Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
The Powder Mage trilogy begins with Promise of Blood, a fantastic and engaging book from debut author Brian McClellan. Powerful sorcerers, trained Marksmen with magical abilities, and long forgotten gods bring color and intrigue to the world of Adro following a bloody revolution that has left the King and his royal cabal dead and a new government run by the people on it’s way to power. Promise of Blood is filled with engaging characters, original worldbuilding, and a plot that left me unable to put the book down until I finished two days later.
The blurb on the back of my ARC says “A fantasy debut perfect for fans of Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and Brent Weeks.” And I can honestly say that this is absolutely true. I found Promise of Blood to be an amazing amalgamation of these author’s writing styles. It has the cinematic quality of Brandon Sanderson, along with his talent for magic systems and worldbuilding, while touching on a bit of the dark and grittiness found in Weeks’ books, and a dash of Rothfuss’ way with words. Put simply, this is an engaging and wonderfully written work that is going to do great things in the Fantasy-genre this year.
As I mentioned previously, a large theme in this book deals with revolution. We start the book immediately following a bloody coup of the King and his sorcerers and it’s non stop action from there. Field-Marshall Tamas, his Powder Cabal – deadly marksmen who use gunpowder to fuel their magic -, along with his Council of supporters are left to manage a city that was deep in debt and ill-prepared for a shift in political structure.
Meanwhile Taniel, a gifted marksman who is also Tamas’ son, is sent to hunt a Privileged sorcerer who escaped the night of the coup. Alongside his partner, a savage girl named Ka-poel, they travel to a mountain fort that borders their nation of Adro with their enemy Kez. Taniel’s sections were always some of the more interesting. Addiction and the overcoming of personal and emotional obstacles being a prominent trait of these sections.
Meanwhile, Adamat, a retired investigator is hired by Tamas to put his detective skills to work uncovering mystery after mystery that started the night he killed the King’s sorcerer’s in their sleep. These chapters provided the most depth to the story and cast as he goes to any length to get the answers necessary to be payed.
Being a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson I have a weakness for well-thought out and original magic systems and Brian McClellan doesn’t disappoint. There are, depending on how you count them, either three or four magic systems shown in Promise of Blood. Of course the one that takes center stage is that of the Powder Mages. Gunpowder magic. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.
Magic that is fueled by gunpowder. It’s one of those concepts that once you hear it, you have to smack yourself in the head for not thinking of it first. McClellan handles this expertly, doling out information as needed to set the stage for a dramatic use of the magic system. The use of guns and gunpowder is a welcome breath in the fantasy genre. Instead of simply ignoring their presence in history, McClellan seized the opportunity and crafted the ability to kill an enemy from a distance into his narrative.
In true Fantasy style Brian leaves us wanting nothing but more, more, more at the end of Promise of Blood. There are more questions than answers and a level of excitement as you finish book one. The last one hundred pages goes by in a flash as you devour a finely crafted ending that leaves you desperate for more information. Luckily, The Crimson Campaign, book two, is already scheduled to be released in February 2014 and Orbit has released the gorgeous cover art to keep attention on this talented debut author.
Part of me is hesitant to offer so much praise to a book, especially a debut novel. But as I write this review and I flip through some of my favorite passages I know it’s well justified. If you are a fan of epic-fantasy with a twist of the strange in execution and content, you’ll be mightily pleased by Brian McClellan’s debut novel, Promise of Blood.