Book Review: Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan

Name: Sins of Empire
Brian McClellan
Number of Pages:
604 (Paperback)
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

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

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.

Top Ten Tuesday: I Will Instantly Read That Book If…

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week they provide a prompt and other lovers of listmaking join in with their own top ten list.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This weeks theme is:   Top Ten Things That Will Instantly Make Me Want To Read A Book

  • A Post-Apocalyptic scenario – I do love a good ‘end of the world as we know it’ type story, so much so that I devoted a whole Top Ten Tuesday post to the subject.
  • A brilliant villain – Heroes are good, but where would they be without a great villain or adversary to play off?
  • Or an even more fascinating anti-hero – I love characters who fall into this category. They’re not totally bad, but sometimes their actions make them impossible to call the hero of the tale.
  • Unique magic and epic world-building – I love the escapism of a great Fantasy tale, so the more magic and the more detailed the world the book is set in the happier I am.
  • Zombies – If you’re going for ‘end of the world’ then why not add in a few zombies to make things interesting?
  • Page count of over 500 pages – I don’t actually do this deliberately and set out to read massive books, but for some reason everything that catches my eye is always so long. I set myself a lower Goodreads target this year because even though I say I’ll try to go for shorter books it never happens.
  • Certain authors – Everyone has a certain few authors they’ll always read, right?
  • A striking cover backed up by an intriguing summary – I know, I know – you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. In general I don’t, well, not the cover alone, but several times recently I’ve been caught by a striking cover. Give me a great summary to go along with it and I’ll probably pick up the book.
  • A slow burn romance as part of a greater plot – I like tension between characters. I’m not a big romance fan in general but if there’s a slow burn to the point where you’re really willing the characters to get together then I’m in.
  • That totally random thing that just grabs my imagination and insists that I read that book – Occasionally I wont even know exactly why I feel inspired to pick up a particular book, and those are often the most enjoyable reads of all.

So, do you have any recommendations for me after reading my list?
What sort of things will guarantee that you will pick up a book?

The School Subjects Book Tag

The school subjects tag was created by Not So Modern Girl 

I spotted this one during a visit to Lynn’s Book Blog and thought it looked like fun. So, here goes…

1. Maths – What’s a book that left your head spinning in circles?

The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan, in the best possible way. I’ve just finished reading this and I didn’t want it to end. It’s the final book in a trilogy and a really great conclusion. Definitely a series worth reading.

2. English – Which book do you think has beautiful written expression?

So mainly books have beautiful writing, so i’ll choose a few fairly recent reads…

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry.
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford.

3. Physics – Who is your favourite scientifically minded character from a book/film?

Carys from Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan is probably the most scientifically minded character I’ve read about recently as she tried to figure out ways to save herself and Max as they were adrift in space and running out of air.

4. Biology – Who is your favourite book/film/series character?

We could be here a while on this one. Okay, I’ll do my best to keep it short…


Evie O’Neill from The Diviners by Libba Bray.

Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.

The Stark girls from A Song of Ice and Fire – I love Arya’s bravery and strength, and Sansa’s whole progression from innocent little girl who believes in songs and stories into a strong-minded young woman is great.

Claire from Outlander – I’ve only read the first book so far but I love her strength and the way she deals with the situation she ends up in.


Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I watched this for the first time recently and Newt instantly became a new favourite. What’s not to like about him and his case of fantastic creatures?


Daryl and Carol from The Walking Dead.

James Delaney from Taboo. I finished watching this recently. Delaney is terrifying at times, and pretty dark, but so so watchable.

5. Chemistry – Who is your favourite literary couple?

Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester. I love their story so much.

I also really like Margaret Hale and John Thornton from North and South. I love the way they clash so often and have so many misunderstandings before they finally get together.

And for something a little more recent I like Claire and Jamie from Outlander. They’re a great team and I’m looking forward to reading more of their adventures.

6. French – What is your favourite foreign book/film/programme?

Book – The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Film – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Programme – The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge are all pretty good.

7. Art – Have you ever judged a book by its cover, even if you weren’t meant to?!

So many times I’ve gone into the bookstore and wonderfully eye-catching covers, or the sight of a particular author’s name has drawn me over to a certain book, eager to read the blurb and find out more, so I’d say covers definitely influence my choices when I’m out and about and generally looking around at books, but judging the book by the cover, probably not altogether, unless it’s one of those books with a really vague synopsis, then you don’t have much else to go on, and the cover can go some way to either hooking your interest or not.

Some of the recent book covers that caught my attention and also featured a great story…

8. History – What was the last historical book you read?

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford features 18th century New York.

9. Drama – What’s a book that you think has a lot of over-dramatic hype?

Having seen all the publicity for Caraval for what seemed like AGES before the book came out I was SUPER hyped to get my hands on it. I literally couldn’t wait for the day. Inevitably I ended up a little bit too hyped. I enjoyed the book, but not as much as I was expecting to.

10. Geography – Which literary destination would you really like to visit? (They can be real or fictional!)

Oh dear, what a question! None of the places I’ve read about recently are places I’d be likely to survive for very long for various reasons – cell phone zombies, a mass forest taking over the world overnight, you know, the usual…

I can’t help but choose Westeros, especially Winterfell. Dorne sounds amazing but would probably be too hot, so it’s North for me.
I’d also like to go to the Scottish Highlands of Outlander.

So there’s my School Subjects Tag.
Not done this one and fancy trying it? Consider yourself tagged! Let me know how you get on…

Book Review: The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

Name: The Autumn Republic
Brian McClellan
Number of Pages:
577 (Paperback)
5th January 2016 by Orbit
Genre: Epic Fantasy


The capital has fallen…
Field Marshal Tamas returns to his beloved country to find that for the first time in history, the capital city of Adro lies in the hands of a foreign invader. His son is missing, his allies are indistinguishable from his foes, and reinforcements are several weeks away.
An army divided…
With the Kez still bearing down upon them and without clear leadership, the Adran army has turned against itself. Inspector Adamat is drawn into the very heart of this new mutiny with promises of finding his kidnapped son.
All hope rests with one…
And Taniel Two-shot, hunted by men he once thought his friends, must safeguard the only chance Adro has of getting through this war without being destroyed…
THE AUTUMN REPUBLIC is the epic conclusion that began with Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign.     – from Goodreads

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed the Powder Mage books right from the first page of Promise of Blood, so I was looking forward to starting the final book of the trilogy, although I wanted to read slowly as I knew it was the last time I would be with these characters and I had that feeling of ‘are my favourite characters going to make it through this alive?’.
As this is the final book in the series I don’t know if I’ll make it through my review without giving spoilers from previous books.

The Autumn Republic is a great conclusion to an exciting trilogy.
Events pick up right after the conclusion of The Crimson Campaign. Adro is still facing unrest, and Lord Claremonte, with the backing and might of his Brudanian Trading Company, is residing in Adopest. The Kez are still a threat and the war isn’t completely over. So, there’s plenty going on right from the start.

There are battles, betrayals, schemes and plots. The magic is as brilliant as ever, especially as seen through Nila, the young woman who started out as a laundress and is now on track to become one of the most powerful Privileged ever. I loved reading her experiences as she learns to wield her greatest strength, a deadly fire capable of massive destruction.
I enjoyed reading of her friendship with Bo, who becomes her mentor as she tries to channel her powers. Nila and Bo take quite a central role in this book, and became new favourites for me.

Elsewhere Adamat, having made an awful discovery about his missing son, decides to keep out of the action to keep his family safe, but it’s not long before he’s drawn back into things as he tries to assist his friend Ricard Tumblar in his campaign to become First Minister of Adro.
It’s a dangerous campaign as other people have their sights on that post too, and Adamat and Fell become involved in an investigation to discover the identity of an unknown enemy.
I really like Fell. She’s quite mysterious, always there at the centre of the fighting, more than capable of taking down any threat before her. I’d love a whole book devoted to her back story, and how she came to be such an efficient assistant/bodyguard/assassin.
I also loved Adamat’s plot; as a contrast to the fighting on the battlefield there’s scheming of a more shadowy nature, and the variation made this a great read.

And of course, at the heart of this whole long-running war is Field Marshall Tamas. I liked him from the outset and nothing changed throughout the trilogy. He was the main character I really hoped would survive the trilogy. I’m not giving anything away about where his dream to form a republic will lead him. He’s a character I won’t forget for a while.
He is driven and determined, willing to tackle any enemy to reclaim his lands and see his dream realised. He may be the ‘old man’, but that won’t stop him doing what needs to be done. He leads his men into battle, even when his closest allies implore him to stay back. He’s a real leader.

Taniel, Ka-Poel, Olem and Vlora all feature in this final book too, and there are revelations about certain other characters. One in particular was a wonderful surprise.
As a minor character, I loved General Arbor, the old guy who kept taking out his false teeth when he was talking to Tamas. Such a random detail but it was funny – during such perilous times this old battler just goes about his business minus his false teeth.

The ending… well, I can’t say too much and risk spoiling a wonderful conclusion, so I’ll just say the action built up to a wonderful final battle and I may have shed a tear or two at certain moments. That’s all…

So, it looks like it’s time for me to stop writing about the Powder Mages and their great story, but it’s not time to leave this world behind entirely. My next read is going to be Sins of Empire, which I believe takes place in this same world and features some characters from this series. I really can’t wait to get started, because if it’s as good as this book then I’m in for a real treat.

If you’ve not read Promise of Blood, The Crimson Campaign and The Autumn Republic then you’re in for a great experience should you pick these books up. The series has a lot to offer and I definitely recommend it.

The Spring Has Sprung (2) Book Tag

It’s Book Tag time!
I haven’t done a tag for a while, even though I have SO MANY to catch up on. I first completed the Spring Has Sprung tag last year (you can see those answers here) after being tagged by Cristina from My Tiny Obsessions, and I thought I’d revisit the tag as Spring is now underway again…


The Essex Serpent
by Sarah Perry. The cover is beautiful, and I’ve recently seen a different edition with shades of blue on the cover which looks lovely too.
The story is very character driven and I really liked the writing as well.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – I imagine this is an amazing spectacle seen live on stage but somehow I just couldn’t seem to get into it in script form.


I’m certain I mentioned the Jeeves books by P. G. Wodehouse last time I completed this tag but they really do have some great humour, so they’re making a reappearance this time too.


To the Bright Edge of the World
by Eowyn Ivey. It follows a journey upriver into the wilds of Alaska and is told in a really vivid way. The landscape sounds wild and beautiful, and the sense of adventure made this a great read.


Hold Back the Stars
by Katie Khan. Carys and Max are in a really desperate situation, stranded in space with 90 minutes until their air supply runs out and I just had to keep reading to find out whether they would both survive and how they would be saved. I had no idea how it was all going to play out.


Hm, I can’t think of anything, mainly because these days I’m getting better at putting books down if I’m not enjoying them, but also I‘ve had a really good reading run of late. For some reason I used to plough on with books even when I wasn’t enjoying them, with the idea that I’d started it so I might as well finish it. With such a massive TBR pile I don’t do that so much any more.


So far this year I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve picked up. In general I don’t seem to go for many crime novels. I don’t mind watching a crime series on tv but I never seem to like the books as much.


Christmas Under the Stars by Karen Swan was just a lovely story.


Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan. I’m reading the final Powder Mage book at the moment and cannot wait to start the latest offering from this author.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence also sounds really good, so I’m hoping to pick that up some time as well.

I could add an endless amount of books here but will leave it at those two for now.


I ended up really liking both Jamie and Claire from Outlander. And I have a whole series of huge books in which to follow their further adventures. Can’t wait!


I guess anything I would choose to re-read. There’s something comforting in revisiting familiar characters and stories, and even though you mostly know what’s going to happen there’s always something new to find.


Golden Hill
by Francis Spufford. The writing is great and brings the world of New York in it’s infancy to life really well. There are some intriguing characters and a great mystery at the heart of the story.


There were a few moments in Golden Hill by Francis Spufford when I found myself smiling.

So, there’s my latest edition of Spring Has Sprung.
As always, if you want to have a go at the tag then consider yourself tagged. Enjoy!

