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Review: Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhtar

Updated on May 26, 2024
Primo Saktyawan Sugiharto profile image

Primo is an English Literature major who has read and reviewed hundreds of books over the years, mostly in the realms of scifi/fantasy.

"Gunmetal Gods" is, unlike most epic fantasy books out there, inspired by MIddle Eastern history and folklores...
"Gunmetal Gods" is, unlike most epic fantasy books out there, inspired by MIddle Eastern history and folklores... | Source

What is "Gunmetal Gods" about?

Gunmetal Gods is an independently published fantasy book written by author Zamil Akhtar, it's the first book in the Gunmetal Gods series, which so far has three books in total.

It's the story of two characters in two opposing sides of a conflict, the two sides here are the Crucians in the west and the Sirmians in the east. First we have Micah, a Crucian, his daughter and his religion's holy city were taken by the enemy, and now he's come to take back the holy city of Kostany and forever break the Sirmian empire.

The other main character is Kevah, a Sirmian. A legendary janissary, he is the only person in history who's ever slain a magus, but ever since his wife disappeared about a decade ago, he's been drowning himself in grief and poetry. Now, the Shah has summoned him, and he has no choice but do whatever the Shah wants him to. In this case, the Shah wants Kevah to slain another magus, and possibly lead the resistance in the case of a Crucian invasion, even though Kevah is far past his prime...

Micah will stop at nothing to destroy the Sirmians and avenge his lost daughter, while Kevah must stop his grieving and regain some semblance of his past self in order to make sure he doesn't lose more loved ones...

"I didn't care for a mountain-sized jellyfish. The thousands of porous tentacles I could dismiss as merely a nightmare. But that giant human eye that pulsed fear through my soul... I tried to block from my mind. The more I tried to block it, the more I saw it, until I found myself staring at the fire, my very spirit trembling."

— Zamil Akhtar, "Gunmetal Gods"

"Gunmetal Gods" is an excellent Middle-Eastern-inspired fantasy...

One thing that makes this book stand out among other high/epic fantasy books published these days is the fact that the worldbuilding is inspired by Middle Eastern folklores, with things like jinns that are eldritch in nature, not something you'd see in your average fantasy book...

But even if you take away the uniqueness of the setting's inspiration, it's still an excellent book. While most of the side characters are really interesting even without getting too much page time, the two main characters are perhaps the book's strongest selling point.

Both Micah and Kevah are deeply flawed person, both having their own good and bad sides. Unlike a lot of high fantasy stories out there, there's no clear cut good guy and bad guy in this book, both men have done decent and terrible things at some point, and often times those things affect each other in ways they don't immediately recognize, making their dynamic a really fascinating one. It's hard to pinpoint who's the book's protagonist and antagonist between the two, because both of them are the protagonists of their own story, and the antagonists of the other's.

It's the type of character dynamic that would've carried the book if the book's plot had been slow and meandering, but that's not the case here. Instead, it's punchy and there wasn't a point where it felt too slow. If anything, there was a point a little bit over the 100-page-mark where it felt as though the book is showing a dream sequence (because how could it not be? if it's not a dream sequence then the pace might be too fast...), except it turns out that it's real.

Otherwise, the book is more than adequately-plotted. There was even a moment where the book dished out a big reveal, and instead of following up with the aftermath of the reveal, the book temporarily switched to perspectives other than the two main ones. And these chapters are connected to the main characters in such a way that this didn't feel annoying, instead it felt completely natural.

And then there's the ending itself, which is a really satisfying one. Not only that, but it's the type of ending that makes you wonder what the sequel would even be like, because the ending just opened up so many possibilities. So yes, even though maybe it's not the explosive ending readers might expect based on the rest of the book, it's still an excellent one. And one that couldn't have happened if this was purely an epic fantasy novel, which this isn't, as the book's cosmic horror element is big enough that the ending wouldn't have been anywhere near as good without it...

"Faith runs out as gold does. And nothing replenishes both like victory."

— Zamil Akhtar, "Gunmetal Gods"

"Gunmetal Gods" is also a pretty good cosmic horror story...

Beyond all the mortal squabbling between the two different sides, there are gods, a lot of them, since the two kingdoms worship differently, each claiming the other side's deities to be heretical or even fake.

And all these gods have their own agendas, mostly nothing that humans can really comprehend, which is what you'd expect when it comes to the motivation of eldritch beings in a cosmic horror story.

And yet, this book doesn't suffer from something that some cosmic horror stories can suffer from, and that's the fact that sometimes in stories like this, the eldritch beings' incomprehensible motivation can seem arbitrary or simply nonexistent, here they feel proper and impactful the way the best cosmic horror stories are impactful. The book has some surreal dream sequences, and they are really key in helping the book achieve that.

The book's grand and poetic prose also really helped sell the horror aspect because without it, a big part of the horror would simply be ineffective. There's a thin line between epic and overwrought that the author mostly managed not to cross. There are some parts where it felt like the book is trying too hard to be a real horror book, but these moments thankfully don't happen often.

You can get "Gunmetal Gods" here:

Conclusion on "Gunmetal Gods"

Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhtar is an excellent start to a very character-focused new fantasy series. With the heavy Middle Eastern influences on the worldbuilding, and the Lovecraftian elements in the horror part of the book, this book would be perfect for readers who are looking for something new and exciting in a genre that's often ridiculed as being too derivative and not innovative enough. And especially if you've been disappointed by traditionally published fantasy, then this independently published book might be a good pick up... 4/5.

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© 2024 Primo


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