Book of the Year 2015 (see all)
In 2014 I read both of Brian McClellan’s ‘The Powder Mage Trilogy’ books – ‘Promise of Blood’ and ‘The Crimson Campaign’. I loved both of them, though by the end of the second book it had started to lag somewhat. Regardless, that momentary lapse had obviously not stuck with me, as I only just remembered it having checked on my review for it. Instead, I was eagerly awaiting the final book in the trilogy, which was published earlier this year – ‘The Autumn Republic’.
Gosh, even the name is awesome, just like the book itself!
The Autumn Republic takes up immediately following the conclusion of The Crimson Campaign, and does so without any of the “lazy writing” I had commented on therein. In fact, it’s almost go-go-go right to the end, as the many and weaving storylines that have run through the trilogy come to their conclusions.
And in none of them was I disappointed.
No more are characters conveniently separated by distance and accidents, replaced instead by repeated instances of running into one another, so that the story keeps its pace and heightened excitement all the way to the end. Tamas goes after his son, Taniel, who goes after everyone – including an explosive but short-lived battle against a god. Others return from the dead, as some meet their own ends. The election is won, but by no means is anything actually over by that point, and in the end some of the most impressive characters to burst onto the page in decades are able to slink away into the shadows, soon to be forgotten.
The Autumn Republic is exactly how you should conclude a series of books – no matter how lengthy. Most everything is tied up – neatly, maybe, but in some instances “neatly” isn’t always the same as “happily”. But even if the endings aren’t always happy, they are always legitimate endings – endings that are right and leave the reader content.
I actually cried towards the end of the book, real tears as everything finally came to a head. There were no last-minute characterisation changes that I had to explain, no convenient loopholes to ignore, and nothing that left a sour taste in my mouth. There are avenues for Brian McClellan to continue along if he chooses – and in at least two cases, I certainly hope he does – but there are also many closed doors that I don’t feel the need to hang onto a key for.
The characterisations from this series have been impeccable, and leave me with some of the most interesting characters I have read since Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Mistborn’ series. There’s no denying the hype that Brian McClellan receives, but thankfully, there’s no reason to either – it’s entirely deserved.
Make sure you check out the Powder Mage Trilogy, if you haven’t already, as it’s one of the top 10 books to come out this decade.
Joshua S Hill, 9/10
Endings are difficult for me as a reader as I am always hesitant at picking up the last in a series for the simple reason I don’t want the story to finish or my own preconceived ideas regarding the fate of a hero, villain and finale distorted. Pleasantly, The Autumn Republic succeeds in closing off this trilogy in a very satisfying way, even if not the way I had thought it would.
Initially, Tamas returns to Adopest in search of Taniel who is no longer there, but at the war front, requiring him to leave Adopest in the hands of Claremonte and the Brudania-Gurla Trading Company and travel to the battle with Kez. Skirmishes, wins, losses, secrets and death ensue, all told in the superb McClellan style, but what took me by surprise was the introduction of another more powerful God, Brude, brother of Kresimir and Milhali. I did think another God sibling would show up, but definitely not in the way they did. If I could say one thing about The Autumn Republic it would be this - leave your own theories and notions of what is going to happen at the cover and roll with it, because it'll be worth it.
Much like the other books in the trilogy, we are given a story across many characters’ points of view. We have the usual Tamas, Taniel, Adamat POV's and with The Autumn Republic we have the addition of Nila and Borbador. Thankfully, we get a lot of crossover between the individual stories, something I did miss in the other two books, culminating in the final push and take back of Adopest against the Brudania-Gurla Trading Company. The shape and flow of the characters stories and how they are connected and separate has been masterfully woven and unlike others I have read, really excels.
This upgraded P.O.V for Nila and Borbador which includes Adamat, takes up much of the beginning of the book as they search for Taniel, work to discover the Adro military traitor, as well as going into battle against Kez. This amount of attention only leads me to the idea that Nila will have a large part to play in the next trilogy. There are already hints concerning her future state, with an open question surrounding the mystery of why she is able to use magic without gloves, something that is not discussed in any great detail and so we are still left speculating. Being honest, I did not see how the Nila character would play out, I had just assumed she was going to be [Star Trek reference] that crewman on the Star Trek away team who always gets killed off. However, in The Autumn Republic she really begins to shine and come into her own and I look forward to seeing her in the future books, which I am happy to say, will be coming, just not soon enough.
There is a comforting but still creative feeling of what came before as The Autumn Republic cycles back to the core nature of characters. Adamant is on the hunt once more, solving problem and doing his best to stay alive. Tamas, strong, determined and focused, begins to realise that some thing's end and some sacrifices are worth making. There is not a single fault with this character for me, there is the feel of a real personality behind the words, which has grown over the successive books, culminating in this last struggle for freedom. As expected Taniel and Ka-poel struggle, fight to live and cling to the love Taniel is finally able to admit. Personally, I would have liked a little more Ka-poel 'magic' action as her participation felt a little light for my taste. I just hope these two make it back into the next trilogy, maybe with a wee babe in toe to add to the mayhem. Taniel and Tamas finally begin to say the things that have been unsaid for so long, no longer Superior and solider, but father to son.
First and foremost, this is not a conclusion and don’t get me wrong, this is not a downbeat statement. It would be better to say this is an end to one story and a beginning to the next. Certain elements and characters have been lined up in much a way that they are poised to shine in the next series. Question marks still hang over a few of my favourite characters, such as Taniel and his enhanced abilities, Vlora and her duty (you'll see) and maybe Adamat's son (that ones a little iffy), but I can see that McClellan is building a complex and diverse universe which does not centre around only one or two characters, but many.
The Autumn Republic is everything you want, and didn’t want for this story. The writing quality, flow and depth of commitment Brian McClellan has put into this final book in the trilogy is no less than the previous two instalments. I cannot see how you will be disappointed.
Fergus McCartan, 9/10
Bee wrangler, homemade jam enthusiast and author of the widely successful flintlock fantasy series, The Powder Mage Trilogy; Brian McClellan has kindly taken the time to speak with Fantasy Book Review for the sites How Storie [...]
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