Welcome to my first grimdark review of GrimDarkTober month, featuring Gunmetal Gods! I have seen this book absolutely everywhere since it was published and never felt like I had time to read, which was a sore error on my part.
This is a wonderfully dark fantasy with some of the most brutal (and frankly disturbing) scenes I’ve ever read. It’s got a few of my favorite themes including military tactics, religious introspection, gods and djinn causing mayhem, and some really truly grimdark twists of fate.
Let’s take a look at the book!
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: Gunmetal Gods
- Series: Gunmetal Gods #1
- Author: Zamil Akhtar
- Publisher & Release: Self Published, 2020
- Length: 498 pages
- Rate & Recommend; ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for dark fantasy fans
Here’s the synopsis:
Game of Thrones meets Arabian Nights in this blood-soaked fantasy epic inspired by the Crusades, featuring Lovecraftian gods, mischievous djinns, and astral magic!
They took his daughter, so Micah comes to take their kingdom. Fifty thousand gun-toting paladins march behind him, all baptized in angel blood, thirsty to burn unbelievers.
Only the janissaries can stand against them. Their living legend, Kevah, once beheaded a magus amid a hail of ice daggers. But ever since his wife disappeared, he spends his days in a haze of hashish and poetry.
To save the kingdom, Kevah must conquer his grief and become the legend he once was. But Micah writes his own legend in blood, and his righteous conquest will stop at nothing.
When the gods choose sides, a legend will be etched upon the stars.
I’m having the worst time reviewing this one because it’s so complex and will do my best to hit all the big points!
The story itself has an absolutely epic scope, covering everything from an old hero’s comeback to ancient gods stirring in other dimensions. It’s got large scale battles, political machinations, tons of world building, brutality, hope, shifting alliances … I can’t even start to cover it all but I promise I was never bored reading.
The first unique thing is that the two points of view start off as “the good guy” and “the bad guy”. As the book progresses, both Kevah and Micah navigate this wide range of roles from father to doombringer, not necessarily in that order, and it was crazy to follow them both into that murky morally gray zone.
“He was never cruel and always let the Archangel guide his hands. It all changed after we found the witch. In Nixos, he enslaved thousands and burned a bishop. And then in Kostany, I saw him drown a little girl and trample babies as if they were weeds.” – Aicard, on Micah’s downward spiral
There were a lot of awesome side characters too that we meet and get close to throughout the book. Whether or not they live is another story, but I enjoyed the time spent with them all the same.
The world building was pretty epic in scope too, especially in the religious context. The two warring nations are both crusading for their holy land. I liked how deep the author went into each side’s beliefs and also their questioning of faith when things got … grimdark. When we actually meet the angels and certain gods, including the truly “Lovecraftian” ones, I could appreciate the scale of havoc they wreak.
We go forward to victory with whatever power we have, whether of the light or the dark
There’s a ton of other world building too like history, stories, lore, food, wartime hardships, customs and poems, past times, seasonal weather, art and architecture. The book really didn’t lack for much at all and it all flowed well.
I wanted more from the Mages but that’s definitely coming in book two. The magic is tied into either the gods, the djinn, or both, and was pretty epic in scale so far since one mage can do a ton of damage to the army.
You want brutality? Stomping babies. Burning refugees. Cutting off horse’s ears. Loves and morals and families into the sea or on the sharp end of the sword. This is off the grimdark chart as far as I’m concerned. There’s really no end to the dark in this although Akhtar does give us just enough hope to not completely despair while reading.
“What if there are no answers?” I laughed to distract from the dread spreading through me. “What if the world is as dismal as it seems?” “Then at least we’ll know it. We won’t be lying to ourselves. We’ll drown in the truth, our eyes wide open.”
Overall: this is a great read for GrimDarkTober. I loved the story. I loved the magic and religions. Loved the character arcs, including some of the more minor character roles. Loved the shifting political alliances and power struggles. Loved the twists and turns that kept me guessing throughout. Totally recommend this one for dark fantasy fans with a tough stomach.