Promise of Blood: The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan; A Book Review

Promise of Blood

Promise of Blood: The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan; A Book Review

One of the reasons I picked up this book was because Brandon Sanderson recommended it—the author is a former student of his at BYU.  I’m always on the lookout for new, exciting fantasy series so was very happy to hear of this one, and hope others are as excited as I am!  Promise of Blood is the debut fantasy novel of Brian McClellan, part of what is to be a series, and a great beginning which I’m sure will kickstart a successful trilogy and career.

The Good:

Mr. McClellan’s magic system is fairly unique and well explained.   It did take a bit longer than I would have liked to figure out what everything was, but I thought it was shown well to the reader.  (I will explain a little bit of the different types of magic here, so if you’d rather read about it then skip to the next paragraph.)  There are several different types of magic:  there are sorcerer’s called Privileged who can perform what we would typically consider magic with explosions and shields and whatnot, there are Knacked who have the knack for different skills whether it is tracking someone, remembering every detail, or going without sleep, and then there are Powder Mages.  Powder Mages are the main concern of this book as most viewpoints are from Powder Mages.  A Powder Mage is someone who can control gunpowder—they can spark it remotely, fire a gun and propel the bullet farther than normal or around corners by continuing to burn powder, and even throw bullets in the air and ignite them to sent them where they want them to go.  Powder Mages also can sniff or taste gunpowder in order to enhance their senses by entering a powder trance.  The downside is they can become dependent on it and even go powder blind—there is an interesting story arc here that is ongoing into the second novel which I am eager to see how it turns out.

Adro is ruled by a king, until the military and other powerful people in the country stage a coup in favor of giving more power to the people.  Their inspiration is honorable, but there are challenges with a coup and giving power to the people which I hope will be explored more in the future—some of it is mentioned but with the other story arcs may be lost in the details.  Even so, the power struggle as the new rulers try to restore order and prevent another country from taking them over is interesting and well done.

I really like some characters….while disliking others.  I love Taniel Two-Shot, Adramat, Ka-poel and Olem, but don’t quite like Tamas or Nila.  I enjoyed learning about the group that “rules” Adro after the king is deposed.  They are all unique and most are somewhat duplicitous—the search for who was the traitor was great, and we still don’t really know if they caught the traitor.  The contrast between characters is part of great writing and Mr. McClellan did a find job of it in this first novel.

The Bad:

The first one hundred pages or so I wasn’t really sure what was happening and how the different magics worked.  Eventually everything transitioned really smoothly and I understood everything going on, but the very beginning I thought could have been written to be a bit easier to understand, perhaps by giving a little more background into what was going on instead of throwing us into the middle of a military coup.

The next book doesn’t come out until February.  But it does come out in February!  Here’s to hoping Mr. McClellan writes at least half as fast as Brandon Sanderson and about five times faster than George RR Martin.

The Verdict:

Read it!

Promise of Blood is a great debut fantasy novel.  I definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys Brandon Sanderson’s novels, Brent Weeks’ novels, etc.   I really liked it for its combination of guns and magic—kind of like Sanderson’s Alloy of Law.  And I am really looking forward to the second book and other future work by Brian McClellan.
Written by Heidi V

Heidi is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She is an avid reader, a diehard Badger fan, and knows from experience that a good hike can solve almost any ailment. Follow Heidi @heidi_5 and DNFB @not4birds.