Miles Cameron’s epic fantasy is an auto-buy for me at this point (I am still working my way around to his historical fiction and science fiction). His Traitor Son Cycle and Masters & Mages series are two of my favorite series of this century, if not of all time. Against All Gods is the first book in his latest epic fantasy series. I will continue on with The Age of Bronze series, but its opening volume is the weakest yet from a Miles Cameron series.
I have to say: I love the premise. How many fantasy novels have you read set in a bronze age? This is second-world fantasy, and it is set during a bronze age for a good reason. The world is devoid of iron unless it falls with a meteorite. That is why the current “gods” picked it—overthrowing the old gods in the process—and they like to keep civilization from progressing to far by taking an active hand. I immediately thought of L. Sprague de Camp’s The Tritonian Ring, which plays with old myths about iron and with meteorites as a source of iron in a pre-Iron Age world. We also know that Bronze Age society’s in our world tended to suffer regular catastrophes that stunted progress, if not exactly why. Cameron plays with all that. There are other clever bits, like the way the magical god’s eyes manage to resemble our modern surveillance state.
Maybe the biggest thing holding the book back for me is how—in contrast with Cameron’s other fantasy series and elite-level series like Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time, but not with a lot of other median fantasy—the world here feels like it remains unfinished clay. Maybe part of that is the bronze age setting, both because Cameron designs a rudimentary society and because the available Bronze Age sources are so limited.
The basic gist of the story is that a disparate group of humans come together to wage war against the “gods” of their world. The gods themselves play a role in precipitating events, both by who they kill and by involving humans in their own schemes. The gods here, like the gods in the old Hercules TV show, are “petty and cruel, and they plague[ ] mankind with suffering.” The disparate group of humans is—initially—the other big weakness of the book for me. So many separate storylines and POVs early in the book makes for a slow start. Once we get to know them and they start to combine, characterization becomes a strength of the book. The petty, internal bickering and scheming of the gods is another strength, as is their true nature, which begins to be revealed over the course of the book.
3.5 of 5 Stars.