Promise of Blood (Powder Mage, book #1) – Gush review

Hello to you and welcome (back!) to my blog!

Today I want to walk through a brand new obsession for me, a series that took my time up and showed me I can be an obsessive reader.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Hardcover, 545 pages
Published April 16th 2013 by Orbit

 

To start with the audience who will be love this book, I would say that if you are into history and specifically into French Revolution, this is the book for you.
This is a book that will hook you in since the very first page and it will not leave you until you get at the end (of book three).

Let’s start from the beginning though: The cover is just great. Well, to be fair, it is an okay cover until you finish the book – and I am starting to love covers that very subtly give you hints as to where the story goes which you will find out only at the end of the story.

So what is the story about you would ask? It is a story about a coup to overthrown the aristocrats and establish a democracy. A bloody coup too in a world were you find very different type of magic systems that interact with each other and make the world a cooler (and/or scarier) place. Brian McClellan not only build an interesting magic system and world revolving around that, he also provided extremely strong (and likeable) characters that will keep you wondering what is happening to them.

In essence, this is a great fantasy story in which you have amazing magic, great characters and a compelling story (in the form on several story lines) that will make you vanish from the world for a couple of days – as long as you need to read the book.

So, let’s dive into the spoiler piece of the review!

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The story begins in an incredibly strong way – you are accompanying Adamat (one of our main and beloved characters) through the bloody corridors of the royal palace. Mages (really, the members of the Royal Cabal) have been slaughter and Tamas, the Field Marshall (the highest rank in the Adran army and the first common man to reach this status thanks to his military genius and his talent as a powder mage) is requesting Adamat to solve a riddle (specifically, “You cannot break Kresimir’s Promise” – I genuinely think this is how the book got its title).

So Adamat, who is a man gifted with the best memory you can think of, will be working throughout the book to find what this riddle really means, meeting with a lot of people, more or less reliable. His investigation will soon change and he will be asked to look into deadlier affairs (the traitor in the newly formed Adran democracy!) and his life will just get more and more complicated – and more at risk! He also show us his family man side. And that is the part of Adamat’s personality that I liked the most and that will be the drive for half of this book (when his family is kidnapped!): His family is his love and his strength and he will not stop at anything (including a risky betrayal) to have this family back.

There are two more point of view in this book, Tamas, the invincible Field Marshal and a powder mage, a man who appears to be fueled by a personal vendetta and he is not a stranger to violence; and his son Taniel, a captain in the Adran army who is a powder mage with a cool nickname: Taniel Two-Shots!

So what are powder mages you ask? Well, if you got here without knowing it, you have not read the book and I invite you to pick the book before continuing reading since we are in spoiler territory! And if you read the book, well you know well that this is a “despised” mage who has the ability to sense gun powder, who can use gun powder to his or her advantage and become much much stronger, faster and, ultimately, a super human when assuming gun powder. And by “assuming” I mean pouring the powder in your mouth or, and this is “interesting”, snorting it (and this detail is actually quite interesting because the only powder mage who I recall using this system to inhale powder is Taniel who can be considered an addict, a broken person on so many levels yet he is one of the best characters in the book, possibly my favorite storyline).

So Tamas is leading the coup and he is establishing the new democracy; yet, being a brand new democracy, there are so many machinations, traitors, infiltrators from Kez (one of the neighboring reigns that genuinely fuels Tamas’ revenge since Kaz brutally executed Tamas’ wife and Taniel’s mother). The enemies are on all fronts really and Tamas spends most of his time trying to find who is working against him and trying to stabilize the democracy. Most importantly, he is assigned a body guard, one of the best characters in the book, Olem. Olem is a gifted man, who is not a mage or a powder mage but has a Knack, an ability of sorts that makes him special. This ability can really range in multiple directions, we find someone in the books who has a healing Knack. Olem’ ability? Not needing any sleep which is pretty handy when you are a body guard.
Also, Tamas’ storyline introduces us to one of the most eclectic characters, Mihali. Who is not only an amazing chef but is a god! He is brother of Kresimir (yes, the name you read before connected to the promise) who is the god who created the world in which Adran is. And the mages – for instance the Royal Cabal – is connected to him. The book really ingeniously explains the connection and I found a particularly clever idea to like the Cabal to kill those who deposed the king because of the Kremisir’s promise (weapon used primarily to avoid that the mages will become the rulers of the world).

Let me jump to Taniel – I could continue talking about this book for hours – and how he is the broken man, the man who was engaged to Vlora, another powder mage, and found her sleeping wth another man despite being engaged one to each other. Taniel is broken and raw really but he is a soldier and, most importantly, he is a powder mage with a secret weapon called Ka’Poel. Now, Ka’Peol who is the best female character in this whole book, is a savage who is following Taniel wherever he goes; it seems like there is an unbreakable bond between the two. Taniel saves her life and Ka’Poel saves his life. It is a constant balance – yet, she is mute. So she is being portrayed through Taniel’s eyes and their interaction is simply spectacular. I just thought this couple – who is just a couple on the field but not in life – was the best in the whole book with Tamas and Olem.

Finally, let me point out how this book really draws so much inspiration from the French Revolution. There was a passage that I particularly loved between Tamas and one of his antagonists about the core of the Enlightenment philosophy:
According to Tamas’ words: “The world is changing. People do not exist to serve their governments or their kings. Governments exist to serve the people, so the people should have a say in those governments”.
I just thought this was such a powerful dialogue and so spot on.

In essence, great book, great characters, great innovation in the magic system, compelling story, and absolutely magnetic for me.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts around it? Please let me know in the comments down below!

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