Publisher: Gollancz (E-book – 23 June 2022)
Series: The Age of Bronze – Book One
Length: 465 pages
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The always impressive and inventive Miles Cameron returns with another awesome novel, Against All Gods, a compelling epic with a truly divine story.
There are few authors with more of a diverse catalogue of books than the talented Miles Cameron. The pseudonym of historical fiction author Christian Cameron (who has also released novels with his father, Kenneth Cameron, under the joint pseudonym Gordon Kent), Cameron has been on a real roll with his fantasy and science fiction novels lately. Not only did he have great success with his incredible Master and Mages series, which included Cold Iron and Dark Forge (one of my favourite novels and audiobooks of 2019), but he also successful released his first foray into science fiction last year with Artifact Space (one of my favourite books of 2021). As such, I have been keenly anticipating Cameron’s latest read and I was extremely excited to receive an early copy of his latest fantasy novel, Against All Gods. Against All Gods is the awesome first entry in his new The Age of Bronze series, which follows a group of desperate mortals as they attempt to overthrow an entire deadly pantheon of gods.
In a damaged world filled with death, despair and injustice, the gods rule with an iron fist. Secure in their power and glory after destroying or banishing the previous pantheon, the current gods make games of the lives of mortals, controlling them for their own gain and punishing them on a whim. However, the gods are not as secure as they would hope, and all it will take is one spark to ignite a deadly rebellion against them.
When the daughter of powerful magos and aristocrat, Gamash of Weshwesh, is killed by a malicious god, it sets off a chain of events that will change everything. Determined to get revenge, Gamash finds himself a willing tool of an older god who exists to stir up chaos and challenge her new masters. Following the signs laid out before him, Gamash receives weapons that can hurt the corrupt divine beings and embarks on a quest to challenge the gods once and for all.
As Gamash’s quest continues, he is soon joined by an eclectic mixture of mortals, all of whom have their own issues with the current deities and who have been manipulated to fight against them. Faced with dangers at every turn and soon caught up amid multiple divine conspiracies, these reluctant rebels soon begin to understand the full extent of the danger they find themselves in. Determined not to be mere pawns in a cosmic game of immortal gods, the rebels will decide to do the impossible: go up against all the gods and win!
Wow, Cameron continues to impress me with his unique and incredible story writing. Against All Gods is a distinctive and powerful read that takes multiple fantastic characters on an epic adventure through a great new fantasy landscape. I loved the powerful narrative that Against All Gods contained, and it really did not take me long to become incredible addicted to its twisty and compelling tale. Complex, utterly enthralling and very fun, Against All Gods was an excellent read and I honestly have no choice but to give it a full five-star rating.
Against All Gods has an outstanding story that I had a wonderfully entertaining time reading. Essentially a Bronze Age inspired fantasy that sees multiple mortal characters caught up in the multiple machinations of the gods, this is a particularly fun and over-the-top narrative that you cannot help but fall in love with. Against All Gods’ narrative has an excellent flow to it that individually introduces the substantial main cast and showcases their various pasts and issues they have with the ruling pantheon. These initially separate storylines come together towards the centre of the book, once all the protagonists are thrust together by their unseen benefactor, and it swiftly evolves into a powerful plot, with the same events beautifully showcased from multiple different narrators. At the same time, much of the story follows the machinations of the gods as they plot and backstab against each other, while also attempting to counter the actions of the mortal characters. These scenes set in Heaven are often the most entertaining parts of the book, especially as Cameron produces a ton of twists and facilitates the multiple scheming deities, each of whom has their own plans. These multiple storylines combine for a massive and awesome conclusion, as the protagonists come face-to-face against the gods in their opening salvo. There are some truly epic scenes in this final part of the novel, and Cameron ends the book with some fun surprises and reveals that indicate how awesome the rest of The Age of Bronze series is going to be.
I really liked the style of Against All Gods, which is a slight departure from some of Cameron’s previous novels. Despite the Bronze Age setting, the characters, attitudes and personalities are a bit more modern than some of Cameron’s existing fantasy books, and I think this really fit Against All Gods’ over-the-top narrative extremely well. This is easily one of Cameron’s more elaborate narratives, and I loved how he started utilising a large range of character perspectives, rather than focusing on a single central protagonist. Again, this works extremely well for this novel’s plot, and it helps to introduce the various outrageous characters and highlight the completely insane pantheon of gods who are fighting behind the scenes of the main story. Cameron’s proven ability to craft a complex and highly detailed story is once again on display here, and every scene comes across in a powerful and expansive way, painting a powerful picture. This works particularly well during the many impressive action sequences, and the reader is really drawn into the intense battles and fights that occur. The narrative itself has an excellent blend of world building, character development and classic adventure, all of which is bound together by a healthy and entertaining dose of intrigue and deceit. I was very quickly drawn into the unique story that Cameron was telling here, and I found it very hard to put this book down in places, as I really wanted to see what happened next.
