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Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage Trilogy, 1) Hardcover – April 16, 2013
Civil unrest cripples the citizens of Adro in the aftermath of the revolution that obliterated the monarchy. Now, Field Marshal Tamas and his lieutenants must confront the true cost of freedom in book one of the Powder Mage Trilogy.
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.
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. . .
Winner of the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Debut Fantasy.
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"This book is just plain awesome. I found myself enjoying every moment of it. Innovative magic, quick-paced plot, interesting world. I had a blast."―New York Times bestselling author, Brandon Sanderson
"Brian McClellan is an explosive powder keg of imagination with an expertly-plotted fuse. The stories he tells are the stories we'll be reading for years to come."―Sam Sykes on Promise of Blood
"The world of the privileged sorcerers and the strange abilities of the powder mages who can manipulate gunpowder are just as well drawn in this captivating universe."―RT Book Reviews (4 1/2 stars)
"McClellan's debut packs some serious heat...A thoroughly satisfying yarn that should keep readers waiting impatiently for further installments."―Kirkus (Starred Review)
"McClellan's debut is a lot of fun --- a historically influenced fantastical romp filled with machismo, intrigue and magic."―SciFi Now (UK)
"McClellan neatly mixes intrigue and action...in a society where new forces like labor unions, gunpowder-armed soldiers, and explosion-causing 'powder mages' clash with traditional magics, more, and beliefs."―Publishers Weekly
"Gunpowder and magic. An explosive combination. Promise of Blood is the best debut I've read in ages."―Peter V. Brett
"I love the world Brian McClellan builds, Powder Mages with flintlock pistols against white-gloved Privileged for the fate of a nation and more. Promise of Blood feels like the start of something amazing."―Django Wexler
"Brings a welcome breath of gunpowder-tinged air to epic fantasy."―Anthony Ryan
About the Author
- Publisher : Orbit; First Edition (April 16, 2013)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 560 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0316219037
- ISBN-13 : 978-0316219037
- Item Weight : 1.9 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 1.75 x 9.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,107,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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i think the biggest problem is that the book builds up story elements and then completely skips over them. the first few chapters build up tension regarding riots that are sure to break out in the aftermath of a violent coup. several times the characters talk about what they'll do when the riots break out. i was really hyped up about the riots because i expected some kind of major action setpiece ... and then the author skipped over the riots completely with one sentence. like, there's a space break in a chapter, and the narrative starts out with "a week later, the riots were over and the characters were doing something else." the author just skipped over a very important element of the plot for apparently no reason at all. this happens several times in the first quarter of the book.
there's a ton of dramatic introspection regarding taniel and his fiancé vlora, who was unfaithful to him. when vlora shows up in the novel, i expected to see a chapter from her point of view, or at least some kind of closure about their relationship, but i got nothing. vlora appears and is immediately shoved into the background, never to be mentioned again, and her infidelity is not discussed. it's just this weird hanging plot thread that didn't go anywhere. and then there's a huge civil war that doesn't happen. like, it's a major plot point, but we only get to see one brief glimpse of the action from the point of view of a side character before it's all over. about a third of the way into the book, the investigator adamat is sent to a distant fort to get information from a guy named borbador. when borbador hears what adamat thought was an inconsequential detail, he freaks out and cries, "you have to tell the general about this, it's extremely important!" so adamat returns to the general ... and doesn't tell him at all, he gives him some other random information that the reader never saw him acquire. this kind of thing happens over and over, almost every element of the plot is built up and nothing comes of it.
i really wanted to enjoy this because the magic and fantasy elements was really cool, the magic system was pretty interesting, and the history of the setting seemed well-though out. the character of tamas was a solid protagonist at first. but the plot just failed at almost every point, until i got frustrated with reading about things that didn't matter, and stopped caring about the character taniel. i finally gave up reading about halfway through.
I'll start with the good, which is most of the series. The story is well crafted, the plot makes sense, and each book is satisfying through to the end. That's not easy to do in a longer story, but these work.
Like most fantasy books, the stories branch off and switch back and forth. I'm not a big fan of the practice usually. Too often fantasy authors (Robert Jordan, for example) have too many stories running, and you're never sure whether the people in the side plots will reappear or exist only to communicate one piece of information. Other authors just tell two parallel stories that only intersect when the characters physically meet up again. McClellan's side stories are better than most. There aren't any characters that bored me, and the side stories actually end up mattering and contributing to the overall plot. For example, one character learns a crucial piece of information related to another character's current situation. The readers learn something at the right time, and it can add tension to the story while the other character doesn't know what we know.
There are some negatives worth pointing out, too. The writing style and quality had their off moments. One of the more common rules you'll hear as a writer is "show, don't tell." There's a lot of telling in these books. McClellan relied heavily on telling us what the characters were thinking rather than getting to know people by their words and actions. There are also moments where the bad (or at least missing) writing leads the reader to not care very much about things we're supposed to care about. I'm trying to avoid spoilers, so I apologize if the example is vague. The plot makes heavy use of Tamas's past regarding his wife, and that plays out in the affairs of neighboring nations. This hugely important part of the story is told in a few paragraphs, and never shown. We never have a flashback and never witness the past, people, and relationships. This makes it hard to care very much. Don't get me wrong: I cared about the characters and stories, but not the histories we're told and people we barely meet.
