Guns, Germs, and Steel... well, minus germs...and probably not so much economics... oh and plus magic.
Okay that was not even remotely applicable. Why would anyone think that even made any sense? That doesn't make sense, they're not really even close, what is wrong with me?
Pretty early in my reading of Promise of Blood [US] [UK], I said, "An investigator looking into a mystery, an assassin-type chasing a mage, and then Tamas, just Tamas. I look forward to every POV, how is that even possible?"
I can't say this really changed throughout the entire book. There's one small POV that's in addition to the above that adds a little bit of suspense, but mostly seems like a set up for the next installments in the series, but it doesn't deviate from the above sentiment.
The cover of the book says, "The age of Kings is dead ... and I have killed it." Promise of Blood begins when the coup has already occurred. Field Marshall Tamas has displaced the king just in time to save the country from a ruinous contract with a neighboring state. The next step is the hard part, gathering up the nobles and establishing the new government. The cover quote comes quickly and doesn't even sound lame, which I was very impressed with. That was a very cool introduction to Tamas.
So already, we know there's political intrigue, but you can't get too far without noticing the magic systems involved in this series. There's a magic centered around gun powder, which is definitely one of the unique draws, but there are also other types of magics that are more traditional and I liked that it's not all explained right away. It's all very natural as it fits into the world.
There's an interesting relationship between the different magical cabals involved and of course they don't all get along very well. The powder mages really take center stage as they are some of the main point of views and they're just really cool. They can not only manipulate bullets so they can round corners (Wanted), but the powder itself has a magical effect on the user that is also much like a drug, enhancing senses and increasing abilities.
The magic fits seamlessly in a napoleonic fantasy world with the same types of technologies of the time such as the printing press and well...guns. In addition, through the limited point of view characters, we begin to see that there's much more than a coup and it's inherent difficulties (riots, hangings, etc.), the king's cabal of mages has hinted at a much greater problem and hence the investigator mentioned above.
McClellan can't seem to be mentioned without his former teacher, Brandon Sanderson, but it's hard not to. Brian McClellan is like a grittier Brandon Sanderson, great story with interesting characters and a unique magic system. It's not nearly to the level of Joe Abercrombie, but on its way there, hence why I think it's closer to Sanderson on the spectrum.
The writing is also on par with his mentor, it's perfect for the story told. I think there's something to be said about writing that's not flashy, almost as if it emphasizes the story much like why you should only use "said" for dialogue. (This gets my meaning too.)
It's amazing that Promise of Blood is a debut because McClellan already seems like a seasoned author. There's no doubt in my mind he has a long career ahead of him with or without mention of his writing teacher.
4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.