Kevah is an aging janissary, one of the Shah’s slave soldiers. He is renown throughout the land for having slain a Magus. It’s been years since his heroic deed, and Kevah has gotten a bit lazy in his middle age, living in comfort and working as a blacksmith. But when the Shah sends for him, Kevah is forced to return to his old life of warfare and strife.
Opposed to him is the paladin Micah, who leads the armies of the Crucian faith to the ancestral lands of his religion, intent on reclaiming the lost holy land. Micah is a man of iron will, one who is willing to cross any boundary, to commit any atrocity, in furtherance of his sacred quest on behalf of the Archangel.
These two hard-asses square off on either side of a momentous invasion as Micah and his followers attempt to retake the city and surrounding countryside which is central to both religions. The plot essentially follows this holy war, with some interesting twists and turns related to the various divinities arrayed on either side of the conflict. For the most part the pacing is very good, although there were one or two spots in the middle that dragged a little longer than I felt like they needed to.
I also enjoyed the characters. Micah and Kevah are both well rounded with fleshed out backstories. Their motivations are interesting and anchored in the lives they have led in the years leading up to the story. Although Kevah is clearly the protagonist, Ahktar does a great job of humanizing Micah too. He is clearly the antagonist, but as the novel progresses, there are times when our sympathy shifts back and forth between the two main characters. It was well done, a good example of grimdark characterization, where no one is without flaws or selfish motivations, and yet no one is entirely a monster…even the monsters.
The magic system was interesting too. Magus’ draw their power from the supernatural entities which inhabit the world all around them, invisible to the mundane eyes of the everyday folk. It fit the setting very well. I want to see more though. I’m hoping the subsequent books have more magic and a little more about the Djinn and how it all works.
Gunmetal Gods was a great read. It was eminently readable, with strong prose and a compelling premise. I recommend it to anyone looking for a fantasy novel with a unique setting, especially those looking for something akin to historical fantasy but not constrained by real world history. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and you should give it a go if you enjoy grimdark or are intrigued by the idea of a fantastic retelling of the crusades.