Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
Take the French Revolution. Add the industrial revolution and a great heaping of magic. Bake at 545 pages for as long as it takes you to read the story and you’ll feel full, sated but desiring more.
The Promise of Blood begins with a coup. The military take power and the guillotine is employed to rid the country of the troublesome nobility, but all is not well in the state of Adro. A dying magician, called a Privileged, speaks of a promise and compact that only the magicians know… and now they are all dead. Except one. And we don’t meet him till much later on in the book.
Tamas, the military man behind the coup, has gathered a cohort of likeminded, powerful people about him to save the country and to take revenge upon his wife’s executioners. Taniel, Tamas’s son, is returned from war with a broken heart to deal now with the broken realm.
It would be easy, and make the review too long, to tell you – the poor reader of this humble page – about every character and motivation because there are so many of both. The clever aspect of Brian McClellan’s writing is that even with the minor, walk-on characters that they remain distinct from one another and their motivations are understandable.
There is conflict between the coup instigators, between the military men and women, between religion and state. Everyone is working towards their own goals and whilst it could simply have been a story of greedy folks doing selfish things, it isn’t. There is nobility of human spirit and endurance that comes through the writing and the characters.
And then there is the gunpowder… in a fantasy novel. Often used as the opposite, the negative of magic – its bane, its destroyer, as a hint of the modern world and the inevitable passing of magic – here gunpowder is manufactured on an industrial scale and can be used by everyone. But above them all are the powder mages; people with the skill and ability to ignite it, to suck the energy from it, to use it for their own purpose. Here, gunpowder does not destroy magic but enhance it and if for nothing else this book, and its writer, deserves high praise.
The writing style is clear and direct. There are motivations and drivers but we see them through action not introspection. The multiple viewpoints are all different enough to give us a variety of aspects on the world and the events that are shaping it.
I will, without a doubt, be reading the next in the series.