The Crimson Campaign is a vast improvement over Promise of Blood. It also has its set of issues, but I found myself caring a lot more about the characters in this one than the first book. That may be because we focus far more on the supporting cast, which as I said in my first review was far more interesting than our lead, but I just found myself caring way more about this book than Promise of Blood. We get to see the bigger world out of Tamas’ sphere of influence, and that was a welcome surprise to me, who really doesn’t care for Tamas and the people who are loyal to him, therefore they justify his less than noble actions.
This book is also a slow burn, but just…more interesting than the last time. This series, as I stated in Promise of Blood, definitely plays the long game and wants to use all 3 books in the trilogy to fully realize it’s world and characters. I usually prefer self-contained stories per book that also pave way for the overall plot in a series, but it works in the Powder Mage trilogy far more than in other series I’ve read because this is a crazy war, and the long game is what a war is all about. So it makes sense to have these two books be the calm before the storm that the third book is going to inevitably be. Er Pr taks place a few month afomise of Blood, so you definitely can’t jump into this one without reading the first. If I were waiting a year for the 2nd book in the series, I’d find that pacing to be a bit of a problem, but since I’m reading these all together with no lulls between books, it’s perfectly fine to me. Just as a note, you’ll want to read each book right after the other, and not read another book in-between these if you’d like to get the full impact of the overall story because of the flow of the trilogy and how little time passes between each of the books.
With my overall, spoiler-free review out of the way, into the nitty gritty!
When invasion looms…
Tamas’ invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counteroffensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god, Kresimir.
But the threats are closer to home…
In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers will lead Adamat on a darker journey.
Who will lead the charge?
Tamas’ generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself as the last line of defense against Kresimir’s advancing army.
In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? The Crimson Campaign is the epic sequel to Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood. – From Audible
The plot is once again split into the three main points of view of Tamas, Taniel, and Adamat. Once again, I find Tamas’ plot the least interesting, as it just feels like semi-filler that while interesting character beats happen to him in it, doesn’t super feel like was necessary. I’m already reading the third book, and it doesn’t seem like it really impacted the story much other than his troops thought he was dead for a few months. This rumor caused infighting, betrayal, and a shift in the military that was foreshadowed in the first book, so that aspect of him being split from the cast was interesting. His actual story however, didn’t add much to the story for me and I found myself getting bored of the military battles getting done over and over again in his story. The ending of it was interesting, and I liked that we saw that when Tamas wasn’t with people who were loyal to him, that they saw him for the terrible person he was and didn’t condone his actions. This book doesn’t shy away from the fact that he’s just an awful person doing what he thinks is right for revenge, and since that wasn’t made clear in the first book, it made me feel justified in my feelings for his character. Still don’t like him, but I can live with a book that calls its lead out on their garbage actions.
The most interesting plot for me was Adamat’s. I really liked seeing his relationship with Ricard, and seeing all of his sleuthing finally pay off. Getting to see him interact with Bo, and other key characters in the story was really cool, and he’s one of my favorite characters. I don’t want to spoil anything in his plot, but it’s action packed and shows how much he’s willing to do for his family and I just found myself continuing to wanting to read his plot the most out of all 3 main points of view.
Taniel’s plot is…middle of the road? I liked it when I got to read it, more because I like Taniel as a character than the actual plot. The plot wasn’t bad, mind you: he had to deal with trying to keep the army together when everyone was pushing against him, and trying to change the way the army was ran, and I love a good man against all odds story – but what was happening to taniel, his relationship with Ka-Pole, was really what sold his story for me. Like I said it was enjoyable to read, and I think impacted the overall story the most, but it wasn’t the one I was most excited to read.
The pacing of these three stories is well done in this book. The first book had to setup the world, and character motivations, so the plots where unevenly distributed I feel, but this one every character’s plot had it’s time to shine. Although it was slow paced, and the last fifteen chapter or so were where the action picked up, once again like in the first book, I didn’t find it boring to read in the middle like I did in Promise of Blood. Like I said only thing I wasn’t a fan of was Tamas’ plot, but to be expected since I don’t like him as a character.
The end of the book brings all of the characters together to set up for what so far is an epic third book, so fingers crossed The Autumn Republic stays as such ‘til the end. I’m 20 chapters in and can’t put it down, so I’d say that’s a good sign that The first two books in the series, while slow at times, did their job properly.
The characters get a lot of development in this book, and side characters that seem like they weren’t going to matter totally prove you wrong, and matter a great deal. Stand outs for me are Bo and Nila, I can’t get enough of them and I totally ship it so hope they wind up together by series’ end. We get to see Adamat grow, Ka-Poel and Taniel grow, even Vlora gets her plot, that was introduced in the first book, resolved and becomes a pretty decent character. Not as fleshed out as the others, but enough to be a good supporting character.
Tamas, we get to see more of his motivations and inner workings. As I said it doesn’t make me like him any more, but it shows us his headspace, and I can respect an author for doing that. I don’t think Tamas was ever meant to be this grand war hero, and The Crimson Campaign makes that abundantly clear.
A lot of other cool side characters introduced here, which once again if I listed we’d be here all day. All good additions to the cast, and they only serve to make the world more interesting as a result.
The world gets expanded a tad in this book, as we see Tamas go through Northern Kez. Nothing super interesting if I’m being honest: We don’t see their culture, or any of the people other than their army and royals, so it doesn’t really serve to flesh out the world more than say, using it as a set piece. The magic system is expanded on a bit which is interesting, but nothing groundbreaking that makes the system different enough to mention. Just more of the same, which isn’t bad, but nothing majorly expanded on.
The writing definitely is improved upon in this book. It wasn’t bad in Promise of Blood, but a lot of the sparceness is gone for a more realized writing style. It’s still got that raw and gritty style I really enjoy for this sort of genre, but it seems a lot more polished than in the author’s dayview novel. The pacing is vastly improved as well, and that also lends to a more seasoned author. The third book only gets better, so the author is totally coming into his own as a writer and I can’t wait to see where his writing career progresses.
If you’re invested in the Powder Mage trilogy, you’ll want to read this book. I’m happy to say it gets better with each book in the series. If you decided to DNF Promise of Blood because of lack of interested, then obviously you’re not going to want to read this book. It’s good though, made me invested in the series far more than Promise of Blood did.
Have you read The crimson Campaign? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!