Being completely honest, I don’t read a huge amount of self-published fantasy or sci-fi, but I am happy I picked this one up. I initially found out about this book from an incredibly positive review by Dean over at Book Vagabond and I’ve linked his review here.
Set in a world ravaged by a disease known as the Blight, Godless Lands is a gritty, post-apocalyptic fantasy that packs a huge amount of character and world-building into just over 200 pages. The story revolves around Ferris, an aged and Blight-scarred traveller who finds himself thrown into the role of guardian for two strangers, a young woman and her daughter, on the run. Hounded from one of the few surviving havens of humanity left in the world, he leads them deep into the wilds of the desolate Godless Lands in search of a hidden community that may be their only hope of survival.
Ferris and the other characters in this book all leap from the page with strong personalities, motivations and voices. Considering it is such a short book, there are a lot of POV characters to follow here. From the top of my head, I think we get seven but I could be missing someone. Either way, the uniqueness to each character, and how easy it is to slip into their heads through the writing, is hugely impressive from Sean Crow. Personal favourites of mine were Igs and The Butcher of Riven – who is just skin-crawlingly disgusting, but his chapters are fantastic.
Through these strong characters, Sean Crow is able to explore some pretty complicated themes, with each theme or question represented by a character or a conflict between two characters. Is sacrifice of a few innocent lives worth the lives of many more? What is more important, duty or honour? Can good deeds redeem someone for their past actions?
Away from our characters, Sean Crow clearly brought his A-game to the world-building. His descriptions of the landscape and politics of this world are horrifying in the best way possible. Which makes total sense considering we are exploring a world where the vast majority of the population are dead and the survivors struggle daily to eke out their existences as the plague didn’t just decimate the human population, but also the animals, the landscape and the crops.
Overall, this is just a great book filled with brutal violence, gore and despair that shows off the worst in humanity, but tempers it with glimmers of hope and kindness. If you’re in the mood for something a little dark with your fantasy, and a world destroyed by disease isn’t too on the nose for you right now, then I definitely recommend picking this up!