Promise of Blood: Book One Of The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan is a complicated tale of revenge, conspiracy, magic, secrets, and history. Set on another world during a time period of gunpowder, kings, and industry change the read comes across as a fictionalized version of our own history.
From the start, this fantasy is different than many. Field Marshal Tamas has led a coup against his King and overthrown the government of his country. Why? There are several reasons, but the simplest is that he was a bad king. The privileged (Wizards) that serve in his cabal (a group of wizard advisers, enforcers, etc.) were killed, but not before each one said the same words--- “You Can’t Break Kresmir’s Promise.”
Kresmir is a god. Why they all said those words as they died is strange as that is not something that is commonly said by the faithful. Tamas, as he works to hold his shaky alliance together against enemies inside and outside, arranges for Adamat, a retired Inspector to investigate the meaning as well as their use by the recently deceased.
Also at work in this read is the lack of a relationship between Tamas and his estranged son, Taniel. A gifted power mage (a wizard who can manipulate gun power) as well as an experienced soldier who serves in his Father’s army, he is frequently sent out on missions of various types by his father. The nation is at war and so too are father and son in a very different and all too personal way.
Against the political intrigue and other issues outlined above as well as many others, is the claim by some that the gods have returned. Others say they have not and yet there is some evidence they have. If they have returned to walk among the mortals why would they do so? Why would the gods return now? What do they want?
This complicated fantasy novel is chock full of great characters who are very different and have fully developed traits and personalities. While the main characters are interesting so too are the numerous side characters who could be main characters in another book. One of the side characters I very much like is Olem. He serves as a bodyguard to Tamas and has a magical talent. He never sleeps and faces the world by smoking cigars and making snide comments. While his duty is to protect Tamas at all costs, he also feels an obligation to comment in detail on the stupid decisions Tamas makes that put his life in danger.
Another unique element is two of the main protagonists are old men whose physical prime has long passed them by. Usually in a fantasy novel, the book is focused on the characters that are just coming into their own. While Taniel is doing that in a sense, both Tamas and Adamat have lived full lives by this point and are dealing with the choices they have made over the decades and are well aware of the fact they are far closer to the end than the beginning. They are battling here because of love of family and not because of the greed of a younger person.
Promise of Blood: Book One Of The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan is a book of depth and complications. It is the first part of a trilogy and one that I very much enjoyed and has me hooked to continue. If you like fantasy, a unique world, and a read with plenty of mystery, you will enjoy this book.
My reading copy came from the Preston Royal Branch of The Dallas Public Library System.
Scott A. Alexander ©2020