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I Belong

Review: Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Promise of BloodTitle: Promise of Blood

Author: Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Powder Mage Trilogy (Book 1)

Publication Date: April 16, 2013

Format: Hardcover, 565 Pages

ISBN-10: 0316219037 (Orbit)

ISBN-13: 978-0316219037 (Orbit)

Reviewed by: Steph


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? PROMISE OF BLOOD is the start of a new epic fantasy series from Brian McClellan.

Quick & Dirty: Worried about the direction his country is heading, Tamas stages a coup. This sets off a series of unforeseen events, not the least of which is angering a god. Perhaps this wasn’t the best idea…

Opening Sentence: Adamat wore his coat tight, top buttons fastened against a wet night air that seemed to want to drown him.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

I tend to prefer books that have a female lead, so I put off reading this book for a while when I saw the lead was male. I wish I had read this a long time ago! It was simply awesome! It grabbed my attention from the first page, and I had a hard time putting it down. It’s very well written, with amazing world building and strong characters. Definitely worth a read!

In this world that McClellan has built, there are basically three types of mages: Powder mages, the Privileged, and the Knacked. Powder mages can control gun powder in all its forms, which means they can direct bullets after firing them from guns, or even explode the bullets in their opponents’ guns. The Privileged are what I typically think of when I think of mages: those with the power of the elements at their fingertips. The Knacked are normal in every way, except they have one special ability, unique to each Knacked. One of the side characters in this book, Olem, for example, doesn’t need to sleep, ever, which comes in handy in his position as a bodyguard.

Let’s look at our main characters. Tamas is the leader of the powder mages. As the book begins, he has just staged a coup, killing the king’s guards and taking the king hostage, declaring the age of kings to be at an end. Tamas doesn’t want to rule the country, but wants to make it a better land than it is under the rule of the current king. Staging this coup, however, has unforeseen consequences, triggering war with another land, as well as the anger of a god. Tamas is a very interesting main character. Taken at face value, he seems to be very harsh, but when you look at his actions towards those close to him, you can see that there is a caring man underneath his hard exterior. While he doesn’t necessarily come off as likeable, I still felt connected to him, especially at emotional parts of the story.

Next, we have Taniel, Tamas’ son. Taniel is also a powder mage, nursing a growing addiction to gunpowder, the effects of which help sharpen powder mages’ senses when they’re fighting. When we meet Taniel, he’s had a rough time of it, recently having found his fiancée in bed with another man. He’s tasked with chasing down the Privileged responsible for killing some of Tamas’ men during the coup. This proves harder than it sounds, as the Privileged leads Taniel on a merry chase. As a character, Taniel is similar to his father, in that he comes off as very harsh at first. As the story goes on though, Taniel begins to seem more human, and the scenes from his point of view quickly became my favorites.

Our last main character is Adamat, an inspector. We meet him at the very beginning of the novel. Tamas gives him the task of investigating the meaning behind the last words of every Privileged killed during the coup: “You cannot break Kresimir’s Promise.” While investigating, Adamat’s loyalties soon become divided when his family is threatened. Adamat is probably the most human of our main characters. His feelings are right on the surface, and it’s interesting to watch him as he struggles with his loyalty to Tamas versus his desire to rescue his family. I often found myself talking to Adamat in my head when he would make certain decisions, trying to get him to somehow listen to me. If that’s not the sign of a good book, I don’t know what is.

Overall, I honestly have nothing negative to say about this novel. Unlike a lot of long books, there was not one moment that dragged for me. I never felt lost or confused. I was completely caught up, from beginning to end. Fantasy lovers need to do themselves a favor and check out this book.

Notable Scene:

Manhouch gathered his strength and matched Tamas’s gaze. “You have no evidence! No witnesses! This is not a trial.”

Tamas flung his hand out to the side. “My evidence is out there! The people are unemployed and starving. Your nobles whore and hunt and fill their plates with meat and their glasses with wine while the common man starves in the gutter. Witnesses? You plan on signing the entire country over to the Kez next week with the Accords. You would make us all vassals to a foreign power simply to dissolve your debt.”

“Baseless claims, spoken by a traitor,” Manhouch whispered weakly.

Tamas shook his head. “You will be executed at noon along with your councillors, your queen, and many hundreds of your relatives.”

“My cabal will destroy you!”

“They’ve already been executed.”

The king paled further and began to shake violently, collapsing to the floor. The Diocel slowly made his way forward. Tamas looked down on Manhouch for a moment and pushed aside the unbidden image of a young prince, perhaps six or seven, bouncing on his knee. The Diocel reached Manhouch’s side and knelt. He looked up at Tamas. “Is this because of your wife?”

Yes. Tamas said aloud, “No. It’s because Manhouch has proved that the lives of an entire nation shouldn’t be subject to the whims of a single inbred fool.”

“You would dethrone a God-sanctioned ruler and become a tyrant, and still claim to love Adro?” the Diocel said.

Tamas glanced at Manhouch. “God no longer sanctions this. If you weren’t so blinded by your gold-lined robes and young concubines, you’d see it is so. Manhouch deserves the pit for his neglect of Adro.”

“You’ll surely see him there,” the Diocel said.

“I don’t doubt it, Diocel. I’m sure the company will be anything but dull.” Tamas dropped the empty pistol at Manhouch’s feet. “You have until noon to make your peace with God.”

The Powder Mage Trilogy:

1. Promise of Blood

2. The Crimson Campaign (May 6, 2014)


FTC Advisory: Orbit provided me with a copy of Promise of Blood. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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