The Age of Kings is dead. And I have killed it.
Field Marshal Tamas' coup against his king sends corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brings bread to the starving. But it also provokes war in the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics and greedy scrambling for money and power by Tamas' supposed allies: the Church, workers' unions, and mercenary forces. Stretched to his limit, Tamas relies heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be Tamas' estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty will be tested to its limit.
Now, amid the chaos, a whispered rumour is spreading. A rumour about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods returning to walk the Earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing.… But perhaps they should.
©2013 Brian McClellan (P)2013 Hachette Digital
I've tended to avoid epic fantasy lately - typically, the investment of time and dreariness of the storylines can be daunting. But the unique set up, interesting world building, grounded and realistic characters, and intricate plot line had me completely hooked with Promise of Blood. The story is exceedingly well written and had me enthralled from the first scene.
Story: Adamat is a veteran police detective who finds himself on the doorstep of a coup - an overthrow of the monarchy. Field Marshall Tamas has led a revolution with his powerful powder mages but now must stabilize the situation in the City - especially with neighboring countries circling like vultures. His son, Taniel, resents his powerful but distant father but finds himself embroiled in the coup. And Nila, the laundress, will use all her wiles to protect a little boy, her noble employer's son, from execution. Together, they will find that Tamas' coup will have set far more into motion than either could ever have realized.
First off, this really is epic fantasy. I love that the feeling of a revolutionary era France was taken and woven into an intricate story featuring magic and Gods, guns and carriages. It could have really gone wrong but instead was a perfect complement of technology (guns), magic systems (from powder mages to "knacked"), and very intricate politics. The story starts very small, converges for a short time, and then explodes across the country as we follow the four main characters in their individual quests.
The characters were extremely well done. The interactions between Taniel and Poel, Adamat and SouSmith, Tamas and his generals/bodyguards were grounded, realistic, and fascinating. As well, the incredibly intricate plot that slowly builds and expands - starting with a coup but ending up being so much more, kept me intrigued. This isn't a simple story on any level - not the world building, characters, politics, diverse magic system, or plot. I am greatly looking forward to the next book in the series.
I listened to the audible version and the narrator did an excellent job with all the different characters.
The pacing of the story, and the way magic worked. The pacing was fast without racing ahead, and made for a tense yet enjoyable read. I kept on wanting to know what would happen next, and it was hard to put down.
I liked how all the different story lines were equally interesting, in their own ways. There wasn't ever a "Oh god, just get to the next chapter..." moment.
Not gonna post spoilers in this.
The book made me excited, and some of the characters infuriated me (it was intended to be that way), but no overt emotional reaction.
an absolute stellar read. Christian Rodska does a good job keeping it interesting and at an understandable pace. Brian McClellan has done a wonderful job on his first novel. A great debut!
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Brian McClellan's Promise of Blood (2013), the first book in his heroic fantasy Powder Mage trilogy, begins with the summoning of middle-aged private eye Adamat to the royal palace in the city of Adopest (capitol of Adro). Middle-aged Field Marshal Tamas and his fellow "powder mages" have just staged a coup, assassinating the entire royal cabal of sorcerers so as to be able to execute the king and queen and most of the nobility, ostensibly because the king was about to sign an autonomy-ceding treaty with the Kez nation, and Tamas wants to hire Adamat to learn the meaning of a cryptic phrase uttered by the dying sorcerers: "Don't break Kresimir's promise." (According to the church, Kresimir is the god who summoned his nine sibling "saints" to found the Nine nations before departing to explore the universe.) Thus begins a page-turning, bloody, and at times fresh dark epic fantasy in the vein of Steven Erikson (but with less wit and imagination).
Tamas is trying to solidify his hold on power in Adro in the face of royalist resistance, Kez spies, and a traitor on his council. His son Taniel, bodyguarded by a mute "savage" girl of indeterminate age and mysterious magical powers, is trying to deal with the infidelity of his fiancee Vlora and with Tamas' seemingly cold use of him as an elite powder mage sniper. Adamat is trying to keep his family safe while working for Tamas and dealing with thuggish creditors and malevolent lords. And there is Nila, laundress for a duke's family when the coup hits and leaves her in charge of the five-year-old ducal/royal heir. McClellan rotates among these point of view characters through layers of perfidy, revelations about magic and gods, and lots of violence, from assassinations and boxing matches to sorcerous duels and desperate sieges involving fireballs and lightening bolts, guns and artillery, bayonets and swords, and razors and corkscrews.
Cool things in the book. Tamas' council members, a union leader, church arch-diocel, crime lord (represented by his eunuch spy-assassin), mercenary company owner (a woman), university vice-chancellor, and city reeve, are a varied bunch with varied agendas. Adamat's quest to discover the traitor among them introduces into the fantasy a hardboiled detective element (Adamat's "associate" is a hulking boxer). The charismatic and cheerful Lord of the Golden Chefs, Mihali, claims to be the incarnation of the god Adom (patron saint of Adro), but also says he escaped from an insane asylum by hiding himself in a huge cake. Whatever he is, he can make soul-healing gourmet fare out of thin air and a divine squash soup.
