Review: Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A few facts about Promise of Blood:

  • Title: Promise of Blood
  • Author: Brian McClellan
  • Series: The Powder Mage Trilogy (Book One)
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Pages: 545

I read Promise of Blood on my Kindle first but I enjoyed it so much I bought the trilogy (paperback) for my shelves.

Synopsis:

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?

(Goodreads)

Review:

From start to finish, this book was outstanding. I don’t think I can find one thing I didn’t like about it. It was that good.

This was a completely new genre for me having never read flintlock fantasy before and I can definitely say it won’t be my last. I think the fact I had never read a book of this nature before only added to it’s enjoyment because I found the magic system brilliant. It was new (to me) and well thought out. The magic system is a high magic system, being central to the plot and its characters, it is consistent throughout the entire book and at no point do we see a break in the rules surrounding its use. I enjoyed the clarity of the magic, where it came from (black powder) and that it was sometimes costly. 

McClellan’s writing ability is flawless, he creates deep and meaningful connections and evokes a full range of emotions from the reader despite being beautifully crisp and simple. Pair that with the realism his characters possess and you have a winner. 

McClellan also excels in his world building, I didn’t once find myself overwhelmed with information, he gently weaves its setting (industrial revolution), culture and religion into the character interactions seamlessly. Laying what is a solid foundation for the other instalments of a wonderful series. 

Promise of Blood is told from several POV’s; Tamas, Taniel and Adamat (and that is probably the order in which I rate them 🙈). There is Nila too but she isn’t a huge feature. McClellan has crafted an incredible cast of characters for Promise of Blood, with even the smaller parts being memorable and entertaining. Tamas and Olem were particularly fun to read throughout, I loved the contrast between the two of them and how well they worked despite it. 

“Tamas suppressed a smile. He could like this man. Too free with his tongue, perhaps.

Tamas is all about rules and against his better judgment he likes Olem.

“Olem shrugged. “You’re a teetotaler, sir, and it’s well known among the men you won’t abide smoking either.” “Then why are you hiding it behind your back?” “Waiting for you to turn around so I can have a hit, sir.

Then you get another enjoyable duo; Taniel and Ka Poel. The fact that Ka Poel is mute just adds to this relationship, by seeing the way she communicates with gestures and body language is greatly entertaining. I certainly felt more from these two characters and could feel the connection between them, seeing its growth and understanding it more the further into the story and their development you get.

The pacing of this book is somewhat up and down, and does have several stages we’re it is slower and less exciting but I didn’t feel like this took anything away from the book.  This is because the story is filled with action, investigating, revenge, betrayal, political plays and more, all of which require different paces. 

As for the series: I have read the complete trilogy and would rate the overall experience as I have this book, with five big ass stars.