The Age of Kings is dead...and I have killed it.
It's a bloody business overthrowing a king....
It's up to a few....
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....
The Powder Mage Trilogy, Book 1.
©2013 Brian McClellan (P)2013 Hachette Audio
On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through
Among recent epic fantasies, Promise of Blood does a great job of balancing old high fantasy tropes with elements of more recent, blood-soaked low fantasy of a Martin or an Abercrombie. McClellan's world is one on the cusp of industrialization and revolution, and we actually meet the main characters immediately after a French Revolution-style coup. Magic is generally part of the old world order, with the exception of Powder Mages, wizards whose abilities center around gunpowder. However, the toppling of dynasties set up by ancient gods turns out to be a fraught thing, and the book does an excellent job balancing threats both mystical and practical.
The worldbuilding is remarkably detailed and interesting. McClellan has put a lot of thought into how sorcery would be used in a war of muskets and swords, and even how the economics and politics of the world work out. His three main characters are also fascinating (though they can take a lot of punishment and survive!), and, through their eyes, the story becomes alternately a high fantasy adventure to stop an evil sorceress, a murder mystery, and a political thriller.
If there is a weakness, it is that, in this nuanced world, the bad guys seem a little flat compared to the well-rounded, and interesting flawed, protagonists. They are also often neigh-unkillable, and a little too prone to mustache-twirling acts of cruelty and monologues about their evil plans. This wouldn't have been an issue except that the rest of the book seems so much more sophisticated.
This was well-read and a real winner. I am going to download the next book in the series right after writing this review!
A review of A Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
I enjoyed Brian McClellan's A Promise of Blood. It was a fun read from start to finish. It also perfectly meets the need I've been feeling for a while now. I love epic fantasy, but I feel the swords and sorcery trope is a bit tired. Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of room for awesome in medieval-based fantasy, but we've been stuck in the dark ages for quite some time. I want to see how wizards deal with the industrial revolution, which is exactly what McClellan does in this book.
What's great about A Promise of Blood, is that most of the bread and butter fantasy tropes are still there, they just have to deal with the upstart middle-class powder mages who have decided that the oligarchic sorcerers have had their turn. In fact if you took, say, the Wheel of Time, and revisited fifty or a hundred years after the events in A Memory of Light, you'd basically have A Promise of Blood. It basically has the same back story - way back when the sorcerers did stuff that makes today's elite look like children; the sorcerers can manipulate the classical elements; the sorcerers and kings have all the power and most of the wealth. There's even the threat of gods returning to wreak havoc on mere mortals' best laid plans.
But the times, they are a changing, thanks to Field Marshal Tamas and his cabal of powder mages, who ingest gunpowder and can manipulate bullets, whether that be bouncing them around corners or sniping someone from several miles away. And McClellan definitely delivers on his promise. Overthrowing the King and all the nobility can be a messy affair, and you can bet that the neighboring monarchs aren't thrilled that Tamas killed god's chosen king. Their own subjects might get ideas, after all.
I thought McClellan did a good job choosing his viewpoint characters. The story is told through the eyes of the General and interim dictator, his son, the common soldier, a middle-class investigator, and a laundress of one of the erstwhile noble families. I'm not giving names because I listened to the Audiobook and don't know how to spell anyone's name. I felt that giving us these different viewpoints lets us really feel the impact of all these social changes. Plus, the legion of secondary characters are also well-rounded and add to the depth.
As a note on the Audiobook, Christian Rodska does an excellent job narrating. He really gets into almost acting out the dialog instead of merely reading it.
this is a refreshing story line. I really loved that more than half of these characters were old men, who had seen the world, lived long lives, and were working for a different future. You start the story off with the coupes end, an then get to see what happens AFTER the government gets overthrown. great characters with lots of complexity
I have to say that I loved Tamas. He is awesome! So busy working for a better future, navigating the intrigues of the other power players in the city, preparing for a war, and trying to deal with the reincarnation of gods. All while still grieving over his wife and trying to figure out how to connect with his son. He is such a gruff, yet lovable old man.
