Promise of Blood (Powder Mage #1)
By: Brian McClellan
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
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…
I had heard of the Powder Mage trilogy in passing but it wasn’t until I read the short story The Girl of Hrusch Avenue (review) that I was keen to pick up the first book and read it. It sat on my TBR pile for quite a while but I finally got around to reading it (hurray!).
Unfortunately this book became such a chore to read 🙁 It started off promisingly but then it went on such a slow pace. I thought maybe it will pick up but when events come to full swing, with Field Marshal Tamas dealing with the aftereffects of his revolution and securing his power, it just fell flat for me, it was so boring. Which I couldn’t quite believe myself as the elements sounded interesting with the political fractions involved, that sort of French Revolution feel with Tamas’ group overthrowing the monarchy and pushing aside the old religion in favour of enlightenment, not to mention the worldbuilding with the gunpowder, “modern” notions of social structures and military structures. But I found myself bored out of my mind, which was unfortunate. I only slogged through because the book was honestly sitting on my TBR pile for so long, it was shame to leave it as a DNF (and I’ve pulled myself through books that I absolutely detested and should’ve DNF’ed but didn’t (case in point)).
I think the reason for my feeling the way I did towards the book was two-fold: firstly, whilst I have no qualms at being thrown straightaway into the action and into the type of world that it was, it felt pretty dense wading through the terminology, the people, and the situation they were in. I think a gradual easing in would’ve bene much more appreciated in this case, especially as the story and the situation is quite a complex one. The second issue was the characters: I just never warmed to any of them, there was nothing really about them–especially amongst the core characters–that stood out for me that I could latch on to and say “Oh, I’m intrigued by so-and-so and therefore am invested in how things turn out for them.” I just didn’t care for the characters and their respective plight, which coupled with the plodding plot just turned me off completely.
So yeah, unfortunately I did not enjoy reading Promise of Blood. It had a promising premise (pun intended?) and I’m sure it would interest fantasy readers who enjoy a generous dose of military action, but it just never really piqued my interest to compel me to read on (except out of sheer force of will to complete it) nor did the characters ever really intrigue me.