PROMISE OF BLOOD

Posted: April 22, 2017 in Book Reviews

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

545 pages, Book 1 of the Powder Mage Trilogy

“The age of kings is dead, and I have killed it” — Tamas, Field marshal

The world has been divided into 9 kingdoms, generally referred to as the nine. Ancient legend and lore has it that this was done by the ancient God Kresimir. The 9 Kingdoms were ruled by nobles who surrounded themselves with advisers of the most powerful magic users in the world, commonly referred to as the Privileged.

Long ago Kresimir is said to have made a promise that if the nobles, the privileged ever turned against them, the kings of the nine, or if the people turned against his ordained rulers that he would return and revenge their murders against the privileged and the people. This myth and legend was passed down through the privileged lore as a means to keep them in check for fear of the wrath of the God kresimir.

This is a world set in a period that would be similar to revolutionary war-time in history. Bayonets and guns, mixed with magic and sorcery, religion and Gods. Within this world there are classes of magic users with varying levels of ability, strengths, and types of magic. Each with their own unique weaknesses that can be exploited.

First, the different classes of magic users.

The Privileged are the most powerful of these magic users and control their magic with no need for external substances such as gun powder. They have the ability to manipulate the world around them and created destruction where ever they go. Each of the 9 kingdoms has their ruling class, the kings and the Royal Cabals made up of the most powerful of the privileged in each respective nation. These privileged serves as advisers and council to the kings. Their weakness is that if they lose their hands, they can no longer perform magic and thus become weak and vulnerable. They also must used special privileged gloves to invoke their magical abilities.

The Mage-breakers have the ability to shield and disrupt the spell caster and magic use of the privileged and would often be used on campaigns against privileged. While this category of mage is mentioned within the book, there is not a lot of information about them as it is only brought up briefly. No weaknesses are brought up for this class of magic user so at this point it is unknown if any

The Powder-mages derive their magic through gun powder. This gives them the Ability to control gun powder and bullets, in flight or hand. They can ignite gun powder from a distance using their magic and enhanced power of the mind derived from the gun powder. The gun powder also enhances their senses and makes them less vulnerable to pain and exhaustion. Often the gun powder would be taken in like one might sniff or snort cocaine. Their weakness is that it can be addictive and users suffer from withdrawal if they become too dependent on it. In addition to that if a powder mage were to be infected with gold in their blood it would render them incapable of accessing the magic derived from gun powder.

The Knacked are among the weakest of mages and magic users. Their skill is simply in having a single talent. They are highly skilled in one form of magic in a singular skill.  It could be a simple as cooking amazing meals, or detecting privileged, or when someone is lying. Useful skills but nothing that can damage or harm others via use of magic, at least not in any kind of direct way.

Now for the characters

Tamas is a famous military leader and war veteran. He is a field Marshall with a reputation for military strategy and genius. He is also a Powder mage.  He is getting old and tired and feels that his country has been lost, not from external threats but to the tyranny and bad governance of the king. He is a man who character reflects a man of convictions, Strength and Integrity. He is however haunted by his past and is highly motivated by the murder of his wife by the Kez government on a diplomatic mission. Despite his denials of this, I suspect he is just as interested in revenge as his statements of simply seeking justice for the wrongs committed against Adro by the kez and the Adro government.

Tamas has staged a bloody coup and overthrown the Adro government and assassinated the King, Manhouch. He has rounded up all the Privileged of the Royal Cabal and publicly executed them and their families ensuring an end to the monarchy. A few have escaped however and the end of this struggle is far from over. The dying words of one of the royal cabal during the opening battle “You can’t break Kresimirs promise” leaves Tamas with a mystery of what that means for Adro and his military coup and take over.

Taniel, Tamas’s son who is also a military man, and powder mage. He has spent his life hunting privileged in the wars and now doing so for his father. He has become quite good at it. Taniel however has been sent on a mission that he may never be able to accomplish. He has been sent to kill his best friend Bo.

Bo is an exiled Privileged and former member of the royal cabal of Adro. Like all royal cabal members he has been magically bound and compelled to avenge the kings murder in such an event. This is a compulsion that cannot be undone except at the death of the royal cabal itself. As the lone surviving member who has been magically compelled in such a way it is either Bo or Tamas who must die. Taniel must choose between killing his friend, or protecting his father from this compulsion. Killing Bo however may mean the end of Adro as the army of Kez along with their entire royal cabal marches on Adro to its sure destruction and Bo may be one of the few left who can defend Adro.

Adamant, is a former police inspector now turned private investigator. Tamas has contracted him to find out what Kresimir’s promise is and to find out who has betrayed him. His investigation however has placed him in a position to betray Tamas and save his wife and children, or lose his family to remain loyal to Tamas. He finds himself torn between duty and family. He is trying desperately to find a way to keep his family safe, and not betray Tamas at the same time.

This book is call A Promise of Blood, and I have to say that it fulfills that promise quite well. There is no wait time or lead up to the first bloody scene. It bursts out of the gate running with an intense battle and coup with the assassination of Manhouch the king and it does not slow down from there. Every page, every chapter is full of intense moments and non-stop action packed read that made this book very difficult to put down. A real page turner.

The world building was well done though not as in-depth and detailed as other writers but certainly established how this world and magic system works very effectively. Like any good magic system, there has to be weakness, otherwise your magic users are invincible and the result is a impossible situation which is not good story building. A good author can write what appears to be a impossible situation but eventually reveal a weakness to help our characters over come whatever the problem is. There is weakness to each type of magic that help to balance the playing field. This is an important aspect of any good magic system and world building. If the magic system is too weak and easily overcome it really makes for poor storytelling, however if it is powerful yet can be overcome this is, for me at least an important aspect of any magic system. Promise of Blood balances these two needs quite effectively in a believable, plausible and realistic way.

This book leaves me quite excited to read the next one in the series. However I have not yet purchased The Crimson Campaign or the Autumn Republic. After reading this roller coast of a ride book I think I may have no other choice but to moved those books up on my wish list to be the next one purchased.

Reading a new author is always risky when buying a book because you have no way really to know if it will be worth the price, I have to say that this book is most definitely worth the price!! just awesome! I can honestly say that McCllellan has won my fandom and quite effectively as well. Read it and I am sure you will not regret it.

This one is an easy 9/10 book worms for me.

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