Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
The alchemy of gunpowder fused with the magic of sorcery. In a time of upheaval, resurgence and corrupted Royalty Privileged, one-man’s love for his lost wife and his country burns and fuels a new order where all can be treated equally.
Sometimes to build new you must burn the old.
Legends long hidden may rue the day when Old Gods return and Field Marshal Tamas’s coup against a failing, rotten and self-indulgent royalty balances on a knife edge. Tamas must rely on his friends and alienated son Taniel if his people and the Nine Nations are to survive.
Initially I was unsure concerning backdrop for the story, the French Revolution. This premise screams off the page and the mix of gunpowder, muskets and magic didn’t initially pique my appetite; thankfully I was wrong (it's surprising how often that happens). Gratefully, considering the Revolution theme we didn’t have to wade through pages of blood and beheadings, but the backdrop added well to the undertone for the narrative and the characters stories and motives are portrayed well because of it.
The story’s layers are evident from the opening page; McClellan builds out a vision of his world step by step, first slowly admittedly but soon picking up pace, and draws you into the lives of Tamas, Taniel and the Nine Nations. You begin to understand better and can appreciate the interactions in the world they inhabit.
McClellan’s magical world is divided into three main factions; the Privileged, the Powder Mages and the Knacked. This mix gives rise to some interesting encounters and abilities. The Privileged are sorcerers and have traditional normal sorcerer powers, Powder Mages fuel there abilities by ingesting gunpowder which increases there physical attributes greatly to superhuman limits and the Knacked can have any ability from physical or a magical talent, but are locked into that one talent only. Using this recipe McClellan really spiced it up between the three groups as part of their exchanges. Privileged have the power to can kill anyone, Powder Mages can kill Privileged and the Knacked are along for the ride.
The main character Tamas is initially comes across as a hard and chiselled personality but as you progress through the story you get that he is a committed man who is trying his best to do the right thing, which sometimes includes hard choices with hard outcomes. There is a realism and quality that I found appealing in Tamas.
There is a fairly meagre attempt at intrigue when Tamas survives an assassination attempt by someone in his trusted circle. The biggest problem for me was the character Adamat investigating this attempt didn’t actually give the reader any real detail, so there was no way to actually speculate whom the turncoat may be. Thankfully I didn't find it to be a major plot item so it can be somewhat excused. This can be considered the one weak link in an otherwise good plot and it did lead to a nice fight scene at the end of the story.
Ultimately some tried and trusted fantasy concepts make there way into the story; near immortal sorcerers who called down the original Gods.
Love, betrayal, swords, magic, muskets and Kresimir returned, there is trouble on the horizon for Tamas in book two. I will say this now, Tamas will die; he is going to sacrifice himself to the Kresimir to save the world or his son or both. I just can’t see another out outcome for him. Thankfully we are a while away from that, maybe I should say hopefully…
Fergus McCartan, 8.5/10: Recommended, you can almost smell the gunpowder and hear the guillotine falling.
I like my fantasy medieval. I always have, and I suspect I always will. It’s a hard habit to break, to be honest, and I much prefer my characters swinging swords, drawing bows, and charging an enemy line atop a horse. Put a car or a machine gun in your story, and you’re one step towards driving me away.
Which is why I’m so surprised that I liked ‘Promise of Blood’ so much.
Written by Brian McClellan, Promise of Blood introduces guns into my fantasy. To be fair, it’s a lot of musket and one-shot pistols, canon balls, and whatever else can be fired using copious amounts of gunpowder, but it’s still a technology I’m not normally fond of in my fantasy.
So to understand why I liked this book so much, I think we have to look a bit further.
The overall plot is fantastic, weaving together several characters’ viewpoints, skills, and faults, to create an utterly compelling and fascinating tapestry. Each character comes with their own misconceptions of the world, and strengths that help them drive past their faults and quirks. While the plot is at times helpfully contrived to reach a specific destination, this actually helps the story, creating a heightened tension for the reader as they wait for the expected to happen – more often than not, at entirely unexpected times.
