Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan is an ambitious fantasy on an undeniable epic scale. The cover of this book is a perfect representation. It captures Tamas looking tired, worn down on the throne, grasping his weapon, all on a dais covered with spilt blood and a discarded crown.
The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it.
First off …. Have you heard a better line than that? I absolutely love it. It’s chilling and powerful . I said this book was ambitious, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t achieve what it was striving for.
In a country on the verge of war, where the nobles lived an easy life of excess while the commoners were starving, Field Marshal Tamas organized a coup. A brutal, blood stained coup that no one could have ever imagined possible. In it’s wake, Tamas is now still facing war with the Kez, but is also dealing with an internal rebellion of Royalist that are looking for him to pay for his treason. And if that is not enough, there are of course complications from the church and from unions. Politically, this book is full of layers and opportunities for conflict of interests and betrayals.
Magic is definitely prevalent in this book as well, more like a Sanderson or a Weeks story than an Abercrombie or Martin one. It’s an interesting magic system with several different levels or types of magic that a person may have. Knacked are the most common and typically the least powerful. They have one ability acquired from their magic. Some examples, one Knacked can always tell when a person is lying, another has 100% recall memory, never forgets anything, another never needs sleep. Can be anything, but is always limited to that one special ability. And as cool as each of those things are (Can you imagine the benefit of no sleep? I could put a bigger dent in my TBR! ) , they pale in comparison to the rest of the magic. A powder mage’s magic revolves around guns, being able to increase their senses, stamina, strength, and pain tolerance by taking gun powder or being able to make shots that would be unthinkable without the use of magic. Tamas and his son Taniel are both powerful powder mages. The magic doesn’t end there but you’ll have to read the book to find out more.
One thing about this book I find interesting is that two of the characters that peaked my interest the most are not featured heavily. Since this is just the first book, I know there is more to come and this story did not center on them, I don’t consider that an issue, just an interesting observation. Prior to reading this, I read the short story The Girl of Hrusch Avenue. This book featured Vlora as a child. She’s a very strong, independent character. The type of female character I love reading about. While she was mentioned and made a few appearances in this, she was a very minor character. However, I feel she is set up to play a more important role in the series at some point. I really look forward to that as I feel her character will be a great addition.
The other character was another female character, Ka-Poel, who had a bit more mysterious background than Vlora. She is a mute “savage” that Taniel has brought back with him that has some foreign magical abilities. We do learn a bit more about her as the story progresses, but once again, this story never centered on her, though her involvement in the story was more frequent and more critical than Vlora. Like Vlora, I am left feeling like we got but a glimpse of a fascinating character in Ka-Poel (and another reason to continue to read).
There are other characters in this, like Olem the bodyguard, that I feel like I want to know more about. Not because I feel the details about them should have been included in this story, but because our glimpses of them really made me curious to know more about them.
I think this was a very strong debut, but honestly, my expectations are that I will enjoy the coming books even more. Especially if I get more of Vlora or Ka-Poel. For some reason, as much as there was to enjoy in this book, I felt like it did take more time for me to get into it than I expected. I also could not figure out why because there was nothing about the book that I could look at and wish was done differently. Regardless, I came around. It was very good and I definitely enjoyed the story. I would recommend it to any fan of epic fantasy and look forward to the next one.