Review: Promise of Blood (Powder Mage, #1)

Promise of Blood (Powder Mage, #1)Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I work through my To-read list, we come to another book I added around 2014. This one was after Mr. McClellan had been interviewed by Sword and Laser (and 4 years before I’d ever heard of Brandon Sanderson). His idea of powder mages – a Napoleanic look at magic sounded incredibly refreshing. I was never a big fantasy person, preferring science fiction, but so much of the fantasy I’d come across was stuck in Tolkien’s shadow – medieval-ish with dwarves and elves and so on. Of course, in the time since I heard about this book I’ve read all of Sanderson’s Cosmere novels and others have also taken a look at other fantasy genres like Silk-punk. But that didn’t make this book any less good, only less special.

There are two things I really liked about this book, making it rise up in my estimation. First up, the book is essentially two plots wound together. One concerns Tamas, the man looking somewhat like Sean Bean from the Game of Thrones post on this book cover. He decides for both personal and altruistic reasons to overthrow the monarchy. His story is about how hard that can be. The other concerns Adamat, an investigator who has been tasked by Tamas to figure out a series of mysteries. Either one would be interesting on its own. Like, I wouldn’t mind a mystery series set in this world (or many of Sanderson’s Cosmere worlds, for that matter). And, of course, the story of a coup, when done well is a thrilling read. By tying them together, McClellan doesn’t let either plot get stale.

The other thing I like about this book is that the characters act pretty believable for the world they’re in. They don’t suffer from holding the idiot ball or too many cliches, tropes, and plot armor. Overall, they are suspicious when they should be and clueless when caught off guard. And, at least for this entry into the trilogy, McClellan sidesteps some tropes that are often not executed well – like having to work with your ex. Whether those plots are revisited later or have been over-taken by plot elements, time will tell.

Overall, I’m quite glad to have finally gotten around to this book. (And his newest one about a demon who repossesses souls sounds pretty funny) I’ll definitely be reading the next book in the trilogy to see where things go. That said, this is one of those trilogies where the end of the first book is an OK stopping point. Every since plotline hasn’t been resolved, but the main arcs of this book reach conclusions while still leaving room for the reader to imagine what happens next. (Although you don’t have to imagine if you just go on to the next book!)

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