Promise of Blood : The Powder Mage Trilogy

  • by Brian McClellan
  • Narrated by Christian Rodska
  • Series: The Powder Mage Trilogy
  • 19 hrs and 1 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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A Promise of Awesome!

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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.

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- Amazon Customer

Excellent epic fantasy with Napoleonic influences

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!
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- Ethan M.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-16-2013
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio