Gunpowder Plots: A Review of Promise of Blood

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Introduction

Brian McClellan’s debut novel Promise of Blood ushers us into a fascinating world, and introduced me to one of my newest must read authors. Set in a world much like out own, at a time much like the American, and French revolutions in technology Promise of Blood gives us a refreshing new look at fantasy. It tells a tale of revolution, and the aftermath, and it tells it well, while breaking a number of common tropes for a n original feel that works to it’s advantage.

Field Commander Tamas has just implemented his coup against the royalty of his nation, a bloody affair for which the seasoned veteran shows little remorse. Through his and several others eyes we see the aftermath of this bloody revolution, and even the return of the old gods. With a unique magic system, and convincing characters this novel doesn’t feel like a new author’s work, but one of someone who has been writing for decades, and the books just get better as you continue on with the series.

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What Works

As you might be able to tell from the introduction, I was extremely satisfied by this book. But that’s just a feeling, so I’ll tell you why this novel is worth picking up. First we’ll look at a part of the magic system of Brian Mclellan’s world, powder mages. Maybe the coolest things I’ve read in a while in the fantasy genre. These “lesser” mages as the more traditional Privileged would likely call them, draw their power from black powder. The ingestion, or inhalation (yes, very much like cocaine) gives these men better reflexes, faster healing, better aim and focus, and the ability to “push” or guide a musket ball in order to make shots far beyond the human ability. It does a thing not often seen in Fantasy, combining technology with magic, making both more deadly. It also has a downside, with powder mages becoming addicted, and suffering withdrawals (alright, seriously it’s cocaine) and thus places a real limit on what they can do.

Another thing this book does differently. and well I might add is that it avoids a common trope in fantasy. Our main characters are not lowly farm boys or young nobles looking for adventure in the world. These a griselled lifeworn veterans of wars, and politics, heroes already when we meet them. Sort of like watching an Epic Level campaign in Dungeon’s and Dragons, except not ridiculous. Because even these titans of their world are human, and have deep flaws, and motivations that drive them in compelling and convincing ways.

The setting itself is rich, and detailed, Mclellan really gives you a sense that their is a true history to his world, something that is very difficult to accomplish in one’s first attempt. The worlds rich history adds to the story lending credibility, and nuance to the plot.

What Doesn’t

The magic system could use a bit more definition, it’s not always clear on what some of the rules are, or why things work the way they do. But hey, it’s magic, and really I’m just grasping for straws here. The story is a bit grim as well, so if that’s not your thing this book might not be for you. I’d say the weakest part was the ending, while it was a pretty epic conclusion, it all sort happened a little fast, and ended up being a little anti-climactic.

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I loved this book, and would recommend it to anyone not on the particularly squeamish side. It was a fantastic read, and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of the series. All said, I’d give it 9.5 out of 10 shields. (I’ll come up with a graphic for this eventually damn it!)

Agree? Disagree? Have you’re own comments about A Promise of Blood? Put them down below in the comment section. Till next time you rascally adventurers you.

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