A Promise of Cool Military Fantasy Review

September 4, 2017

The following is a review of  Brian McClellan's "Promise of Blood"

 

A quick background on the world in which this story exists:

It's a story that starts off on the eve of a coup. An inspector is called to the king's palace, only to find that the military has staged a rebellion; captured the royal family, killed the king's personal mages (known as Privileged) and is set out to slaughter all the nobles in direct lineage. The age of kings is being wiped out.

The military? They are using guns. A new sort of magic has emerged along with new technologies. Gunpowder has brought a new magic to the land, that of Marked, those able to manipulate gunpowder and bullets. They can also ingest gunpowder, enhancing their senses and physical strength.

Whoa. Cool. I'm all in, and I bet you are too.

Now, the part of the review where I rate it:

I was split here; to give five stars or to give four?

In the end, I succumbed to giving the four. It was a fantastic read. Utterly enthralling, what you would call a real page turner. Just specific elements turned it down for me.

For one, the idea of Privileged in this book. Mighty magic wielders who can control the elements... with their fingers... while wearing gloves that allow them to do so. Okay? Something about it was pretty eye rolling for me. Not only that, but their overall power was enormous. I couldn't see how if one individual was able to stop bullets with air shields, and call lightning and fire from the sky, allowing vast swathes of men to die, how could they be beaten? One on one battles made me doubt a lot.

My second reason for not quite getting behind the magic system, and thus the book, was when I realized that this wasn't just an industrious and gunpowdered-enabled magical world. Gods here were very real, and one just might (spoilers ahead; stop; warning)...










here in the form of a chef, called Lord of the Golden Chefs.










(spoiler end)

So, fine. I've tolerated worse. 

And by the way, I'm picking out the things I hated. Here are some of the things I enjoyed:

I love the culture created in this book. The extreme devotion of Royalists versus the rebellious Marked, was such a great way to mark a new path of both magic and politics emerging in this world. I loved the dynamic between soldiers who could use magic to manipulate gunpowder and bullets, versus what you would consider "traditional" sorcerors. The idea that work unions formed, and street gangs exist and printing presses and the existence of a prevailing church force, with mercenaries and police and universities AND AND AND

Whew. There's a lot I liked.

Including characters. Oh, the characters! I became wrapped up in each one, excited for their stories to continue, to unravel. When bad things happened, I cared that they would make it! Worried, in fact, that they might not. When the characters made the right choice, I smiled, or when they made hard choices, I felt it. Really, truly, I did.

This book was fantastic. I haven't read a good story like this in, what feels like, forever. I've been extremely picky with my choices as of late, that I keep going back to the same old well for stories. There is so much being published, so much that has been published that picking my way through the slush is difficult. Picking this up and starting yet another new trilogy (am I the only person tiring of trilogies? Just write one damned book, good lord) was a hard choice, to begin with. Finding out how good it was, and how much I want to continue to read stories in this world, with these characters, and more importantly, by this author was a great surprise.

So, ignore my small quibbles, and read this book if you like military fantasy. It's a quick read, and well worth your time.

 

--f.h.

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