I’ve been doing some work experience in the Publicity department at Little, Brown recently, helping out particularly with their science fiction and fantasy imprint Orbit. I cannot express how happy being this close to so many SFF books makes me, and how much I don’t care that aside from travel and lunch, I am being paid in books. I become more convinced by the day that living on books is a perfectly feasible plan. I can eat dust-covers right?
Anyway, I digress: I have been reading Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan in light of the upcoming release of its sequel The Crimson Campaign on the 6th May, a delay from its original release date. The first instalment of The Powder Mage trilogy, Promise of Blood is the beginning of a fantasy epic about gods, kings, mages and, of course, gunpowder. The book opens with a bloody coup, undertaken by Field Marshall Tamas, in which every dying member of the Royal Cabal utters the sentence,”You can’t break Kresimir’s Promise.” What does this mean? Tamas doesn’t know, so he employs private investigator Adamant to figure it out. In the aftermath of the coup, the civil war breaks out and the nobility rebel. A powerful member of the Royal Cabal has escaped and Tamas’ son, the powerful powder mage Taniel, is set the task of hunting him down. The scene for war is set and the wheels are in motion, but as old forces rise, it becomes clear that killing off the monarchy was only the beginning of a long journey for Tamas and his followers.
Feeding in to the epic political fantasy theme, recently popularised in the mainstream by George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, McClellan brings new twists to a familiar formulae. The magic system is fun and original, gunpowder being consumed by mages to give them their powers. It’s epic fantasy meets Sharpe. For me, this originality is what carries the book, which is otherwise a scene-setting exercise for the sequels. The increasing involvement of the Gods throughout the book is equally refreshing in such a political-thriller-style fantasy. While this style of epic political fantasy is not my natural territory, I would thoroughly recommend this to any Game of Thrones fans. A definite one to watch and I’m intrigued to see where the sequels take the story.
Promise of Blood was first published in the UK by Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown, in 2013. It is available in Paperback from the author’s website.