Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage #1) by Brian McClellan
Rating: 5 stars
Rating: 5 stars
The story is set in a French Revolution-era world, with tyrannical kings, starving people, muskets and guillotines. The tagline on the front of the novel is "The Age of Kings is dead and I have killed it", already setting it apart from thousands of other fantasy novels. We are first introduced to Field Marshal Tamas, who is cleaning up after his successful coup over the corrupt nobility of Adro, and the Inspector he tasks with finding the traitor among his allies. Tamas is a brilliant tactician and war hero, loved by the people of his country even more when he overthrows the king. He is a brilliantly written character, incredibly strong yet driven by a bitter purpose. However, the character I truly fell in love with was his son, Taniel Two-Shot. I'd been a bit on the fence and wary about this book until the moment we were taken into Taniel's POV. His character really resonated with me - he's also a war hero, and had come home from years in a war-zone to find his fiancee in bed with another man. He's bitter towards his estranged father, Tamas, yet a brilliant soldier and compassionate character.
Within a few chapters, the storyline takes off in a million different directions and doesn't let up until the end. The climax seemed to start about halfway through the novel and kept going, making it incredibly hard to put down. I recommend starting this when you have a lot of free time ahead of you, because you're not going to want to stop once you start.
McClellan's writing blew me away - the detail, the way he could get inside a character's head, all of it was incredible. Every scene was beautifully described without becoming bogged down in useless words, which I absolutely can't stand. I could imagine each scene clearly and for such a huge cast, I rarely forgot who someone was. The storyline was very intricate and my summary of it doesn't do it justice, yet I never became lost or bored. The in-depth history of the world and the magic system was astounding. It was doubtlessly some of the best I've ever read. There were three main magic systems (Knacked, Marked/powder mages and the Privileged) but I felt the powder mages were where McClellan's creativity really took off. It reminded me slightly of Sanderson's Mistborn magic system, but only in the way that you ingest a substance then 'burn' it. The strict rules surrounding the magic system also made for some creative and enthralling scenes.
This book contained everything I look for in a fantasy book: it was dark and gritty, filled with intrigue and fast-paced action, with even a little romance thrown in! While the storyline was amazing, the characters truly brought this home for me.