I was told by a friend to read this series a few years ago if I liked Full Metal alchemist. While the distinct FMA vibes are there in the beginning of the story, they fade and the story becomes much more its own world and plot. I’ll say right off the bat: This book is definitely a slow burn. There’s a lot of setup that is more for the entirety of the series than the enjoyment of this singular book. Not to say this book was unenjoyable – but there’s definitely a feeling of this book is making sure the groundwork is set for the other 2 books in the trilogy to be able to be the best they can be. The last ten chapters were the most gripping for me, the rest was good enough to read but at certain parts during the middle of the story I found myself wondering if I was going to continue this series.
After finishing book 1, I instantly bought books 2 and 3. They sit in my Kindle as we speak, and I’ve already started book 2.
So I’d say book 1 does a good job in the end at making you want more, and as of now I’d recommend this series if you like really well thought out plots, magic systems, and political intrigue. If you like characters, however….
Well, we’ll get to that later in the review. With my overall thoughts out of the way, let’s get more into it!
The Age of Kings is dead…and I have killed it.
It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king….
It’s up to a few….
Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail. But when gods are involved….
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should….
The Powder Mage Trilogy, Book 1 – From Audible
The plot is the most interesting part of the book. I’ve always wanted to read a novel that takes place after the big grand stand against the monarchy is done, and the aftermath of it. This book definitely doesn’t disappoint on that front, and we see all of the tough decisions, gritty world, and hurt people that a revolution would produce. I will say while at times the plot tries to make this war seem more like in their own mind, both sides are right, but for the most part we’re supposed to feel like our main POV characters are the ones in the right, and that they truly did the right thing. This doesn’t exactly gel with me, because I find the main character of the book to be a self-righteous jerk, so for all of the book in his POV I found myself just getting upset that he was tearing this nation apart with no real plan.
I mean, he had a plan, but just the fact that he thinks running a nation is going to be smooth sailing other than a few bumps in the road, and that he thinks he’s in the right really erks me. It doesn’t make him a compelling character, and for that the plot suffers a tad. The pacing is a bit wonky here and there, since we’re split between 3 major POVs, and 2 minor ones. It isn’t terrible pacing mind you, I’ve read worse – but when you’re invested in one plot, and then the very next chapter hops to another plot, you find yourself wishing more time was spent with the POV in the chapter before. This would have been easily resolved if we just spent maybe 2 or 3 chapters with one character, then were sent to another storyline.
The last ten chapters fix this problem, as all plots are brought together to culminate in the 1 plot the book was leading towards. I will say it was worth the slow burn of the previous 30 chapters, and the 2nd book so far has a very streamlined plot as all characters have been brought together and do a bit less wandering on their own. We’ll see if this continues, I’m only seven chapters in, but it’s a vast improvement from book 1 already.
The world building in Promise of Blood is the best part of the book. The world was based on the French Revolution, and it shows: the attention to detail, the grittiness of the writing, makes me feel like I’m there. The magic system is split between 3 types: average sorcery, the powder mages, and the knacked. Powder mages ingest gunpowder to enhance their shots, and have a sort of gun telepathy to them, and knacked just have 1 skill they’re good at (perfect memory, don’t have to sleep) – the sorcery in itself is interesting also, as they have to use their fingers to connect to what they call the else, which is basically a magical energy resource. It’s really interesting, and lends itself to super intense fights.
We’re on the brink of industrialism in this book as well, so we still have rifles, carriages, and old technology. But it’s on the brink of being advanced and that really adds to the world, as we’re not just dealing with medieval swords and sorcery here. I love seeing guns vs magic, and how inventive the fights get at times. It’s just a really fun world to sink your teeth into, and I can’t wait to sink further.
The characters are the least interesting part of the book to me. They aren’t…bad characters persee, but they aren’t interesting enough to grab my attention. There’s attempts at depth to them, but it’s just so overshadowed by the plot, and there honestly isn’t enough depth to want to be interested in them further than them being engines for said plot. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading a few of them, only a few I genuinely disliked, but they just feel like walking manly man tropes that get a little tiresome after a while.
My favorites are Taniel, Olem, and Nila. Those three are more side characters, but they have enough to them to have made me excited to read their story arcs throughout the whole book. I really don’t like Tamas, which is a shame because he’s the main character: but for the reasons I stated above, really couldn’t get into his struggles. I will say he got…a little better by books end? But he just seems so one note to me, hopefully he changes in the net 2 books.
Adamat is our last main POV character, and I thought his plot was fine. He was investigating things for Tamas, and the first half of the story it worked well. The second half however, we found out the answer to what he was investigating before he figured it out, so it just seemed like unnecessary filler after a certain point. Taniel’s story I liked the most out of all of the POVs, Tamas I liked the least. Like I said they’re serviceable for propelling the plot forward, but not much else.
The side characters I enjoyed far more. The rest of the council, a royalist laundress, a master chef: all of them were a lot more fascinating to me, and I hope the spotlight gets shined on them more as we see how Tamas’ short sighted cu has affected the little people, so to speak.
The writing is simple. The writing is raw, and gritty. There aren’t any flowery pros, everything is just stated outright as far as our characters know. It matches the world so well, adding to the atmosphere of this sudo French Revolution setting. It melds so well with the world, that I honestly can’t imagine it being written any other way. I tend to shy away from the overly flowery fantasy novels, so reading this writing style was really refreshing and I’ve never seen an author know what story he’s telling, know what writing style to use, and go all in with it. The writing is raw, just like the battles, and emotions of war, and it’s just really well done. I’m looking forward to reading more of McClellan’s writing in the future.
There are definitely flaws in this book. The characters could be better, there could be a bit more tug of war between both sides morals, showing us that just because one side thinks they’re right, doesn’t mean that they are. As it stands, it’s more of a one sided war story where we should think the main characters are the ones in the right.
That doesn’t detract from the excellent world building, unique writing, and very well done plot. I’d say at least read Promise of Blood to see if you’d be interested in the rest of the series, and be prepared for a slow burn book that amps up at the very end, prepping you for what’s to come in the next 2 books.
Have you read Promise of Blood? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!