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What use is winning if we lose everything in the process, even ourselves? This is the question that runs central to Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhtar. We see a war brought to the doors of Sirm; one that has been hundreds of years in the making led by a man, Micah, who is driven as much by vengeance as faith. On the other side, we have Kevah, a retired Janissary famed for his daring victory over a deadly mage ten years prior to the events in Gunmetal Gods. Both Kevah and Micah have lost loved ones, both have suffered and among all the parallels between them it is hard at the start of the book to know who to root for.
While the similarities between the two men continue throughout the book, the way they define themselves shows in their actions and after certain events, you’ll know which you’re meant to be backing. Nevertheless, Akhtar has done an amazing job at demonstrating how the two sides of any disagreement will make sense to those who are fighting over it.
There is loss and death in this story as well as love, friendship and hope. Where it differs from other dark fantasy I have read is in the systems of magic and gods, which is where Akhtar has let his imagination run wild. From Eldritch-looking, giant, physical gods, to goofy looking Kinn, the chicken-eagle-boy (you’ll see), there’s a lot that’s visually exciting to get your mind into with Gunmetal Gods.
This book took me by surprise quite a few times. I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it as I’m not too fussed about Lovecraft, nor have I read much matchlock/flintlock fantasy. On both counts, my doubts were assuaged. The plot and pacing also surprised me a few times, bringing events that I was expecting to be end-of-book forward left me wondering where we’d go next: never was I disappointed. This is a well-written dark fantasy that will take you on a hell of a ride.