Servant of the Crown by Brian McClellan – Novella Review

Book Review

Servant of the Crown by Brian McClellan

Servant_of_the_Crown_01Brian McClellan does something a little different with his Powder Mage universe. Instead of relying solely on his publishing deal for full-length works, he also produces short fiction that  adds meaning to the novels. As of this post, he’s released five such stories, the latest being Servant of the Crown, a story in which we finally discover how he met his fated other half, Erika.

Captain Tamas is a member of the Adran military, a commoner who worked his way through the ranks to get as far as he has, with ambitions to go higher. McClellan wastes no time in painting us a very vivid picture of Tamas’ hatred for the nobility. The clashing ideals and personalities between Tamas and the entitled nobles forms the crux of the novella.

Soon the King himself becomes involved along with one of the privileged sorceresses of the royal cabal, which leaves Tamas to be nothing more than a pawn on a chessboard he barely understands.

The only help Tamas receives is from a young Kez noblewoman, a girl named Erika who is a powder mage herself, albeit one who has been forced to hide her powers from a country that despises her kind. Last seen in the short story Forsworn, Erika has become enamored with the idea of Tamas’ rise to power in the military and his advocacy for powder mages.

McClellan’s writing is as tight as ever and still manages to contain the intensity of a summer blockbuster into writing. While the explosions and impossible shots are still a treat to read the true delight came in the banter between Tamas and Erika. Their chemistry is strong and their dialogue is some of the most genuine representations of early couples I’ve had the pleasure to read.

There are numerous ways to experience Servant of the Crown, but I’d recommend the direct method and getting it from the source? Check out Brian’s books and collection of short stories here.

 

Synopsis:

Captain Tamas is an ambitious young officer in the Adran army. As a commoner, he is one of very few without noble blood to hold a rank. When he challenges the son of a duke over an insult, the subsequent duel lands him in hot water with the nobility and the royal cabal of Privileged sorcerers. Tamas is soon drawn into a conflict that goes to the very highest office in the land, and his only ally is the most unlikely of people; a young noblewoman named Erika, who needs Tamas to teach her how to wield her powers as a powder mage.

Occurs about thirty-five years before the events in Promise of Blood.

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The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan – Book Review

Book Review

The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

91WXPFBCv+L._SL1500_Brian McClellan authored one of my favorite debuts of 2013. His first novel Promise of Blood was filled with everything I want in an original work of fiction. Now, the second book, The Crimson Campaign has hit shelves.

Each successive book by a new author is a risk. “Will the audience like it?” “Can it live up to the first?” “What if the author hits a sophomore slump?” Luckily for us, McClellan not only matched the spark of his first book, but he surpassed it as well.

The dialogue is tighter, the action scenes more intense and the drama has never been more real.

The Crimson Campaign is an addictive blend of a summer blockbuster and a military history. Only this time there’s an angry god, powder mages and gifted detective with nothing to lose.

All of the characters we came to enjoy from The Promise of Blood are back, some with an expanded role. Bo, a relatively minor character from the first book, is full of the confidence and snark you’d expect from a member of the Royal Cabal. His self-assured attitude and gifted ability to manipulate the Else (sorcery) made Bo a breakout character in this new volume and one of my favorites.

Meanwhile, Tamas and Taniel are facing their own problems as the Kez continue their war against Adro. Tamas is trapped behind enemy lines with only a small unit of soldiers. Cut off from anyone who could help, he is forced to manipulate the situation to his own advantage while he is pursued relentlessly. In the first book we only got a glimpse at why this man rose to the rank of field marshal. Finally, the famed tactician is shown to us. He rises to MacGyver levels of ingenuity to slow those dogging his heels.

Taniel, however, is facing his own problems. Tamas’ disappearance has left him in a precarious position as the new leaders of the military begin to question whether or not Taniel deserves to be a captain when he can’t follow orders. Oh, and he’s got a crazed, one-eyed god hunting him for revenge.

The plot is filled with constant action and excitement as McClellan deftly wields the mythology and characters of the world he’s created into something truly great. There will always be stories that are transparently flat, no more depth than what’s necessary to finish the plot. McClellan, like many great authors, has instead added layer upon layer to his books (and short stories) to create a world that thrums with the beat of its own heart.

McClellan has burst onto the fantasy scene with the explosive power of a powder keg. His books are among those that will be remembered for the genuine characters, tense conflict and inspired world where gunpowder fuels magic and white-gloved sorcerers vie for power. Simply put, it’s brilliant.

Book Synopsis:

When invasion looms…

Tamas’s invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god, Kresimir.

But the threats are closer to home…

In Adro, Inspector Adamat wants only to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers will lead Adamat on a darker journey.