You can’t discuss Against All Gods without mentioning the impressive and highly complex new world that Cameron has come up with. Cameron has clearly combined two of his literary loves here, producing an intense and dangerous Bronze Age fantasy world clearly inspired by ancient Greece, especially its mythology. As such, you get some glorious scenes of bronze covered soldiers facing off against each other, elaborate Mediterranean inspired cities, and a ton of awesome depictions of ancient seafaring ships. However, there are some noticeable differences as this version of the world is ruled over by a corrupt and dangerous pantheon of new gods. Centuries ago, this pantheon arrived in this world, mostly destroying the previous pantheon, and completely taking over the lands. Their rule has become an insanely despotic one, where only they and their minions profit, while the people are now forced to worship them and ignore their old gods while powering the petty choices of their new masters. The subsequent world is a dark and brutal place which serves as an excellent background to the powerful and exciting narrative Cameron has come up with for Against All Gods. The idea of a Bronze Age society totally dominated by an evil pantheon of invading gods is exceedingly inventive, and Cameron really makes it work, showcasing all the ways that the gods screw over humanity and control them. There are so many fun details here, with the new hierarchy, the multiple magical eyes that turn the lands into a divine surveillance state, and even the enforced reliance on bronze, as the gods have removed all iron from the world. Throw in several awesome cultures, some unique creatures (the Dry Ones are pretty awesome), and even a marauding army of murderous savages, and you have a brilliant backdrop to this story that I found to be extremely cool. I look forward to seeing how this setting evolves in the future and I am sure that Cameron has some more bonkers ideas for it.
One of the other great things about Against All Gods was the impressive and compelling collection of characters that Cameron focuses the story on. There is a great group of point-of-view figures throughout this novel, and the author generally breaks these up into mortal and divine characters. Most of the novel focuses on a small band of mortals who are framed as the protagonists of the series, each of whom has their own grudges and reasons to dislike the gods. I felt that Cameron did an awesome job of presenting all these main characters at the start of Against All Gods, and their extended introductory chapters really allow the reader to get to know them and understand their unique stories and histories. These characters include Gamash, a powerful magos seeking revenge against the gods after they kill his daughter, and who serves as a tragic figurehead for most of the plot. He is joined by other impressive characters, like Era, a singer and dancer, whose extreme confidence, impressive sarcasm and tough exterior are at great odds with her warm interior. Era, who is also an excellently represented lesbian character, serves as a great foil to the rest of the cast. She really plays off Zos, a Godborn warrior, whose martial prowess and cynical worldview brings him into conflict with the gods, especially after he incurs their wrath. The major protagonists are well rounded out by Pollon, a former highborn scribe and intellectual, whose cushy life is crushed in a matter of days, which convinces him to go up against the gods.
These four protagonists are backed up by an intriguing and eclectic mixture of supporting characters, each of whom bring something special and fun to the mix. This includes the crew of the Hakran ship, Untroubled Swan, led by Aanat, another substantial point-of-view figure. The Hakran are a curious group of characters, serving as one big polygamist family, which makes for some very interesting dynamics in the book. They are also major pacifists who are manipulated into helping the heroes and who constantly find their wishes and way of life threatened by the actions of their new comrades. I also had a lot of fun with Daos, a mysterious child adopted by Era, who bears an odd gift that allows him to see the world in different ways, and who helps to guide the protagonists to some interesting directions. These characters and more (there is a fantastic stuffed bear and donkey combination that works surprisingly well) are a lot of fun to watch, and the constant interactions and intriguing developments help to enhance the plot. While the plot was a bit bogged down in places with too many characters at once, this was an overall good collection of supporting figures who had some fun storylines between them.
I also really must highlight the fantastic god characters in Against All Gods. Cameron has gone out of his way to create a truly vicious, conceited and manipulative troop of deities, each of whom is in it for their own benefit or power. This pantheon is led by the bull-headed thunder god, Enkul-Anu (essentially Zeus), a powerful and stubborn being who conquered the previous gods and installed his kin as the new rulers of this world. Forced to control a group of idiotic, rebellious or half-insane gods, as well as the always troublesome mortals, Enkul-Anu is an angry and exasperated figure in this novel, constantly at his wits ends with the stupidity and self-serving nature of the other gods. Even though he’s the brutal main villain, you can’t help but feel a little for Enkul-Anu at times as he must deal with all the issues his followers have created. He is well matched by an excellent group of other gods, including a fantastically depraved and eternally underestimated god of drunkenness and orgies, Druku; his beauty-obsessed consort, Sypa; his ambitious son and herald, Nisroch; and two troublesome sisters, the Huntress and the Blue Goddess, who constantly seek to destroy him. All these excellent characters, plus several insane greater gods and their ultra-keen offspring, serve as a brilliant pantheon of villains, and I had so much fun with their manipulative and selfish actions. The intriguing interactions between these characters are extremely entertaining, and you won’t believe who comes out on top at times. I can’t wait to see how these gods continue their battles in the future, especially after the results of this book’s crazy conclusion.
With Against All Gods, the first book in his brilliant new fantasy series, Miles Cameron continues to shine as one of the most inventive authors out there. Featuring an extremely compelling narrative that pits likeable mortal characters against selfish, all-powerful gods in a Bronze Age setting, Against All Gods is a layered and deeply entertaining book that comes highly recommended. This was a truly awesome read and I look forward to seeing how Cameron continues The Age of Bronze series in the future. The next book in this series, currently titled Storming Heaven, is set for release in a year’s time, and I personally can’t wait to get my hands on it.