The recent years of fantasy novels have been some of the best. We’ve seen the release five of seven books in The Song of Ice and Fire series from George R.R. Martin. Patrick Rothfuss, acclaimed author of The Kingkiller Chronicles, released the first two volumes of his trilogy in 2007 and 2011. Adding to this is only a plethora more authors like Mark Lawrence, Sam Sykes, Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson, Myke Cole and Django Wexler. One author who has created a universe among the likes of his fantasy author brethren is Brian McClellen. Formerly an hourly wage slave, now full time writer, McClellen has created a trilogy called The Powder Mage series, which features a cast of characters and a very exciting new magic system set in the Industrial Revolution age. Promise of Blood is the first fantastic volume in this planned three volume series featuring Field Marshall Tamas, his son Taniel and a Holmesian inspector named Adamat.
The triggering event that takes place at the beginning of Promise of Blood is FieId Marshall Tamas committing a coup against the royal monarchy of Adro, the country the series is set in. He puts every member of the Royal Cabal (the kingsguard) to the guillotine, and plans to start anew with new plans for the country. Only when the members of the Royal Cabal are put to death they all utter a spine tingling, mysterious phrase that has Tamas intensely curious in the meaning. This is where Adamat comes into the picture. He is recruited and employed by Tamas to track down the necessary information to figure out what this phrase means. Only as his investigation gets deeper and deeper, he soon runs into more roadblocks, leaving him with little information for Tamas. However during the purge of the Royal Cabal, one of the most powerful of the Cabal was able to escape before she was executed. Because Tamas doesn’t have time to track her down and kill her himself, he recruits his son, Taniel (also a very powerful powder mage) to find this lady sorcerer and put her to her death. It soon becomes clear to Tamas that executing the royalty was only the beginning of what will turn into a long process of overthrowing the monarchy.
The easiest way to describe McClellen’s Powder Mage series, at least the first book, is fantastic. McClellen has created a world and a set of characters that is indescribably curious and fascinating. Tamas is the perfect titular character in that he’s obviously flawed, but also powerful and confident. The magic system, while nothing out of the ordinary, is incredibly interesting once you get far enough into the book to learn about it. You have powder mages, which is what Tamas, Taniel and various other characters happen to be. But you also have other classes of magic like Privileged, which are essentially powerful sorcerers. These appear to be one of the most powerful classes of magic in the Powder Mage world so far. Knacked are another version of magical beings, but they only have one specific power. One Knacked never requires sleep, while one is able to produce food out of thin air. Possibly menial gifts, but completely awesome if used properly. McClellen uses all of these magical systems and classes to weave a story about a coup and overthrowing of a monarchy that works very, very well.
Brian McClellen’s Powder Mage universe is a very interesting and intriguing place to spend your time. The author has created enough different classes of magical beings, sorcerers and character types that throughout the 550 pages of the first volume, every section felt fresh. The magic system, technical aspects of the world and lore surrounding the story are brilliantly captivating. McClellen has absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one. Not to mention the short stories and novellas written between the first and second volumes, one should not be allowed to tire of this universe. The Powder Mage series is required reading for all fans of fantasy novels.
Rating: 9 out of 10 – Promise of Blood is an utterly fantastic piece of fantasy writing. The Powder Mage universe that McClellen was able to create is deep, interesting and moves with the speed of a lightning train. Every fan of this series should be sincerely thanking him for releasing the second and third volumes so quickly; fans might not last for years between installments.