at large. And, with all this in play, Bloodchild is anyone’s game right up until the final whistle.
Godblind started out with a larger-than-life cast of characters. And it seems like such a long time since we were introduced to Rillirin, Crys, Corvus, Lanta, Mace, Tara, Dom, Gilda, the Fox God, the Dark Lady, Gosfath (to name but a few…) back in 2017. Along the way we’ve lost a few (some characters more memorable than others, and some deaths CERTAINLY memorable enough to leave a scar or two). But of those characters that make it to Bloodchild, each and every one of them meet a fitting end. I feel this is especially important in the current day and age, and not to point fingers at any big franchises that might or might not have been adapted into global TV empires, but THIS IS HOW YOU WRITE AN ENDING. Not just for the story, but for the characters.
On the note of characters (and inclusivity), Bloodchild and Stephens continue to put characters in the spotlight who would otherwise be ‘secondary’ in other fantasy novels. The fact that a non-heterosexual relationship is the main romance element of this epic is testament to that fact. Additionally, giving a pregnant character agency and purpose beyond that of the usual ‘hero’s mother destined to die’ found in fantasy gets a big thumbs up from me. None of these instances are shoehorned (as some might decry of diversity), and reading characters not defined by their gender, orientation, or race, is truly fantastic. It isn’t a tick-box exercise, nor is it waved in your face, but each of these character’s stories have a place in the world, as they do in the real world.
(And if you have a problem with diversity and inclusion, please feel free to get back in your bigot box and fuck off.)
Which brings me to something else that is a departure of sorts from the usual set-up in a fantasy, particularly in a ‘book three of three’. Fantasy is well-stocked with stories of invading armies attacking cities, and even though the heroic defenders have a hard time holding out, they always find a way to win the day. But the Godblind trilogy isn’t your average fantasy, and Stephens isn’t your average author. Our heroes have already LOST the city, lost their entire country in fact, and so Stephens flips the typical trope on its head, by having the heroes invade their own homeland. But you don’t win a war in one night, and each skirmish, melee and battle feels like it can swing in favour of either side. And, this being Stephens, you know that no-one is safe…
And that includes you. Yes, you, dear reader.
You might be familiar with the term ‘book hangover’. Well, this is ‘book heartbreak’. I won’t go into spoilers, but the final chapters of Bloodchild are some of the most emotionally charged scenes I have ever read. I said in my earlier review of Evan Winter’s The Rage of Dragons that between TRoD and Avengers: Endgame (in the same week) I was an emotional wreck. Well, Bloodchild finished me off.
Bloodchild taught me two things about my emotions. First, there are three types of tears: sad, happy, and angry (and I shed them all). Second, I am an ugly crier.
(Apologies to my 7-month-old son who saw me CRUMPLE on the last page, who then copied me when I started crying. When you’re old enough to read Bloodchild, you’ll understand).
And with that in mind, I will bring this review to a close. I could go on all day about Bloodchild (two, maybe three days if I was including spoilers), and it will be one of those books that I talk about for years to come. Despite the comparisons with grimdark, this for me is epic in every sense of the word. Sure, there’s blood and guts and bastards and glory at a cost, but there’s so much more to this series, and to Stephens for that matter. This is an author who has gone from strength to strength, continually upping her game.
With Bloodchild coming to a close, I for one am excited for what happens next, as Stephens has mentioned she will be exploring new worlds beyond the universe of Godblind. This feels like an end, and oh what an end it is.
….or is it?
BLOODCHILD is the third book in the Godblind trilogy, and will be released on September 5th 2019.