20 Aug 2021

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays: PROMISE OF BLOOD by Brian McClellan

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays introduces readers who are unfamiliar with the Adult SF/F genre to books, authors, and discussions all about the vast expanse of the world of Adult SF/F!


: Brian McClellan
Series: Powder Mage #1
Source: Purchased from Kobo
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: April 16, 2013

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.

It's a bloody business overthrowing a king...

Field Marshal Tamas' coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas's supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved...

Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should...

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets?

I will be honest, I am writing this review almost a year after I read the book. And my Goodreads review definitely didn't jog any memories for me. In fact, when I read this with my fiance, we weren't even engaged at that point. But I know that we read SINS OF EMPIRE, which is the first in the companion series, and realized we needed to read this one instead to understand what's going on.

This high fantasy book starts with the death of a king - it’s been done a lot of times already and Promise of Blood used the same plot device, but there is a little bit of a twist. The main protagonist, Field Marshal Tamas is the assassin and the story that follows in the book is all the aftermath of his revolution. There are tons of actions to be found here, making the book’s pacing an ebb and flow of fast and slow with great climax. Of course, the revolution alone won’t provide an intriguing plot, this is where the rumors of the old Gods coming back to the world, the characters and magic systems combined to make the book more interesting to dive into.

The story is told from three main POV, Tamas, Taniel, Adamat and one side POV, Nila. There are some great characters in the book but I am glad I finally get to see more of Taniel and Ka-poel. After quasi-reading about them and this entire triology in SINS OF EMPIRE, I like seeing them as actual characters instead of just stories to be told. 

I'm glad that I listened to this as an audiobook, because a lot of the names I wouldn't be able to pronounce otherwise. Although, I definitely don't know how to spell them. Ka-poel is easily one of my favorite characters in the book, but she is a mute and this means we never see her spoke. But her character, abilities, and relationship with Taniel is really compelling to read. 

One of the main strength of the book is its unique magic systems. You can see the distinct influence that Brandon Sanderson had on McClellan here. There are three main magic systems here and they all played a huge factor in bringing the actions to life.

Powder Mage, by ingesting black powder, it will boost the users perception, physical abilities and have the ability to float a bullet with high accuracy or explode a gunpowder from faraway.

Knack, not exactly a magic systems but a special set of skills bestowed such as perfect memory or the lack of need to sleep.

Privileged, a powerful Sorcerer that required a special Privileged glove with arcane runes embedded upon it to use their magic without limitation (so far).

All three of these work together to create the magic world that is in this series. And, honestly, I'm glad I read this book because it is not well explained in the SINS OF EMPIRE series because the assumption is that you have already learned about it here. So reading this made everything make so much more sense.

I couldn't always guess what was going to happen, which was a huge selling point for me. While there are a lot of tropes and plot lines used that I've seen before, they were always twisted a little bit to make it a bit more interesting than just your standard tropes.

The military moments were meh to me, but only because that's not really my style of reading enjoyment. I did like the action, the combat, and a lot of this story. But I did think there were some boring parts. Most of Adamant's POV was boring, as was Nila's which basically fills the gaps of Adamant's POV. I just wanted more out of the royals/intrigue than what we got - and I don't think there will be more in the next book since it seems to be heavily focused on the war and military aspects.

TLDR: Read this book if you want an interesting flintlock fantasy that resembles Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. Or don't, I'm not your mom.

Have you read this one? What was your favourite part?

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