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 blood-thirsty greed of the Warrior-King Liris and the Mireces army waiting in the mountains…
The Red Gods used to rule, it’s been almost 1000 years since The Light Gods banished them and the world became more “civilised”. But The Red Gods are ready to return and seek vengeance and they have an army to help them do it.
This novel is told from different points of view, but there are an awful lot of them to get used to. A whole list and I’m not even going to attempt trying to introduce them all to you here, what I will do is introduce you to the one’s who I felt most drawn to, or who I felt played significant roles.
Corvus is King of Mireces in Eagle Height, the Mireces worship The Red Gods and they are determined to see the Gods brought back to their glory. Now I think I was supposed to not like Corvus, the evil slayer who is set on slaughtering as many as possible but I was immensely drawn to him. I could happily have just followed him for the entire book watching him kill people. I think that probably says way too much about me but anyway! In a book like this you have characters you hold close and pray nothing bad will happen to them and Corvus was a big one for me. I really wanted him to keep his head!
Rillirin is an escaped Mirecean slave but also Corvus’ younger sister (because that’s not complicated!) She’s ended up with the Wolves, who are teaching her to fight so she can fight the Mireces and her brother. I really loved that this girl who had been through essentially torture had so much gumption, she was also very caring and loving, reading her passages were always immensely moving.
Dom is the Wolf who found and rescued RIllirin and is now protecting her, he is also the Wolves Calestar meaning he gets visions of the future and is able to warn them of things that will happen. With the war coming this is pretty handy and a darn nightmare for the poor guy who is being haunted by horrific visions. Dom was your quintessential nice guy except he knows how to fight, what with it being a fantasy novel and all!
Crys is a captain in the army and on the surface is a fun time guy but there are some real hidden depths to this character which we get to scratch the surface of as the novel progresses. He develops a friendship with one of the princes which was unexpected and one of the things that triggers us learning so much more about him. I loved this character dearly he has so much strength and intensity but he’s also immensely vulnerable.
The writing throughout is passionate, and vibrant. This book despite having little standard world building instead focusing on the characterisation and dialogue, to drive the story doesn’t lack at all. What it does have in bucket loads though is gore and violence and I have to say there were moments where I had to hold my stomach contents in, one torture scene in particular I don’t think I will ever get out of my head.
I’ve read a lot of shit over the years about how women can’t write the hard stuff in Fantasy. Those asshats need to pick this book up because if there’s one thing Anna Stephens does it’s give every single one of them the finger big, loud and proud proving once and for all that women can write fantasy just as brutal and bloody and riveting as any man.
I hated how this book finished, I was not ready to finish reading and it was definitely one of those times where I kind of wish I’d waited until all three books were out so I could just binge them because waiting almost a year for the second book is going to be a torture all of it’s own!
A huge thanks to Anna Stephens and Harper Voyager for sending me the eARC via NetGalley so that I could read and honestly review this book.
Book & Buy Links
Author: Anna Stephens
Genre: Fantasy | Grimdark
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: 15 June 2017
Review Format: eBook
Other Formats: Hardcover | Paperback | Audio
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstone’s | Foyles | Book Depository | Godblind | Wordery