Books

The Autumn Republic Book Review [Powder Mage Trilogy, Book 3]

The Autumn Republic is the best book in the Powder Mage trilogy for me, hands down.  All pacing issues are gone, every character feels like they matter, and there’s a satisfying ending to every characters story arc.  Not all of them get the ending you’d expect either, but it’s a fitting ending for them and it was nice to see the author take risks and actually go there with a lot of the stuff in this entry of the series.  Of course, you’ll need to have read the first two books for this one to make any sense:  it once again takes place directly after events in The Crimson Campaign, but man is this one a roller coaster I couldn’t get off of, start to finish.

 

This book cements the Powder Mage universe as one of the best fantasy universes out there for me.  I have to admit, I wasn’t feeling it the first book.  Second one, it still grabbed me enough to read on, but not there yet.  Third?  I can’t wait to read the next series of books and all of the novellas, just such a fantastic job with this book and a worthy conclusion to the saga for these characters.

 

Read it if you’d read the first two books, you won’t regret it!

 

I usually put the book synopses after my brief review, but the one for this book holds spoilers to things in The Crimson Campaign, so I’m just going to launch into the review from this point on.  Here we go!

 

PLOT

 

The plot is really good in this  installment, doesn’t have nearly as much pacing issues as I found in the last two books.  I think that’s because we’re in the end game here, and every character’s plots get interwoven into the final stretch of the narrative.  Nila, Adamat, and Bo are my favorite set of characters overall in the series, but their plots in this range from empowering to heartbreaking and it’s all just such good writing.  Tamas’ plot, and story arc finish in this book, and while it wasn’t what I was expecting for the character, it makes total sense for it to have happened and for me it was the most satisfying out of all of the story arcs.

 

The least satisfying for me was Taniel’s sadly.  He branches off from the main group early on, and it just seems like there wasn’t enough time to give him a better plot than he had in this book.  I like his scenes with Vlora, and she got fleshed out way more in this book, but what they did to Ka-Poel really made Taniel’s plot less enjoyable, and I’ll leave it at that to not avoid spoilers.

 

Another part of the plot that came to a conclusion, was having to do with the gods of the world.  It didn’t feel rushed to me for the most part, but one character that was in the series throughout is revealed to be something they weren’t before and it just felt off to me.  Throughout the series, McClellan has done a really good job of leaving clues for us for other plot threads, so we could figure it out so the lack of such for this specific character just seemed a bit off to me.  If we had seen more of them, or if it had made more sense why the reveal wound up to be them it would have worked far better than it did.  It didn’t really hinder the reading experience for me, but I could see it being an issue for someone else so figured I’d bring it up.
Other than that, flawless execution of the story.  The first two books led up to the third so well, and this series shines because of it.  You do have to read all of the books to get the full effect of the plotting though, since this is more a continued story over three books than it is episodic books with self-contained plots that have overarching story in it.  Since all 3 books are out, I’d highly recommend reading all 3 consecutively instead of reading something in-between any of the trilogy to get the full effect of the narrative.

 

CHARACTERS

 

Every character that was introduced in Promise of Blood has a satisfying conclusion to their story, as stated above.  Not much development is given to them per say, but they’re put in situations where they have to act differently than they would, and their morals are pushed to the brink because of it.  You really feel for all of them honestly, but still stand outs for me are Nila, Adamat, and Bo.  They all were always my favorites since book 1, and that never changed.  I’d love to read a spin off book about Nila and Bo, and see where their stories further lead, but I also like where they left us with their plots  at the same time.

 

Tamas’ full story comes to fruition here, and in this book I realized that if you don’t like him, it’s fine.  We as the reader, were never supposed to like him.  If we did, that’s fine, but this story was always meant to tell us about a man driven by grief and revenge, and the destructive path being led by those emotions ultimately leads us.  It was really well executed, and as stated above, although I wasn’t expecting Tamas’ story to end the way it did, when it happened I was like “Yes,  this totally makes sense” and I’m so happy McClellan didn’t shy away from the darker stuff in this series, because it really shines because of the darker subject brought up here.

 

Taniel doesn’t super change throughout the series.  I enjoy his character, but other than circumstances pushing him forward, he doesn’t feel like he grows at all.  He gets what he wants in the end, but I just wish he would have gotten a tad more growth than he did, and we got to see his and Tamas’ relationship develop more because of his growth.  What we got was serviceable, just wish we got a bit more.

 

Adamat, poor Adamat!  His story along with Nila’s shows what happens when people are thrown into something because of someone else’s  desires.  Adamat never wanted to be any part of this, but Tamas dragged him into it and that anger towards the man really shines through in this book.  He’s my favorite main point of view character for sure, really enjoyed his investigations, his scenes with Ricard, and his family.  The investigations in this book are the most gripping to me, and I think The autumn republic is the best use of his character for sure.

 

WORLD BUILDING

 

We’re back in familiar territory here, where the story began.  No real ground broken here, nothing really expanded on.  Just back to the French Revolution setting of the book.  But I like that where a series starts, it ends sort of thing so being in familiar settings the entire book totally worked for me.  It may not for others, but for me seeing the inner workings of the city after everything that had happened was a lot of fun and added to what this book series ultimately was about:  One man, and how his choices effected a world, for better or for worse.

 

WRITING

 

The pacing is way better in this book.  The writing is still raw and gritty, but more polished so it just feels more raw, if that makes sense.  I think McClellan’s dialogue writing has definitely gotten better in this book, felt way more realistic than in the past two.  Other than that, pretty much the same as the prior two books.

 

CONCLUSION

 

This review is shorter because honestly, I can’t say much more about this series than I already have in the prior two reviews.  If you’d read Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign and enjoyed them both enough to get to The autumn republic, you’ll want to read this book.  How much you like it depends on how much you liked the other two since this series is purely linear in its story telling, and the full story spans all three books.  For me, I enjoyed this book especially and it fixed most of the problems I had with the series as a whole.  Just was a really good ride start to finish and the slow burn of the first two books was worth it.

 

I’d highly recommend The Powder Mage trilogy.  Only reason I’m not starting the next series in the Powder Mage universe is because the third one isn’t out yet  (by the posting of this review, the third book will be released).  But as soon as it is I plan to buy all 3 and read.

 

Pick up this series if you like a lot of action, interesting plots and world building, and really good political intrigue.  You won’t regret it!

Books

The Crimson Campaign Book Review [Powder Mage Trilogy, Book 2]

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!

 

BOOK SYNOPSES

 

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

 

PLOT

 

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.

 

CHARACTERS

 

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.

 

WORLD BUILDING

 

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.

 

WRITING

 

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.

 

CONCLUSION

 

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!

Books

Promise of Blood Book Review [Powder Mage Trilogy Book 1]

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!

 

BOOK SYNOPSES

 

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

 

PLOT

 

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.

 

WORLD BUILDING

 

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.

 

CHARACTERS

 

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.

 

WRITING

 

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.

 

CONCLUSION

 

 

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!