Name: Sins of Empire
Author: Brian McClellan
Number of Pages: 604 (Paperback)
Published: 9th March 2017 by Orbit
Genre: Epic Fantasy
An epic new fantasy series from Brian McClellan, set in the same world as his wildly popular Powder Mage trilogy.
The young nation of Fatrasta is a turbulent place – a frontier destination for criminals, fortune-hunters, brave settlers, and sorcerers seeking relics of the past. Only the iron will of the lady chancellor and her secret police holds the capital city of Landfall together against the unrest of a suppressed population and the machinations of powerful empires.
The insurrection that threatens Landfall must be purged with wile and force, a task which falls on the shoulders of a spy named Michel Bravis, convicted war hero Ben Styke, and Lady Vlora Flint, a mercenary general with a past as turbulent as Landfall’s present.
As loyalties are tested, revealed, and destroyed, a grim specter as old as time has been unearthed in this wild land, and the people of Landfall will soon discover that rebellion is the least of their worries. – from Goodreads
If you’re visited my blog recently you probably saw my review of The Autumn Republic, the final book in Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy. I loved those books, so there was absolutely no doubt that I would have to read Sins of Empire. It is, after all, set in the same world I came to love over the course of the Powder Mage trilogy.
But, it’s a totally different part of that world. There are some great maps at the start of the book (I love a good map or two), so it’s clear to see that the action this time has moved across a vast sea to the land of Fatrasta. Events are set around ten years later too. I mention this as a character from Powder Mage has one of the main narratives in this tale.
Vlora takes centre stage here, having maintained a military career and become head of the Riflejack Mercenary Company, alongside Colonel Olem. She is now Lady Vlora Flint, and after sorting out trouble in the Frontier land, Vlora finds her company called back to the city of Landfall to deal with the problem of Mama Palo, an unknown figure inspiring the local Palo population to rise in rebellion against the Lady Chancellor’s rule. Their mission will take them into Greenfire Depths in search of this enigmatic figure.
There are two other main characters and my only problem is deciding which one I like more.
Colonel Ben Styke, or Mad Ben Styke as legend calls him, or Convict 10642 (as soon as I saw that I thought of Jean Valjean from Les Miserables) is a war hero but also apparent war criminal who has been presumed dead for the last ten years. He has, in fact, been imprisoned in a labour camp, from which someone is determined he should not be released. Someone else has other ideas, and Styke finds himself out in the world again, with a young girl named Celine in his care after her own father died in the labour camp. (I can’t help but see Valjean and Cosette in this, although I doubt Cosette ever went thieving at the local market, but you never know).
Styke is fierce, and hard to kill, having faced a firing squad and survived. He’s not a man to cross, and his devotion to young Celine is great.
Hired by the enigmatic lawyer Tampo, Styke presents himself to General Flint to gain a place in the Riflejacks, although he doesn’t know why Tampo wants him there.
Styke has a score to settle with Fidelis Jes, the Grand Master of the Fatrastan police force, a formidable figure who has a standing invitation for morning duels with any willing opponent.
Then there’s Michel Bravis, a member of the Fatrastan secret police, the Blackhats. Bland and forgettable by design, Michel adapts to his surroundings, picking up information and using this to further his career within the government. Michel is a Silver Rose, a middle ranking position, but when an opportunity presents itself to attain his Gold Rose, and earn more money to help support his mother, he goes for the chance, despite fearing the task may prove near impossible. He is to track down the source of a pamphlet, Sins of Empire, which criticises the Lady Chancellor and her government of Fatrasta.
There are other schemes at work in Fatrastra, and other players and possible enemies who come to light along the way. Ancient artefacts with the power to cause madness, lethal fighters known as Dragonmen, and the Dynize, a powerful and mysterious nation who haven’t left their home nation for hundreds of years are rumoured to be around. There’s so much going on, and the story grabs you right from the prologue, during which a powerful artefact is unearthed.
Sins of Empire is engrossing from the very first page, and every bit as good as the Powder Mage books. Even without the presence of Field Marshall Tamas, who I loved, there are plenty of complex, fascinating characters, and the story gets going quickly, providing enough introduction to the magic and the world for new readers, without becoming repetitive for anyone who has read McClellan’s books before.
There are some great surprises along the way, and plenty of twists and revelations which I never saw coming. The battle scenes and confrontations between certain characters are as exciting as ever.
If you asked me to choose a favourite now between this story and the Powder Mage books I would find it tough. In fact, it’s something you’d have to give me time to think about, because I honestly couldn’t choose. One thing I do know, I’ll definitely be back for the next instalment in this great new series.