While sensibly contained to one book, the story does allow for that anticipatory desire to keep reading, following the story into further and more interesting locations. The world surrounding our characters, and the history and mythology preceding them, all combine to create a whole that is utterly compelling.
The introduction and layout of the mythology/religion that drives this world is a tad familiar, but executed wonderfully. There is no confusion as to how the religion and its deities relate to the world and its people, as they just do, bypassing one of the tricky parts of including religion in your fantasy story.
Which makes the inclusion of the guns a non-issue – even more so considering the way that McClellan wove the introduction of guns and gunpowder into the world’s magic system. Some purists might wonder at the outset just why there are apparently three – and maybe more – types of magic. However, I’ve never been overly concerned about issues like that, given the inherent magic of … magic.
The use of gunpowder, the abilities the Powder Mage’s have, and the way that they conflict with other magic users, makes this story even more captivating. The overall concept of magic in Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage world is one that I cannot wait to return to, hopefully again and again. Add to that the overarching plot that has been set up, and my own tendency towards disliking monarchies, and Promise of Blood is a book I can easily recommend to anyone.
Joshua S Hill, 8/10
All reviews for: The Powder Mage Trilogy
Promise of Blood
The Powder Mage Trilogy #1
The alchemy of gunpowder fused with the magic of sorcery. In a time of upheaval, resurgence and corrupted Royalty Privileged, one-man’s love for his lost wife and his...
The Crimson Campaign
The Powder Mage Trilogy #2
When Gods walk the earth and war rages, Tamas suffers his greatest defeat at the hands of Kez. Beaten, but not broken Tamas must fight his way back to Adro and his son. Tan...
The Autumn Republic
The Powder Mage Trilogy #3
Field Marshal Tamas has finally returned to Adopest, only to find the capital in the hands of a foreign power. With his son Taniel presumed dead, Tamas must gather his bele...
Have you read Promise of Blood?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Promise of Blood reader reviews
8.3/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Red Queen's War
The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other. Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line t...
A Song of Ice and Fire
George RR Martin
Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robe...
The Inheritance Trilogy
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky - a palace above the...
Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies...
As shadows threaten to consume the kingdom of Southmarch, Barrick Eddon, heir to March throne, battles his way across the sinister Shadowlands. He must journey through this...
The Goblin Emperor
The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his fath...
War with the Mein
David Anthony Durham
Ruling from the island of Acacia, the emperor of the Known World has inherited an apparent peace and prosperity won by his ancestors generations ago. He's an intelligen...
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow...
A thousand years ago, the people of Achar drove the Forbidden from their lands. But now the northern tribes of the Ravensbund are fleeing south again, with nightmarish tale...
The Walkers of Legend
Two young men are thrown to opposite sides of a war where both will fight to prevent their homeland, the world’s last pocket of free people, from being consumed by a ...
Mark Charan Newton
The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations...
Brood of Bones
Cursed with endless drowsiness, Enchantress Hiresha sleeps more than she lives. Since she never has had a chance to raise a family, she sometimes feels like every woman is ...
King Rolen's Kin Series
Rowena Cory Daniells
Only seven minutes younger than Rolencia's heir, Byren has never hungered for the throne. He laughs when a seer predicts that he will kill his twin. But the royal heir ...
Scourge of the Betrayer
Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat vi...
The history of the Land may remember the slaughter at Moorview or the horror of Scree's fall, but there were other casualties of the secret war against Azaer - more tal...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
- Recommended high fantasy books/series
- Recommended books/series featuring royalty, monarchy and empire
Best of 2016
Hope and Red
In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two people find a common cause. Hope, the lone survivor of a village massacred by the emperor's forces, is secretly train...
The Pagan Night
Ruling with an iron hand, the Church has eliminated the ancient pagan ways. Yet demonic gheists terrorize the land, hunted by the Inquisition, while age-old hatreds rage betwe...
The Red Heir
Holden R Johnson
Long ago, when the Essence of magic gave Elemor its power, the world saw prosperity, ingenuity, and wonder. Peace can only last so long, however. The darkness always seems to ...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the was...
A Tale of Time City
Diana Wynne Jones
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside ti...
The Guns of Empire
As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brillian...
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth....
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasu...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...