Book of the Day
The City of Seven Gods
Bold Strokes Books
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The City of Seven Gods, by Andrew J. Peters, came to my attention in an unusual way, and this is fitting because it is an unusual book. It is the debut book in Peters’ new series, The Lost Histories, which is written for an adult audience.
It’s not really erotica, LGBT or otherwise, though the relationships drive the story, and those relationships for good and for ill, are same-sex. It’s not solely about the religion or love, either, though both of those things figure prominently in the story. There’s a lot of institutionalized corruption in the book, and this the underlying motivator for much of the action. The book feels like it could be the first in a series, but could also be something that stands on its own – it’s certainly a strong enough story for that. There’s a lot going on here in a scant and easily-read couple of hundred pages.
At the beginning of the book, we are introduced to Kelemun, who is an exemplar priest of the god Aknon, in whose temple those with enough wealth can receive a “blessing of the flesh” from one of the priests. Kelemun comes to be desired by the son of the Caliph, prince Praxtor, but it’s not until Kelemun encounters hired muscle Ja’Bar during a change in fortunes that the real story of this book begins.
The world in which The City of Seven Gods takes place is like an H. Rider Haggard or Robert E. Howard Conan-type world – a third or fourth-century environment where life is cheap, barbarism lurks at the edges, and it’s very much like the world we live in without being that world. The Gods of the title are reminiscent of the prophets of Islam or Hinduism but steeped in ancient Egyptian myth. Races of people on Peters’ world include the Stripelings (who have actual striped patterns on their skin and of which group Ja’Bar is a member) and this serves also to differentiate and distance this world from ours, intensifying the sense of the fantastic while preserving relationships that seem familiar.
The depth of the world is considerable, like Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series, there is much about it that is ill-understood by those who populate it, and a fair bit which has become a myth, even to its citizens. The story is compelling, and feels like a cascading series of chance encounters, with cause-and-effect simply propelling toward inevitable destinies, then taking dramatic turns when multi-dimensional characters seize their own circumstances. The actual sexual encounters in the book are few and far between, so readers of erotica may feel shortchanged. This is a complicated, faceted gem of a book that sets itself up to be something bigger, and so it’s worth a look from any curious, open-minded reader.
Garrett C. Crowell is a Nashville native, Murfreesboro Librarian, husband, and father of two. He reads more than 100 books a year and likes some of them.