Title: The City of Seven Gods
Author: Andrew J. Peters
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Length: 218 Pages
Category: Spec Fic
At a Glance: Peters delivers another world rich with details from the ancient past, and with a compelling LGBT twist.
Reviewed By: Ben
Blurb: Kelemun was bought from his peasant parents to tend the inner sanctum of the house of Aknon, where wealthy men pay mountain sapphires to behold the beautiful servants of the god. Chosen to bring offerings to Caliph, Kelemun captures the fascination of the young prince Praxtor who has never been denied anything his heart desires.
Ja’bar was hired to roughhouse wayward proselytes for the high priest Aknon-Horheb. In Qabbat’lee, it’s good paying work for a Stripeling, a jungle savage in the eyes of the city natives, and if he’s stingy and stays out of trouble, it will buy him a plot of river land.
But the splendor of Qabbat’lee is a mirage disguising a grotesquerie of corruption. When Kelemun and Ja’bar’s threads of fate entwine on a night of chilling betrayal, their only hope for redemption and survival may lie in one another.
Review: I was introduced to Peters’ work through The Seventh Pleaide, a young adult historical fantasy which centered around Greek mythology and customs. The City of Seven Gods was a departure on that strict Greek theme, and was more about a fantasy world that combined Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and African religions and customs, but it was no less detailed and fascinating. That’s one of the aspects that sets Peters’ worlds apart from others’—his attention to details. You can feel his worlds, taste, and smell them.
The City of Seven Gods is about a slave, Kelemun, who, because of his beauty, is taken in by the temple at a very young age and trained as a servant of Aknon. It all sounds glamorous and pious, but in truth Kelemun is more a bed slave for the pilgrims (who have the coin) and the wealthy, and when the young prince, Praxtor, takes notice of him, Kelemun is just as easily bought and sold to the palace for Praxtor’s amusement.
Normally I’m a bit leery of slave tropes, but I do make exceptions for historicals, even historical fantasies, because the majority of the peoples during those times were slaves, and to ignore their stories is to limit one’s understanding of the times. That being said, the plot very much falls under the ‘man desires slave and slave wants to be free’ trope. It didn’t completely work for me, but at least the ending wasn’t depressing, which is also something I’m leery of when considering romanticized slave stories.
Even though Kelemun is a slave, he has a certain agency to him. He dreams and connives and plans, but he can only do so much to affect his world. There was another viewpoint, that of Ja’bar, the temple’s lackey, who was saving up his money (by beating up on the common folk) to make his own life. Between him, and the other men who Kelemun attracts with his beauty, it was hard for me to determine how all these interactions added to his story, but toward the end it became more apparent. My only criticism would be that Kelemun’s decision to leave his cushy life wasn’t exactly his to begin with—because he was sold to the prince—so I felt the climax of his personal journey wasn’t as strong as it could have been.
If you are to take anything from this story, please consider the beautiful detail in the description of the writing, and the authenticity of the world. It’s clear Peters does his research, and I’d put his writing on par with Guy Gavriel Kay (out of genre) and J Tullos Hennig (within genre). It’s also LGBTQ fiction, not necessarily M/M Romance, which I know is something Bold Strokes Books seems to pride themselves in—representing us (the LGBTQ people) in all our permutations, whether they be sexy or not. And that is very much a message I can get behind.
You can buy The City of Seven Gods here: