Review: The Crimson Campaign (Powder Mage #2) by Brian McClellan

Rating: ★★★★★


Tamas’s invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god.

In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers might come too quickly. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself alongside the god-chef Mihali as the last line of defence against Kresimir’s advancing army. Tamas’s generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye.


“Let the Kez come,” Tamas roared. “Let them send their greatest generals after us. Let them stack the odds against us. Let them come upon us with all their fury, because these hounds at our heels will soon know we are lions!”

If I had to use one word to describe this book, and this series, it would be fun. It’s like when you watch any one of the Marvel movies. You appreciate the character development and worldbuilding, but where this series really shines is the intense and riveting action throughout. I loved it.

The pace in The Crimson Campaign increased dramatically from what was a somewhat slower start to the series in Promise of Blood. We start out incredibly fast and the tension is high, it dips for just a bit in the middle, and then comes back to a roaring conclusion throughout all POV’s in the end.

I enjoyed every POV in this one just as much as I did in Promise of Blood. Taniel has now become my favorite POV. He goes through a lot throughout the events in the story and I found myself sympathizing with him, as well as disliking the people who went against him. Not only that, but Taniel’s perspective includes Ka-Poel quite often and she is quickly becoming one of, if not my favorite character. Tamas’ POV is always incredibly compelling. However, instead of it mostly being because he is a compelling character in his own right, it was also because the tension was raised from the very beginning of the book and kept on throughout. He has to use every trick up his sleeve to just survive and that made for some thrilling moments.

Adamat’s POV was much more exciting in this 2nd installment. McClellan does a great job of balancing Adamat’s detective work with bringing in more action. I found his drive to save his family and protect Adro, and the decisions he has to make between the two sometimes, utterly fascinating. And then there is Nila. I didn’t mention her in my Promise of Blood review partly because I felt like she was a side character POV and partly because I just didn’t find her all that interesting. However, Nila really comes into her own throughout The Crimson Campaign. We get to see a new side of her and find out some things about her that even she didn’t know. I am very interested to see where her story will go from here on out.

The Powder Mages’ magic system is unapologetically and exclusively used for warfare and I loved it! There are so many facets to it and it is so incredibly unique. It has become one of my favorite magic systems that I’ve ever read. Right up there with Mistborn and Lightbringer. The magic of the Bone-Eyes is still somewhat of a mystery, but we learned a few of its uses in this book as Ka-Poel learns to use her sorcery in more unique and deadly ways. Throughout the Crimson Campaign we also get to see more of the Privileged, Predeii, the magic of the gods, and find out more about the Wardens.

The Crimson Campaign was a distinct improvement over book 1, which I loved. The balance between the fast paced action, worldbuilding, character development, and plot made for a story that at the end I stayed up until 3am just to finish. If you are a fan of all out action, characters that you can root for, and incredibly fascinating systems of magic, check the Powder Mage trilogy out. You will not be disappointed.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Great review, David. Interesting that the magic is only used fir war. I am not sure I have read a book where that is the case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David S says:

      Thanks man! The other magic systems had some more practical/every day uses. But yeah, Powder Mages were pretty much exclusively for warfare…..and I freakin love it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ola G says:

    Tamas is my favorite of all McClellan characters 😀 though it was nice to see Taniel grow. Cool review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David S says:

      Oh Tamas is amazing! Strategic genius and a beast at fighting. I think I just found Taniel’s storyline a tad bit more interesting in this one. Tamas was my favorite in Promise of Blood!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok I am convinced with that Marvel comparison! Hope to get into it next year

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David S says:

      Haha I hope you like them! The action scenes are so great!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Perfect! Just what I need 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. One of my favorite series ever! Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David S says:

      Thank you! The first two are already on my favorites shelf and if The Autumn Republic keeps up the excellence its gonna be a top series for me as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Off The TBR says:

    I read the first book a couple years ago and keep putting off book 2 and I don’t know why! I’m going to read it in 2020. It’s a must.


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