War Cry by Brian McClellan

(8.0/10) War Cry is crackling with McClellan’s trademark craft and captivating prose

There is something tremendously enjoyable about short stories and novellas. They give you a chance to jump in, feet first, right into the deep end, of a world familiar or new, meet new people, and then jump right out again. For many, this is a problem – they would rather a 17-book series with 12 more to follow. There isn’t a problem with that, but it’s not necessarily all that common.

Brian McClellan, author of The Powder Mage Trilogy and the new Gods of Blood and Powder Trilogy, has long been writing novellas to better populate his powder-mage universe (there are at least 11, that I am currently aware of). I’ve read a few, but not all, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them.

Published in late-August, McClellan finally stepped outside his powder-mage universe with the novella War Cry. McClellan describes the book as a “fantasy world with WWII-type technology in which army rangers fight an endless war against shapeshifters and illusionists on the high plains” and says it (literally) came to him in a dream.

’ll admit, I never got a WWII-style from War Cry – it felt to me as if it had a near-future reality to it, but one where the technology hadn’t moved too far forward. The book ramps up slowly, in a way – which is to say, it’s fantasy hook is not immediately apparent, and we only get to see it in action once or twice before the book really gets going.

Unlike, say, a Brandon Sanderson novella – which is hyper-focused on building up three-dimensional characters in a short amount of time – McClellan uses his characters more as part of the world in which they live; they are not given a tremendous amount of time for introspection or character development, arriving fully-formed onto the page.

What captivates the reader, however, is the world in which they live and the challenges they must face and overcome. This is not a slight against the author, rather, I quite enjoyed having fully-formed characters at my fingertips from the get-go, and it heightened the intensity of the central storyline. I was even quite taken aback by the casual disregard for lives on display – both in the moment, and as explained by one of the minor protagonists towards the end of the book. It had that sense of Glen Cook realism – a kill your darlings’ mentality – without appearing as if the author had written it solely to show he could unfeelingly kill his characters. Walking that line is tricky, and not everyone does it well – not even Glen Cook, in my opinion. McClellan does well, even if I was disappointed amidst the story.

The combination of fantastical and magical with the technological was well done – not in your face, nor hidden to the point of inconsequence; rather, it was simply told as if this is the way things are, nothing more, nothing less. The interactions, the social hierarchy – almost non-existent on the battlefield, but always hovering on the side-lines – and the desperation as told through the eyes of Teado, a Changer, is at times mesmerising.

War Cry might herald a new universe for McClellan to play in – and I certainly hope that it does – but it might also be a one-off that we never hear from again. Regardless, War Cry is crackling with McClellan’s trademark craft and captivating prose, a high-watermark of short fantasy literature.

Review by

Our interview with Brian McClellan

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 [...]

Read interview

15+

War Cry reader reviews

8/10 from 1 reviews

Write a reader review

There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?

Your rating out of 10

More Brian McClellan reviews

Sins of Empire

by Brian McClellan

A world on the cusp of a new age… The young nation of Fatrasta is a turbulent place - a frontier destination for criminals, fortune-hunters, brave settlers, and sorc [...]


Published: 2017

Score: 70

Our rating: 7.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

15+

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 [...]


Published: 0000

Score: 83

Our rating: 8.3 | 0 positive reader reviews

15+

The Crimson Campaign

by Brian McClellan

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 [...]


Published: 0000

Score: 80

Our rating: 8.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

15+

The Autumn Republic

by Brian McClellan

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 [...]


Published: 2015

Score: 90

Our rating: 9.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

15+

Uncanny Collateral

by Brian McClellan

Alek Fitz is a reaper, a collection agent who works for the supernatural elements of the world, tracking down debtors and solving problems for clients as diverse as the Lor [...]


Published: 2019

Score: 70

Our rating: 7.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

15+

Books you may also enjoy

A Brightness Long Ago

by Guy Gavriel Kay

International bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay's latest work is set in a world evoking early Renaissance Italy and offers an extraordinary cast of characters whose li [...]


Published: 2019

Score: 101

Our rating: 10.0 | 3 positive reader reviews

15+

The Once and Future Witches

by Alix E Harrow

In the late 1800s, three sisters use witchcraft to change the course of history in Alix E. Harrow's powerful novel of magic and the suffragette movement. [...]


Published: 2020

Score: 98

Our rating: 10.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

15+

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

by Susanna Clarke

Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, a [...]


Published: 2004

Score: 112

Our rating: 9.7 | 15 positive reader reviews

15+

Under Heaven

by Guy Gavriel Kay

For two years Shen Tai has mourned his father, living like a hermit beyond the borders of the Kitan Empire, by a mountain lake where terrible battles have long been fought [...]


Published: 2010

Score: 98

Our rating: 9.7 | 1 positive reader reviews

15+