Name: Promise of Blood
Author: Brian McClellan
Number of Pages: 545 (Paperback)
Published: 7th January 2014 by Orbit
Genre: Epic Fantasy
The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.
It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king…
Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.
Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.
But when gods are involved…
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should…
In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? PROMISE OF BLOOD is the start of a new epic fantasy series from Brian McClellan. – from Goodreads
This was the first book I chose to read in 2016 and what a great start to my reading year. Anyone who kept up with my Bout of Books Readathon post will know that I was probably only 100 or so pages into this book when I decided I had to my hands on the next one – I couldn’t imagine leaving this tale with two more volumes to read.
Promise of Blood is the first book of the Powder Mage trilogy and opens with retired police inspector Adamat being called to Skyline Palace in the wake of a coup staged by the formidable Field Marshal Tamas. In the dying moments of the Royal Cabal their message is clear, ‘you cannot break Kresimir’s Promise.’ Troubled, Tamas has no idea what this means and sets Adamat to find out.
As the plot thickens treachery at home and abroad abounds and Tamas is no longer sure he can trust the members of his own council, which leads Adamat into another investigation.
There is also the threat from neighbouring Kez, with whom it looks likely there will be war. As if all this wasn’t enough there’s the possibility that a reincarnated god is amongst Tamas’s ranks and that a very determined foe will seek to summon another god.
The setting and atmosphere of the story are really good – it‘s like a historical Revolution with magic.
Privileged are sorcerers who can control the elements by touching the Else. They wear runed gloves to help draw on their powers.
Powder Mages control bullets and can ignite gunpowder from afar. They gain strength from ingesting the powder itself, which gives them heightened awareness and strength, known as a Powder Trance.
Knacked have more general talents, such as never needing to sleep or perfect memory, and are limited to that one particular power.
The story is high-action right from the outset; we’re thrown into the narrative just as Tamas’s coup is coming to it’s end, and the mixture of revolution and magic is brilliantly entertaining. The pace never really lets up from the opening pages as conflicts and battles are waged on various fronts.
The battles, between individual characters or entire armies are brilliantly epic, particularly when they’re between Privileged. When the Privileged go against each other whole buildings are razed to the ground.
There are three main viewpoints.
Field Marshal Tamas is an experienced leader who is strong and determined enough to lead the coup.
Taniel is his estranged son. He returns home after making a name for himself fighting in Fatrasta, and is tasked with hunting a powerful Privileged who managed to escape during the coup. Taniel has his own issues, including a growing addiction to gunpowder and a former fiancée who is also a powder mage. With him comes Ka-Poel, the mute savage girl who stays by Taniel’s side and wields some interesting powers and skills of her own.
Adamat is the retired inspector tasked with seeking out the traitor amongst Tamas’s council. He is a family man, trying to do his best to keep his family safe in the midst of a dangerous situation.
There are some great female characters in Promise of Blood. Rozalia is the fierce Privileged who Taniel pursues, and there are some great scenes as she evades him in the early stages of the story. Julene is a mercenary Privileged who goes along on the hunt with Taniel, and it becomes clear she has something personal against Rozalia. Paths cross in epics scenes between these two. That’s all I’ll say because I’m giving nothing away, the book is too good to ruin for you.
I really liked Ka-Poel too. I liked her companionship with Taniel, the way she stood by him during battles, going right into danger alongside him. She’s a mysterious character at first, overlooked as a young savage girl, but as the story develops it’s clear there is more to her, and I can’t wait to see how the story progresses.
Promise of Blood offers up a whole cast of heroes and villains, and those somewhere between the two. The book is so good, I hope I’ve said enough to make you want to read it without giving too much away. As for me, I’m off to read The Crimson Campaign…