I love Christian Rodska. The fact that he was narrating this story played a huge part in my decision to select this book!
Promise of Blood is "Flintlock Fantasy" and introduces the concept of Powder Mages who are gun using sorcerers that rely on gunpowder to fuel their abilities. Powder Mages can enter a powder trance by ingesting gun powder and then manipulate bullets as they fly or explode any gun powder being carried by enemies. It is a unique magic system and executed pretty well by Brian McClellan. That concept combined with an interesting story arc carry the book and make up for the characters which I found to be a little uninteresting as a whole.
The book starts at the end of a coup led by Field Marshall Tamas, who with his cabal of Powder Mages, has just ousted the King and killed off his cabal of Privileged Sorcerers. A mystery unfolds when each member of the royal cabal utters the same words as they die: "You can't break Kresimir's promise." Tamas calls on Inspector Adamat to help sort out what those words mean and this leads to a story that unfolds over 3 books involving multiple nations, armies, and even gods.
The three main characters are Field Marshall Tamas, Inspector Adamat, and the Field Marshall's son, Taniel Two-Shot. Taniel earned his nickname because as a Powder Mage he is able to shoot two bullets at once to kill two different people. In what is perhaps the most interesting story line in book 1, Taniel is sent off by Tamas to kill the one remaining member of the Royal Cabal who survived the coup. That person is Privileged Borbador, who was raised by Tamas and happens to be Taniel's best friend.
Christian Rodska does a decent job at the narration and seems to be a good fit for the content.
Over the years I've developed the mindset that, if I'm going to spend time reading a story, I want it to be a good one. :)
I'm sick and tired of nobles, kings, emperors, dukes, lords, and knights. It looks like Brian McClellan feels the same way.
The narration was fantastic. Christian Rodska usually does great and this is no exception.
Main components are as follows:
* Oliver Cromwell style protagonist. "The age of kings is dead" indeed.
* Magic Musketeers, or "Powder Mages." They're super interesting and fun.
* Old Magic/Feudalism vs. New Magic/New Technology
* Frontiersman + Native Tribeswoman ala French/Indian war style groups.
* Old Gods and Ancient wizard creatures.
The Characters feel real and realized, the plot is interesting and fun, and the ending is satisfying and a good setup for the next book in the series.
Give it a try! :)
Do not miss out on this book! It is a fantasy book about believable people, idealism warring with necessities. The magical system is fresh and inventive. And to top it off you get to laugh out loud now and then. One of the best books (if not the best) I have listened to.
Christian Rodska is awesome as a narrator. He is one of the best!
I don't get it. I bought this book because of all the great reviews. I love Brandon Sanderson. I have read and listened to every one of his books multiple times. This book is NOTHING like Sanderson! I finished it - but only out of shear determination and was relieved when it was over. The narration was bland with no breaks between scenes so it took a few sentences to tell that he had even changed scenes. Character accents and voices were inconsistent. Time didn't flow the same between different parts of the story. Minor characters that appeared for a single purpose got as much back story as the major characters. The major characters were two dimensional, motivation and actions were murky. The "tactical genius" walked right into at least three obvious traps. The detective couldn't see what was in front of his nose and warriors couldn't tell what the enemy had planned when it was slapping them in the face. It was also very repetitive. After the first 10 times I rolled my eyes every time we again had to hear about the side effects of the beginning of a powder trance. And that is just one example, there are more. I could go on but instead I will just stay away from this author and narrator in future.
I've never read Brian McClellan previously and purchased this on a friend's suggestion. They obviously read the paper version so were able to get into the story. I on the other hand grabbed the audio version and after suffering a mere 5 chapters had to quit.
The narrator, while eloquent, was a one trick pony that only had one character trait - "crotchety old man"
Every character sounded to similar and equally angry to the point of not giving me a chance to get attached to any of them.
Given time I may give McClellan a second chance and buy the physical book but for now I'll pass.
This book has a great magic system, unique world, and a fresh time period not often seen in high fantasy. It also had an excellent cast of characters with as many flaws as virtues, and an intricate, woven plot. It's one of the best books I've had the pleasure of experiencing in years.
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