The fantasy world has three main kinds of magic: Privileged (sorcerers who reach into the Else to pull into the world and manipulate magic power of the five elements), Marked (mages who manipulate gunpowder so as to hit targets over a mile distant, push bullets around corners, and snort powder to heighten vitality and perception), and Knacked (low level types who have one gift, like eidetic memory or lie detection). Privilegeds and Markeds hate each other because they threaten each other's magical and political power. Witches, shamans, and super power immortals do other kinds of magic on the fringes of the Nine nations.
Unfortunately, much of the novel is disappointing. Characters regularly bare, clench, grind, or grit their teeth, a lazy way to express frustration that renders them too alike. Perhaps McClellan is striving too hard for gritty fantasy? (He also has Tamas' bodyguard Olem smoke cigarettes, tobacco being a new trend in Adro). Although some descriptions are fine ("The chalky, colored residue of sorcery covered the entire mountain like splatters of whitewash on the ground beneath a freshly painted fence") some are trite ("The man from the cloud was more beautiful than anyone Taniel had ever seen. His skin was perfect, his golden hair long and lustrous"). And cliches are common ("My son lies at death's door").
Certain words are puzzling. For some reason, a "geas" is a "gaes." Proper names are inconsistent, being exotic (Ka-poel, Sabon), familiar on a slant (Taniel/Daniel, Charlemund/Charlemagne), or European/Scandinavian (Henri, Jakob). Why call Adamat's boxer bodyguard SouSmith? And characters say "shit" and "damn" but nary an f-word. Instead, they say "pit" ("Shut the pit up!"). "Pit" also (usually) replaces "hell" ("Bloody pit!"). Why the pit is pit a bad word? The overuse of "pit" costs McClellan hardboiled cred, and the absence of the f-word and sex scenes makes the novel feel young adult, even though two of the three male point of view characters are around sixty.
The worst thing is that characters too often behave unbelievably or repugnantly. After catching Vlora in bed with a fop, Taniel nails her engagement ring to the guy's shoulder with a sword. When Taniel is preparing to assassinate his best friend from childhood, rather than reflect on their relationship he thinks about Vlora and himself. When he finally does recall his history with his friend, his only memory is when as boys they spied on the bathing Queen. Tamas ruins the career of a young mercenary officer (who's grown up in that mercenary army and feels total loyalty to his brothers in it) to get him into his own army. Although Tamas draws a line at executing noble children, he's caused so many other deaths that it nearly seems a moot point. Father and son often act like hot-tempered bullies.
The audiobook reader, Christian Rodska, is fine. His British accents are sensible (non RP dialects for rough characters), and his gravelly Tamas and arrogant arch-diocel are great, but his Chinesey accent for mountain monks, Russian accent for Lady Winceslav, and German accent for Androus, are odd for people of the same nation.
Although fans of hardboiled dark epic fantasy with elaborate magical systems would probably enjoy Promise of Blood, I can't bring myself to go on to the next book knowing there is a third waiting after that.
"Fast paced and full of action - a great debut"
A great debut from Brandon Sanderson’s pupil, but it still has some areas for improvement.
Story – 4/5
As far as debuts go, this is excellent. The entire story is told smoothly, and there is never any confusion as to what is happening. Considering the story is action packed and full of plot and intrigue, this is quite an achievement.
As Brandon Sanderson’s pupil, it is easy to see some minor influences, especially around the magic system. It is still excellent and unique, but you can tell that BM followed the same set of rules.
The story appears to have been influenced by the French Revolution (late 18th/early 19th centuries), with single shot, gunpowder weaponry, a coup to overthrow the monarchy due to corruption and poverty, and public guillotine executions. It is a shame that this was only really prominent in the opening sequence though.
The largest area for improvement In BM’s writing is in the characterisation. Although the well told epic action more than made up for this element; death, sadness and fear just didn’t have the same devastating impact as it could have.
Performance – 4/5
Christian Rodska is an excellent narrator. His ability to convey the mood of the scenes and voice acting are flawless. Each character had a distinctly recognisable voice, and the female voice acting wasn’t overdone at all.
There were occasions in the production where the chapters and paragraphs didn’t run smoothly into each other. It was only occasionally, and didn’t detract too much, but towards the end when the scenes were switching back and forth, it meant I needed to concentrate a little more.
Overall – 4/5
"A great mix of fantasy with gunpowder"
I read a number of Brian McClellan's short stories before I committed to his main work. I really enjoyed them and had good expectations for this book. I was not let down.
The book is a mix of Napoleonic era war with fantasy magic. The mix worked fairly well, but there was always that nagging feeling if some of these magic users were that powerful, why hadn't they dominated.
The story itself has a little bit of historical warfare, investigation and betrayal, and epic magic battles. There are three main point of view characters, and while these are interesting characters - some of the better ones were the supporting ones (reading the shorts expands on these a little).
One of the short stories focused on Vlora, and I was expecting a lot more of her in this book - she hardly appeared. I felt that this part of the story was weak, and hopefully it will be expanded in the next book.
Sometime I felt a little lost as the book would sometimes jump a little to get to the next portion of the story. Nothing major, just took a couple of chapters for me to work this out.