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Name: Uprooted
Naomi Novik
Number of Pages:
448 (Paperback)
12th May 2016 by Pan Macmillan
Genre: Fantasy


Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows – everyone knows – that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.     – from Goodreads

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

Just like Uprooted heroine Agnieszka, at the moment I feel as though I’m emerging from a deep, dark forest, but actually it’s a place I don’t want to leave. I’ve finished reading a great story and I need to tell you about it.

Agnieszka lives in the valley. The people are protected by a wizard known as the Dragon, but there is a price; he takes a valley girl into his service for ten years. No one knows exactly why, or what happens at the Dragon’s tower, but the girls are changed, and always leave their beloved valley behind once their ten years is up.
Agnieszka fears her best friend Kasia will be taken, but it will come as no surprise  that this isn’t what happens at all, and Kasia meets a very different fate while Agnieszka is chosen to go with the Dragon.

I became invested in this story almost from the first moment. The way it’s written and the atmosphere it creates hits just the right tone for a great read – a determined young woman, a mysterious wizard with untold powers, an almost fairytale setting in the Dragon’s tower, and more magic than you could wish for.  The magic is quite unusual, and I loved the descriptions of the way Agnieszka and the Dragon wove their different varieties of magic together.

This doesn’t usually happen for me when reading, but from the very first moment Agnieszka literally fell into the Dragon’s arms I really wanted them to get together. He was just so rattled by her presence, she put him off guard and I loved the dynamic between them. It’s definitely a slow burn, and starts out as more of a love/hate type situation.

The world building is wonderful, from the tower to the menacing darkness of the all-consuming Wood, a place literally alive with an evil that stretches way beyond the boundary of the Wood itself; sometimes it sends the people it has taken back out into the real world, looking perfectly normal, but hiding the deep corruption which ends in devastating consequences.
The Wood creeps over the land, enveloping villages and people, there is nothing it won’t claim, and that makes the force driving the Wood a formidable enemy for Agnieszka and the Dragon.

Uprooted features a great cast of characters, but to reveal too much would be to spoil the surprises in store if you read this book, so I’ll just say you definitely won’t be disappointed.  A wonderful mix of magic, fantasy, romance, Uprooted was a great read, and I would love to find out there’s going to be a sequel.

Booking Ahead: April 2017

Booking Ahead is a feature here on Pages and Tea where I glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Welcome back to Booking Ahead. Time to choose some potential reads for the month ahead. As always I’ll be going through my TBR backlist pile and adding in some new books that caught my attention recently.

New Books

Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan – I’m going to let this one speak for itself, because it sounds so good…

It looked like any other carnival, but of course it wasn’t…

It had its own little backstreets, its alleyways of hanging bulbs and ghost trains and Punch and Judy stands …
And at the end of one he saw the Hall of Mirrors. There were looping strings of carnival lights leading towards it, and a large sign in mirrored glass reading ‘Burleigh’s Amazing Hall of Mirrors’ and the sign reflected the lights in all sorts of magically distorted ways.

To Andy and his parents, it looks like any other carnival: creaking ghost train, rusty rollercoaster and circus performers. But of course it isn’t.

Drawn to the hall of mirrors, Andy enters and is hypnotised by the many selves staring back at him. Sometime later, one of those selves walks out rejoins his parents – leaving Andy trapped inside the glass, snatched from the tensions of his suburban home and transported to a world where the laws of gravity are meaningless and time performs acrobatic tricks.

And now an identical stranger inhabits Andy’s life, unsettling his mother with a curious blankness, as mysterious events start unfolding in their Irish coastal town…

Books from the Backlist

The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan – The third and final book of the Powder Mage trilogy. I’ve wanted to read this one for so long now, but I’ll be sad to reach the end and leave these characters behind. Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign were both really good, so here’s hoping for a brilliant finale, in which none of my favourite characters meets a nasty end!

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher – I’ve had this book on my pile for absolutely ages now and it’s found it’s way to the top again, so perhaps April will finally be the month I manage to start the book.

What are you hoping to read this month?
Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.