Forsworn by Brian McClellan – Novella Review

Forsworn by Brian McClellan
Book Review

Forsworn-1.5-mbFor $0.99 Brian McClellan has been practically giving away short stories set in the same world as his Powder Mage Trilogy. Now, he has a new story up on his website, a novella this time for $2.99. Forsworn has the quality of story, depth of characters, and an increased page count that makes it all well worth it. Do yourself a favor and dive back into the world of powder mages, sorcerers, and gunpowder firearms. I promise, you won’t regret it.

This novella focuses on Erika ja Leora and a young girl named Norinne, both Powder Mages living in Kez, where such sorcery is punishable by death. While I keep yearning for a Tamas, Taniel, or Ka-poel story, McClellan is smart to keep such characters as cameos only. These short bits of writing are a wonderful exploration of new characters and the occasional reaction to the main characters is more powerful than any one story focused on Tamas or the others.

Once again, McClellan manages to write a wonderfully described world in the time of gunpowder and muskets. While the bulk of this book is set in a noble’s estate and in a carriage, it’s written in a way that feels more cinematic than many writers out there today. I could clearly picture the small practice yard used for fencing or the carriage making it’s way along a mountainside pass covered in snow. It was all realized with masterful writing that reaffirmed my initial opinion after reading Promise of Blood nearly a year ago – Brian McClellan is a writer of great visual skill.

The worldbuilding and history is setup in bits and pieces, as the novella length allows. The idea of powder mages being branded and the first look at the air rifles used in the books is a wonderful addition that makes the world feel real. This is tied directly into McClellan’s ability to stage and foreshadow his writing with a grace that isn’t seen as often as it should be amongst new writers. One particular bit of worldbuilidng concerning families who discover their children have the skill to be powder mages sent shivers down my spine later in the book, as I feared the worst. The fact that as I was reading the epilogue I was so emotionally invested as to shout at my ereader should be a marker for the author’s accomplished skills.

With the news that The Crimson Campaign, book two in the Powder Mage Trilogy, was pushed back to a new May release date, it’s comforting to see McClellan publish these short stories and novellas to keep us held over. It’s a brilliant marketing technique. The cheap price will give new initiates a chance to explore the world and Brian’s writing without feeling too guilty if they don’t like it. Fans of the first book are able to explore the world and the characters in more depth while they wait for the new book.

It’s a technique I hope more authors will take note of and adopt. Especially those authors, who shall not be named, who take 1+ years between books.

I haven’t had a chance to reread Promise of Blood since it came out last January. But these short stories have kept the world of Powder Mages and Privileged in my imagination. Be sure to pick up Forsworn and get immersed once more into the world of muskets and magic that Brian has so painstakingly created.

You can pick up Forsworn for your E-Reader of choice at his shop here.

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Summary:

Erika ja Leora is a powder mage in northern Kez, a place where that particular sorcery is punishable by death. She is only protected by her family name and her position as heir to a duchy.

When she decides to help a young commoner—a powder mage marked for death, fugitive from the law—she puts her life and family reputation at risk and sets off to deliver her new ward to the safety of Adro while playing cat and mouse with the king’s own mage hunters and their captain, Duke Nikslaus.

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Hope’s End by Brian McClellan – Short Story Review

Hope’s End – A Powder Mage Review
by Brian McClellan

rsz_1371-1Brian McClellan is one of the biggest debut authors of 2013. His first novel, Promise of Blood, was a success. His writing is cinematic and holds such a strong visual component it really felt like the written word equivalent of seeing a summer blockbuster. Not only that but Brian turned out to be an incredibly nice guy, as this interview showed.

He’s also taken a different route than one normally sees amongst authors, releasing short stories set in the Powder Mage world periodically until the release of book two, The Crimson Campaign coming this February. Maybe this is a sign of the changing times and the power of the internet, but color me excited if this catches on amongst other authors. I can never get enough of the worlds I love and I’m sure everyone else here feels the same.

It was in June that Brian released The Girl of Hrusch AvenuePowder Mage short story that focuses on Vlora as a little girl. For $.99 on Amazon, I said that Girl of Hrusch Avenue was the perfect toe-dipping piece to decide if Promise of Blood was worth your time. (Spoiler Alert: It totally is and you should get it now if you haven’t already.)

But now he’s back with another short story. This one, titled Hope’s Endis a little bit different. It focuses on Captain Hopes-End_01Verundish, a female officer in the Adran military serving under General Tamas (years before the events of Promise). In the midst of a siege against the Gurlish stronghold of Darjah, Verundish must make a difficult decision to ensure the two people she loves most are taken care of.

Hope’s End is by no means the most lengthy of works, coming in right around 8,000 words. Yet what Brian manages to accomplish in that space is exciting and compelling. It’s hard not to feel a connection to Captain Verundish as she contemplates one dark decision after another, all to keep her daughter safe.

General Tamas, of course, is a treat to see, especially as it’s set in a time before his promotion to Field Marshall and the events of the first book. Unlike Promise of Blood Tamas as a General is still limited by his superior officers, forced to follow the orders of Field Marshall Beravich even when it conflicts with his own sense.

I won’t go too much further into the plot, 8,000 words and $.99 should be enough to get you to do that for yourself, but I will say the story is well worth it. It contains all of the elements of a longform novel distilled into the smaller space. The emotional hooks are there from the beginning and the rousing battle in the finale stirs your blood in excitement as you hope for success and dread the worst possible outcome.

Hope’s End is out now, either through services such as Amazon or at Brian McClellan’s own webpage.

Captain Verundish has two problems. On campaign with the Adran army and far from her homeland, she is helpless when the young daughter she left at home is threatened. To make matters worse, General Tamas has put her lover in command of a Hope’s End—the first charge through a breach straight into the teeth of enemy cannon and sorcery. To save the people she loves, Verundish will have to come up with a deadly solution…