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I really enjoyed the first book of the Powder Mage trilogy, and was, in many ways, even more impressed by the second. After the ending of the first book, I was a bit worried that this novel would represent the typical weak middle of a fantasy trilogy, especially a trilogy by a new writer, but McClellan does a great job of both upping the stakes and the action, as well as providing many twists without punching too many holes in the plot. In short, if you liked the first book, this one has more magic, more detective work, and more Napoleonic battles, and is generally better in every way.
Except... There were a few annoyances that crept into this novel. The first was purely stylistic. McClellan really likes cutting between his characters, leaving them at cliff-hanger moments to jump to the next POV. While this can sometimes build excitement and suspense, it starts to get a little tiring, as plots are interrupted at key moments, and sometimes only returned to after the action is complete. It isn't terrible, but it did bother me at particular points.
The second problem is a bit deeper. McClellan is not particularly good at writing about relationships. He tells us that people love each other, but it is usually completely unconvincing. For example, the ex-fiancee of one of the main characters is someone we are apparently supposed to care a lot about, but she remains a cypher, as does the relationships between most of the other couples in the novel. Some time is spent on her motivations, but it is hard to really get invested in it, given how little personality or back story she has.
At the root of this, the problem really seems to be that McClellan has trouble writing women, a not altogether unheard-of problem in fantasy. His main female characters are all rather odd and one-dimensional, ranging from mute women to venial generals to the strangely maternal and sketchily-written laundress. With one exception, there really is no overt issue here, it isn't like the author seems to have a problem with women or placing them in positions of authority or power, more that he doesn't feel comfortable using them as characters, which results in some oddness in the novel, especially in relationships. (The exception, by the way, is that in this novel McClellan uses rape, and the threat of rape, quite a bit in ways that seemed unnecessary and uncomfortable).
Don't let these criticisms turn you away from the series, which really is quite good, and better than most epic fantasy. The worldbuilding is terrific, the action is great, and the reading is superb. I am already downloading the next one as I write this review.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
This book was so much better than the first book... I didn't expect it to be like this.. when i red the first book, i have enjoyed it, but didn't really love it.. but this book made me a big fan of the series. Characters really develop in this book and secrets come to life.. I was really amazed of the the events and how things changed to the characters.
The ending of this book was really good... I can't wait to get the third book and know how things end.
Narration was really awesome... The narrator brought the characters to life and gave them for each a unique identity.
I highly recommend this book and this series .
6 of 7 people found this review helpful