Who will lead the charge?

Tamas’s generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself as the last line of defense against Kresimir’s advancing army.

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN is the epic sequel to Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan – Review

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

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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.

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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.

Brian McClellan – Interview

The author of Promise of Blood, the first in a debut series titled The Powder Mage Trilogy, was kind enough to agree to an interview with yours truly. Here we take a look at his writing habits, his influences for Promise of Blood and a look at what’s coming next.

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  • To start things off why don’t you tell us all a little bit about the man behind the words?

I’m twenty-seven years old and I grew up just outside of Cleveland, OH. I’ve been married for a little over five years. I recently started keeping honeybees, and I’m an avid computer gamer and reader.

My debut epic fantasy, Promise of Blood, is coming out from Orbit Books on April 16th.

  • Would you mind taking us through a normal writing session for you?

I like to work in groups of scenes. I’ll spend about a week brainstorming the next four or five scenes in the book, which may end up anywhere between ten and twenty thousand words. I’ll write down little notes along the way and when I feel like I’m ready, I sit down and write.

Sometimes I’ll have some music playing softly in the background, but I really like to start off a writing session by watching or reading something interesting. Maybe it’s a movie or TV show, or a particular passage from a history book that really makes me think.

  • What was it like being a student of Brandon Sanderson and how much of an impact did he have on you and your writing style?

Brandon was awesome. He taught me how to sit down and write, and how to be both a businessman and a writer—which is absolutely necessary in today’s world. That, more than anything else, shaped my writing style.

A lot of people say not to try to write for the masses. I think that’s a load of crap. People will be reading this book. Or at least that’s the intention. I need to write it so that they will enjoy it. Is this part too long? That part too slow? Is this character memorable? These are all questions writers need to be asking themselves as they go along. Brandon taught me to ask myself questions like that.

  • What’s changed for you now that your first book is about to hit the shelves?

A year and a half ago, I had lost my poor-paying job and had absolutely nothing. My agent was insisting on more edits for Promise of Blood before she’d submit it (which, by the way, she was totally right about). I was depressed, penniless, and couldn’t find employment.

Now I’m about to be released in hardback internationally. While there is a whole new set of worries and stresses that come along with the release, you can’t imagine the relief I feel at being able to earn money doing what I love.

  • I have to through the most cliche’ question out there. Who are your favorite authors and what are some of your favorite books?

I have too many favorite authors to list. Brandon Sanderson is up there, even though I haven’t had the chance to read his last couple. Joe Abercrombie is a personal hero of mine and can write no wrong. Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen is about the damn coolest series out there. I’ve had a few people compare my writing to Brent Weeks’, which is a huge compliment because I love his stuff. I recently read the first two books in Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series and really enjoyed them.

Same thing with books: too many. But my absolute favorites are Les Miserables and The Count of Monte Cristo.

  • Now for the book itself, could you sum up Promise of Blood in a few lines for those who haven’t heard anything yet?

Promise of Blood is a second-world epic fantasy set during the world’s industrial revolution. It begins with a coup as Field Marshal Tamas, a sorcerer with the ability to manipulate gunpowder, deposes his foppish monarch and aims to give his nation back to the common people. Things get hairy and Tamas has to deal with royalist uprisings, a predatory neighbor nation, and superstitious riddles that any modern man should feel safe ignoring.

  • Promise of Blood has one of my favorite tag lines, “The age of Kings is dead… and I have killed it.” What made you want to focus on the theme of revolution?

It came with the time period. I had already decided on the early 1800s for a geo-political and technological basis for the book. I almost had to include a revolution.

  • What was it that made you decide to write in a world not only where gunpowder is common but features heavily in one of your magic systems?

I was brainstorming my next book and I wanted to do something completely unique for the magic system. I’d already decided to use flintlock muskets and rifles in the book. The next logical step was to base the magic around gunpowder used in those weapons. It was one of those moments where you say to yourself, “why hasn’t anyone done this yet?”

  • Your characters are each older than the standard teenager found in much of standard fantasy. Adamat, Tamas, and Taniel have each had their own adventures, is there any chance we’ll get to see any of this?

Who knows? We’ll see how people like the trilogy and if Orbit wants me to write more in that world. I certainly want to write more in that world. There are some very cool adventures that happen before the books that I hint at in Promise of Blood and I talk about more in The Crimson Campaign.

  • What comes next after Promise of Blood?

The Crimson Campaign, book two of the Powder Mage Trilogy, will be hitting shelves in February of 2014. I think that book three is scheduled for September of 2014, but don’t quote me on that.

Like I said, I’d love to write more in the world when this trilogy is finished, but I also have other worlds floating around in my head.

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