Book Review: Darksoul by Anna Stephens
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of The Godblind Trilogy
Publisher: Talos (January 2, 2019)
Length: 401 pages
So, Anna Stephen’s debut Godblind was a book I had mixed feelings about. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be continuing with the series, but when the publisher unexpectedly sent me the sequel Darksoul, I decided to go for it. After all, despite my issues with the first book, I also felt it was solidly written and the trilogy showed immense potential to develop into something more. I didn’t want to write it off completely.
And well, now that I’ve come out on the other side of this book, I’m really I glad I didn’t. I enjoyed Darksoul much more than I expected, and not only because it improved upon many of the weaknesses I found with its predecessor. I also felt more invested in the story this time around, which might seem a little strange, considering how most of it takes place during a siege—and a long and drawn-out one at that. But perhaps it was because we got to concentrate all the action in one place that we were also able to better explore the intricacies of the characters’ lives. In the middle of this intense conflict, the real human emotions finally emerged, and thus these new developments enabled us to truly grasp just how much everyone has at stake.
The story catches us up with many of the characters from Godblind—or at least the ones that have managed to survive the bloodbath that was the first book. Now the capital of Rilpor is surrounded on all sides by the invading army of Mireces. Spurred on by the Dark Lady, whose boundless influence now lies unchecked thanks to the shattered veil that used to keep the enemy’s bloodthirsty Red Gods at bay, the Mireces forces have already killed most of the Wolves along with many of Rilpor’s soldiers. Rillirin is on the run, heartsick at what has become of her lover Dom, whose seer abilities had made him vulnerable to the corrupting powers of the Red Gods. Now he stands by the Dark Lady, his will broken and completely under her control. Meanwhile, Commander Durdil orders the city to keep fighting, and a captain named Crys also falls into an unexpected role as fate apparently has bigger plans for him.
Like the first book, Darksoul is extremely heavy on the brutality and gore, even by the grimmest of grimdark standards. But unlike the first book, the violence seemed less gratuitous somehow, and less tacked on. This was just one of the many improvements over Godblind. Part of this is due to the deeper characterizations I mentioned before. In this area, the sequel surpassed the original by leaps and bounds. Because the scope of the plot is much smaller this time, focused around the siege, all the different character perspectives were also less spread out. This made for a more streamlined narrative, with fewer POVs and less frequent transitions between them. I think this was why I felt more engaged with the characters this time, as I found their voices also more memorable and their plot arcs more interesting to read about.
Darksoul was also much better paced, and I was impressed at the way Stephens kept up momentum and interest, despite the limitations of a siege story. Covering it across multiple fronts, she managed to convey the full horror of the situation, as well as the desperation and despair. The twists and turns in the plot had more impact because I cared more about what happened, whereas I didn’t feel the same with Godblind because in a way that book felt like it was more shock factor than substance. In contrast, Darksoul was better at bringing out the emotion that I expect from a good story, and it was also an overall more immersive experience.
Bottom line, I was really glad I decided to give this series another chance. While I had my issues with Godblind, I felt Anna Stephens delivered a rock-solid sequel in Darksoul, fixing a lot of the flaws from the first book. She also appears to have learned from some of the missteps she made in her debut, and as a reader, nothing makes me more excited than to watch an author’s skills develop over time. I look forward to what the conclusion of this trilogy will bring.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Godblind (Book 1)