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?
“You gorged them on the blood of the nobility. They drank, but were not filled. They ate of hatred and grew hungrier.”
Are ya’ll in need of a semi-familiar world with historic elements that is just foreign enough to be an entire fantasy universe with magic, blood, and head chopping royalist slayings? Have a seat and let me tell you about Promise of Blood.
This rich world of gunpowder and grudges held me hostage to the page. I am more of a character driven reader but doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy a plot driven story with some memorable character work and Promise of Blood is that story!
What’s not to like about people with the ability to chew on black powder and shoot bullets with their mind? What is there to complain about when there are others with a Knack for never sleeping? Or possessing the ability to remember everything? Perhaps the fault lies with those who are Privileged and can command the elements with nothing more than their fingers, but I can’t find it. The magic in this world is layered with rules and classed ability. No one ever truly knows what another is capable of and when it’s discovered, run for cover! It’s about to get a bit explosive.
McClellan has a crazy good eye for action sequences. It was thrilling to be in the pov of a powder mage as they try to fight with magic, gun, and sword. Honestly, whichever they could get their hands on the fastest. These characters have to be versatile in almost every form of combat and I love a capable character that is quick witted and multi-tasked when in stressful situations, which is almost every character in this world! When the going gets tough the powder mages start blowing it all up.
The world of Promise of Blood is certainly the biggest factor to my enjoyment of the book but fighting alongside characters like Olem, Tamas, Adamat, Taniel, and Ka-poel is what kept me turning the page long after I should’ve gone to bed. No other character captivated me quite like Tamas. He’s got solid sapper energy and the way he bulldozes into everything headfirst really tickles me. He never seems to have much of a plan, and I don’t mind that. He’s an intelligent character that accomplishes what needs to be done even if he’s got to improvise the whole way through. His sarcastic and snarky personality makes him the highest maintenance of all the characters. He certainly wouldn’t agree with that sentiment, but, honey… you’re my needy child. I live for it!
His son Taniel is also a pleasure to follow, even if he doesn’t know half of what he thinks he does. Many of these characters are the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later kind of personality and Taniel is no exception to that. With an addiction to black powder, he takes the trophy for staring the answer in the face and completely missing it, but he is a good man that tries his best and that makes his faults understandable ones. Adamat, a soldier turned investigator, is equally interesting to follow. The man’s love for his family makes him a darling pov to be in and I loved being inside his sharp and inquisitive mind.
The only pov I was not much interested in was Nila, a woman who worked under the usurped king. She has a decent amount of page time, but she didn’t have much personality for me to attach myself too. She certainly makes choices that impact the story, but her character fell flat due to a lot of the focus being on the male characters which brings me to my next point. Promise of Blood has many female characters, but they are given very little page time. Most of them are background characters that fight alongside their male counterparts, an example being Ka-poel whom I adore. Now this isn’t much of a problem for me because while these characters may not have much of a voice (with the exception of Ka-poel who has a reason for her lack of voice), they are present and shown risking their lives just as much as the men. However, there is a certain female character introduced that served only to further the development of their male counterpart and had this character been completely taken out of the story nothing would’ve been impacted. It wasn’t something that reduced my enjoyment of the book, but it was something that I noticed, and it stuck with me after I finished. I have heard that this gets better as the series progresses.
McClellan’s prose is well thought out and engaging. His worldbuilding truly propels this story with multiple levels of magic wielding, a flint-lock fantasy setting, and twisted politicking. His character work rests on the shoulders of likable individuals who are short-tempered and trigger happy with hearts wrapped in grumpy, begrudged, sarcastic gold. I love the comradery in this book and now that the world and the enemy is established, I’m excited to get to know these characters more as their world changes and follow them through every battle.