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Promise of Blood
(Powder Mage #1)
by Brian McClellan

Field Marshall Tamas has decided that the current king of Adro, Manhouch, needs to be removed. And we, the reader, join him in the middle of the coup. We soon find that this is going to be a bloody and quick coup as the Royal Cabal of Priviledged, powerful sorcerers that serve the king, are all killed and removed. Any nobels of royal blood are rounded up, and the masses are treated to a long and savage execution that turns the royal square red with the blood spilled.

As the book continues, we are introduced to Tamas’ son, Taniel, and his savage companion, the girl, Ka-Poel. Taniel, like his father, is a powder mage, another flavor of sorcerer in the land. We meet the investigator, Adamat, as he tries to find a traitor using his Knacked gift of a perfect memory, and Olem, Tamas’ bodyguard, who has the Knacked gift of not needing to sleep – ever.

As you can see, there’s a large amount of magic in this world, and of all sorts of flavors. There are the powder mages, who can manipulate gun powder, using it to strengthen their bodies and improve their control over bullets, both with the use of guns, or not. There are the Priviledged, the powerful sorcerers who can touch the Else and send waves of magic to destroy men and mountains. There are the Knacked, folks who are born with just a single gift, sometimes small, sometimes large. And, there’s even a man who chose to eschew his special gifts, and became a Mage-Breaker, able to cut those powerful Priviledged off from their power.

On top of this rich amount of creativity, we are drawn into a land known as the Nine. Gods of old came down and drew out the borders of nine kingdoms, setting up the kings in their places in each. We see that the kingdoms are not equal, though we only really spend time in two of them, Adro and Kez. Kez is larger with a massive population, but Adro is more industrially inclined and technologically advanced. Kez is also one of the main reasons Tamas and his co-conspirators turned on their King, because he was about to sign a treaty that would make Adro part of Kez, and thus making life very difficult for its citizens.

This is one of the more unique fantasy settings I’ve read in a long time. It doesn’t take place in a medieval-like setting, like those of Tolkien or Pratchett. Nor is it an urban fantasy, like Butcher or Hamilton. Brian has dropped us into life in something like the mid-14th century, when guns and powder are prevalent. He mixes in large amounts of magic, tosses in swords and savages, and sprinkles in a few gods as well.

I enjoyed this book immensely.

And I have a confession to make. I know Brian McClellan. I watched him grow from a teenage boy into the man he is today. I’ve met his wonderful wife. I count his siblings among my friends and I respect his parents immensely.

I didn’t want to read his book. Why? I was afraid that, if I read it and didn’t like it, I’d have to lie to these wonderful people in my life, and that’s not something I wanted to do. But, my terrific daughter, who has the same taste in books as me, read his book. Then she read all his books. She urged me repeatedly to read it, promising me that I would like, if not love, it.

So, finally, I did just that. I picked up the book and began to read. I was immediately drawn in. I found myself rooting for the heroes, hating the Kez, wondering what Taniel is thinking, grinning at Olem’s brashness, and wondering what Ka-Poel really is. The desire to write all these feelings down became stronger as I grew closer to finishing it. And I can’t wait to start on the next one in the series. I’ve even gone to the web to find the shorter stories Brian wrote has prequel material, hoping to learn more about the land and its characters.

Brian, you need to know that my favorite authors up to this point have been Jim Butcher and Larry Correia, with Brandon Sanderson and Brandon Mull coming in as close seconds. Any time these men write a new novel or story, I’m trying to find it, buy it, and read it as soon as it has hit the shelves. You are now, for me, on equal footing with these guys. I’ll be keeping an eye out for all your stuff as I get caught up with the world of the Powder Mages.

Keep ’em coming, brother!

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