Top reviews from other countries
So here we go.
From start to finish this book is outstanding, I don't think I can find one thing I didn't like about this book. I was that good.
This was a completely new genre for me having never read flintlock fantasy and I can definitely say it won't be my last. I think the fact I had never read a book of this nature before only added to it's enjoyment because I found the magic system brilliant. It was new and well thought out and sometimes costly.
McClellan’s writing ability is flawless, he creates deep and meaningful connections and evokes a full range of emotions from the reader despite being beautifully crisp and simple. Pair that with the realism his characters possess and you have a winner.
McClellan also excels in his world building, I didn't once find myself overwhelmed with information, he gently weaves its setting (industrial revolution), culture and religion into the character interactions seamlessly. Laying what is a solid foundation for the other installments.
Promise of Blood is told from several POV’s; Tamas, Taniel and Adamat (and that is probably the order in which I rate them 🙈). There is Nila too but she isn't a huge feature. McClellan has crafted an incredible cast of characters for Promise of Blood, with even the smaller parts being memorable and entertaining. Tamas and Olem were fun to read throughout, I loved the contrast between the two of these and how well they gelled despite it.
”Tamas suppressed a smile. He could like this man. Too free with his tongue, perhaps.”
Tamas is all about rules and against his better judgment he likes Olem.
”Olem shrugged. “You’re a teetotaler, sir, and it’s well known among the men you won’t abide smoking either.” “Then why are you hiding it behind your back?” “Waiting for you to turn around so I can have a hit, sir.”
Then you get another enjoyable duo; Taniel and Ka Poel. The fact that Ka Poel is mute just adds to this, by seeing the way they communicate with gesture and body language is greatly entertaining.
The pacing of this book is somewhat up and down, and does have several stages we're it is slower and less exciting but I didn't feel like this to take anything away from the book. This is because the story is filled with action, investigating, political plays and more, all of which require different paces.
As for the series: I have read the complete trilogy and would rate the overall experience as I have the books, with five big stars.
A unique variation on the theme of traditional magic makes the mechanics of this world fascinating. The book provides a solid foundation to the world without branching into long chunks of dialogue or exposition to keep the reader up to speed. Making a setting feel real and "lived in" from scratch is a difficult thing but this book achieves it effortlessly.The amount of description of characters and locations is deep enough to allow the reader to form an image in their own mind without burdening them with excess text to pour through. Some books go to extreme lengths in their descriptions and can bore the reader, sometimes less is more and this book does it well.
The characters are believable and relatable, they pull you into their lives and I never felt like I was simply reading characters in a book. There are many sub-plots; a valiant yet bloody battle against a foreign aggressor, an ancient magical mystery, a man trying to create a new and fair government out of the ashes of a coup and all of the political intrigue that entails, an estranged son sorely trying to win the approval of a distant father, struggles with addiction, and an element of "who dun it," each riveting on their own while combining and intertwining to make a greater whole culminating in a suspenseful finale.
One review I read here complains that the middle of the book seems to lose steam but I disagree, never during my first read through did I feel like there was lost momentum. There were different pitches of intensity but nothing less gripping than the pure-action parts. I was engaged and left wanting for more the whole way through.
A thoroughly enjoyable read and I'll be moving straight on to the next in the series.
The magic system is unique and I’ve never read anything similar to this day. The action scenes were outstanding, but it didn’t overshadow the story.
The characters were relatable, you could understand the motives behind their actions and I felt so emotionally invested in them all.
A fantasy, but one that is a little different to the standard epic, there is a more down to earth feel to it, at least to start with. The story itself concerns the overthrow of the decadent and insular monarchy, reminiscent to the French Revolution, but there I also that feeling that it is merged with parts of the American old west, albeit one with a slightly lower level of technology – in this case muskets and flintlock pistols, rather than six shooters.
Of course there is a lot more going on than just the revolution, there is the aftermath and the growing realisation that just removing the nobility is not going to solve all problems in one fell swoop. There is going to be a period of instability, of power grabs, and of course there are other things going on at the same time, which start of just as urban rumours that seem to grow into life of their own accord.
McClellan introduced an interesting and varied magic system, from the Privileged, almost a traditional style magic user, using their hands to form and control their powers. They are the dominant form of magician, and are used by many as a power base to maintain order and power. They are joined by the knacked, individuals that have one talent that is beyond normal – a perfect memory or not needing to sleep. And then there are the newer former of magic users, the Powder Mages, individuals who are able to gather strength from gunpowder and use it to strengthen themselves and improve their abilities with guns. Seen as dirty and wrong kind of magic…
And it is one of these, the near legendary General Tamas who has caused the revolution. Initially it seems that he has done it out of altruism , but as the story it progresses we begin to see hints that there might be more to it than just that.
Just as in the way we see that Tamas’ true motives might be a little obscured we begin to learn that there is more going on than might be originally anticipated. Religion that seems to be little more than stories of another time begins to be looked at in more detail as new (perhaps old) powers begin to reveal themselves.
In the end it leads to a satisfactory story of political intrigued, entwined with more mystical happens. They are delivered in a well written and engaging manner, with characters that stand out. Some you just want to like, some you respect, some you hate and some you just want to punch in the nose, which is always a good sign.