I listened to the Audiobook. The production was excellent, as I would expect from new releases now. I did feel that some of the characters seemed a little out of place - but that could just be me.
"A slow burning fuse that explodes to life"
I was apprehensive about a fantasy with magic and gunpowder.
But was pleasantly surprised by this book.
The book has comedy, battles, relationship troubles, and even a dollop of detective work going on. A mixture of all of these is what I like about this book.
Isn't this the same question as above
I'd say the magic system is very well thought out and it's nice to see that more authors are trying to explain how the magic works in a more scientific way.
I feel he does a great job with the characters voices.
And it would have taken me longer to read it myself as I listen on the way to work.
I do admit I have read some of the novella and now hear mr rodska's voices for the characters.
No I'm not one to cry at books
But laugh? Oh yes
Don't get me wrong this isn't a comedy like something by Pratchett.
But the humour is there in a more realistic tone
This book get compared to sanderson's mistborn trilogy
Well it's not as polished not is it as intricately written,
bit that's not to say it isn't a great read.
The characters are strong and most are the type you care enough if they die.
Even though some seem to have a substance abuse problem (ie the gun powder)
I think the series will only get stronger and recommend that you give it a fair crack.
"Slow start - engaging toward the end"
Struggled with the characters at first - seemed like a lot with very similar names. However, as the book went on I engaged with the characters more and the development of the "magical" powers meant that everything started to make more sense.
Humourous at points with some great lead characters. Mixed with a good dash of action, magic and gore, a book that has drawn me in to listening to the rest of the trilogy
Narration is good with consistent accents but the narrator has too much of mature voice for some of the younger characters in the book. That being said, the mix of accents and "classes" was very good and I would be happy to listen Christian Rodska again
"Great story, stellar narration!"
The author has a fine skill in painting different characters, from the war-like Powder Mages, the devious Privileged, the cerebral Investigator, to the timid Laundress. As the story continues, you see new sides of each of these, all played out in an outstanding adventure tale. The use of magic is secondary to the story line, this is mostly character and action-driven. I really enjoyed the adventures, the plot turns, and I look forward with great anticipation to reading the next in the series.
The narration in this book is amazing. All the different voices, both men and women, are voiced in their own distinct tones and accents. Especially fine are the timid laundress Nyla, and the general's down-to-earth bodyguard Ollem. The quality of narration takes this book from a great tale to an outstanding one!
The rich characters, such as Adamat and Tomas.
It's almost a french revolutionary fantasy. I liked the sub plots with the investigator Adamat, working in the background and there always seemed to be some threat around the next corner.
He reads this well and puts colour into the characters, especially Tomas.
A different kind of fantasy, better than i expected, will read the next one.
"Promise of blood"
Starts off a little confusing, the setting is obviously well thought out but it took a while to have everything explained (where Adro is, what is the nine, who are the cabals etc.) as if the listener should already know about the world and characters, but after a couple of chapters all these questions are answered. The characters are well written and the story was absolutely gripping and builds up to a massive finish. Can't wait to start the next book.
"Napoleon+Abercrombie+Gemmell = Promise of Blood"
Plenty of action. It dives straight into the action and introduces two main characters within the first few chapters. Like Abercrombie it deals with political and trade events as well as magical and military. Unlike Abercrombie it as a few sympathetic characters that the reader roots for. Like David Gemmell the participants have their flaws and weaknesses but they struggle to overcome their hamartia for the greater good.
Adamat the dogged ex policeman. Skillful, dogged and principled. With the loyal sidekick pugilist SouSmith by his side he seeks to uncover a series of mysteries whilst protecting his family from the uncertainties of blackmailers and life after a revolution.
A great reading. This series as a huge sprawling cast and Rodska (as ever)imbues each one with an easily recognisable voice. Awesome narration.
At 20 hours you'd need insomnia or a lot of coffee!
The first book of the Powder Mages whilst not being a game changing fantasy gives the reader/listener more than enough hooks to keep the reader interested. I bought the whole trilogy to see how things pan out for Tamis, Taniel and Adamat.
"Disappointing story. Good narrator"
a better story and better writing.
The writing is poor, characters dull and uninteresting. People are heard to grind their teeth on several occasions- seriously?
As the plot developed I was left thinking that almost anything could happen to help the good guys out of trouble- and it often did.
I'm glad many people have liked it - judging some other reviews here but I honestly cannot understand why some are so positive.
Great variety and characterisation in his voices
I think it beyond repair.
Strange mix of detective story, swords and sorcery(ish) and political intrigue- but unfortunately not well handled.
"Magic and Mayhem meets Napolionic warfare"
in the top 30
Its like sharp crossed with magic and mayhem, I cant really compare it as it is it's own niche. In a great way.
no not listened to other ones
Yes its a completely different spin on things
Imagine a typical fantasy realm with magic and inter kingdom warfare, progress to the 18th century teck so there are gun powder weapons. then let all hell brake loose with a coup with the modern taking on the old school magic and sit back and enjoy the show. definitely worth a listen s its a new spin on an old genre and by George it works.
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