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Brian McClellan's "
The Powder Mage Trilogy: Promise of Blood, The Crimson Campaign, The Autumn Republic
" is a compilation of the three novels (individually published in 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively) in his "Powder Mage" trilogy (obviously). On the whole, the series is really good with a well-reasoned world, great writing, excellent characterizations, and a nice plot. Of the three novels, the first is probably the best at 4-1/2 stars, the second bringing up the rear at 3 stars, and the fourth recovering to finish with a solid 4 stars. Arithmetically, that averages out to 3-7/8 stars. But, with rounding, and by gut feel as well, I'm happy to rate the series at a full Very Good 4 stars out of 5. I've included my reviews for the individual books, below:
1) "Promise of Blood:" Brian McClellan's 2013 novel "
Promise of Blood (Powder Mage series Book 1)
" is a very well done book (great writing, characters, and plot). It's extremely well-developed and bodes well for the remainder of the series. The only reasons I don't give it a full 5 stars are that 1) the bad stuff that happens is pretty un-relieved (a bit of lightness here and there would be nice) and 2) the magic could use a bit more system behind it -- because it just seems like magic (I know, that sounds silly), we don't get a good idea of the capabilities of the 4 or 5 magic groups that show up. So, I'd like to drop my rating a half star, but can't. With a bit of sorrow, I'll leave it with an official Very Good 4 stars out of 5.
2) "The Crimson Campaign:" I really enjoyed the first book in Brian McClellan's "Powder Mage" series ("Promise of Blood (Powder Mage series Book 1)"). But, this 2014 sequel, "
The Crimson Campaign (Powder Mage series Book 2)
" just isn't as good. The story and writing are good, but the tone, pacing, and characters need work. By tone, I mean the book is just depressing. Essentially, in any given situation throughout the book, just imagine the worst possible outcome, and that's what McClellan wrote. By pacing, I mean that there's no let up in that misery. From the start of the book, each of the main characters goes from frying pan to fire incessantly. There's nothing to break that up and give us a break. And finally, almost every character in the book constantly behaves badly. I don't mean they necessarily do the wrong things. It's just that they do whatever they're doing in the least effective way possible. Usually, they're so rude that whoever they're interacting with is bound to reply in kind. Yes. Most of the book involves battle. So, people aren't going to be on their best behavior. But, again, this is a constant theme. Heck, of the two characters I can think of who don't do this, one of them is an ENEMY combatant and not someone who should be any ally. So, even though the story is interesting, I'm dropping my rating for this book down to a mere OK 3 stars out of 5. Hopefully, the last book in the trilogy will be better.
3) "The Autumn Republic:" Thankfully, Brian McClellan's 2015 novel "
The Autumn Republic (Powder Mage series Book 3)
" ameliorates most of the three big complaints I had with the previous book in the series (depressing, pace, behavior). Yes, this book still has a lot of depressing things happening. But, there's give and take, ups and downs, to ease the impact and give us chance to recover. Also, most of the characters behave reasonably, most of the time. So, I'm happy with that. The one thing left that bothers me (and this is throughout the series) is that the top bad guy just has too much information. Much of that is explained by the end. But, I still feel that explanation doesn't fully hold water. Regardless, the world, writing, characters, and plot are all very good. So, I'm rating the book at a Very Good 4 stars out of 5.
It's not often that each book of a series is better than the last but as you get to know the characters and as the story line builds to the final peak you realize this was a great, almost epic tale. Good against evil, political machinations, betrayals, love and hate, passions of anger and sorcery and friendship. And it ends with plenty of room for continuing the saga. Highly recommend!
This series is a fun read. I really liked the main characters and double magic system with the Powder Mages and the Magic Cartels. With that being said the logic used by professional soldiers was flawed in many cases. On top of that you have nearly flawless execution of enemy tactics and behavior especially in the third book. The antagonists are always one step ahead which is frustrating when the reader knows what is going on. I did enjoy reading these books.
I loved this story. The characters and world building were top shelf. I think it stumbled a bit with the third book but not enough for me to feel disappointment. I truly hope the promised TV series is made and stays faithful.