Conor's Reviews > Promise of Blood

Promise of Blood by Brian  McClellan
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really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, the-powder-mage

Promise of Blood was an intense, action packed opening to a series that I'm really excited to continue. It had a complex, brilliantly executed magic system, great characters and a good plot that was interesting up until the very end. I'm definitely going to read the sequel soon.

The magic system in this book was incredible. I've heard it compared to Sanderson's Mistborn series but having never read it I can't really comment. What I can say is that this was one of the most complex and intriguing magic systems I've read. From the very start McClellan establishes a comprehensive list of the rules, powers and limitations of magic and then proceeds to use this set-up to brilliant effect to propel the story and especially the action. I also really liked how it meshed with the 'flintlock fantasy' of this story. The magic and firearms were linked really nicely and it made the world even more unique and interesting. One complaint that I did have was that shortly after the magic system was established early on 2 extremely powerful characters showed up who were seemingly immune to the rules of magic that the author had established and that made the system so compelling.

A setting similar to France during the revolution was an interesting and unique idea for a fantasy series. Unfortunately gunpowder and magic aside the setting wasn't particularly deep or engaging. The revolution in this book was over unbelievably quickly. It didn't make sense to me that the entire nobility, easily the most powerful group in the country, were completely wiped out so quickly and easily. Also I never really saw why such a drastic revolution needed to take place. A strong military leader deposing a weak king was more reminiscent of Cromwell in England or any one of the butload of times this happened during the Roman Empire rather than complete social upheaval of the French revolution. Maybe we were supposed to take it that motivations similar to the revolution existed in the background but it was never really explained why and how such drastic, unprecedented events took place (Edit: The novella's give some background on social conditions and world politics prior to Tamas' revolution.) At times it also seemed that the author was desperate to show his world was 'modernising' rather than letting the world speak for itself.

The characters in this book, especially the 3 main POV characters were compelling and well-written. Tamas was a really cool character. His political manoeuvring was enjoyable if not overly complex and his POV's showed the ruthlessness needed to carry out a bloody revolt, even with good motives. Although I kind of wish his action scenes had been toned down a bit. It was kind of ridiculous that the de facto ruler of the country was personally fighting off assassins and going on dangerous missions throughout the story.

Taniel was another cool character and his interaction with Ka-Poel were some of my favourite parts of the book. On the downside he suffered from what I like to call badass/wuss syndrome (in other news I've had my medical license revoked after a series of non-existent diagnoses). For the most part Taniel's sections were really interesting, especially the intense, well-written action scenes. However I was frustrated by how frequently he deteriorated into self pity about his father not hugging him enough and his fiancée cheating on him.

The POV character I most struggled with was Adamat. Going in to this book I knew he was a private investigator who was being blackmailed via his kidnapped family. I was pretty jaded about both the 'P.I.' bit and the 'kidnapped family' bit and as usual my assumptions without any evidence proved dead on. I didn't find his sections anywhere near as engaging as Tamas or Taniel and the kidnapping of his family was extremely annoying. A murderous, powerful, mysterious underworld figure tries to blackmail him into committing treason and when he refuses promises to return 'with leverage'. This apparently doesn't alarm veteran detective Adamat. At all. Anyway a few chapters later his family is kidnapped. As leverage. Gasps* If only he could have had some kind of warning or clue that this would happen. From there he decides not to warn Tamas about the conspiracy and get his help in rescuing his family. Instead he decided to trust that the secretive, murder-happy international crime syndicate will let his family/9 witnesses go when he is finished helping them.

Nila was an interesting study in how a revolution, even when done for the greater good, can leave innocent people's lives in ruins. I do think the author missed a chance to do more with that perspective though. (view spoiler)

Of the 4 POV's Nila played easily the smallest role and this was echoed with women being marginalised throughout the story. Vlora appears and is mentioned more than almost any other non-POV character and yet the only thing of note she does throughout the story was be seduced as part of a plot to break her engagement with Taniel. I was really hoping for some explanation as to how a powerful mage was so easily tricked into betraying the man she loves and her foster-family but we never heard anything about it from her. I'm hoping she'll be more prominent in the other books and maybe get a redemption arc where she faces some karmic justice and gets to repair the relationships she damaged. Another complaint I had about women in this book were the harems. There were a lot of harems. The royal mages in every country traditionally each keep a personal harem and Bo, one of the main good guys, still keeps this tradition. There was also a high ranking religious figure whose sprawling mansion was filled with a massive harem (yeah, he was that kind of priest). I mean with this female to male ratio there have to be some interesting female characters right? One female character who I really liked was Ka-Poel. Despite falling into something of a stereotype as the white male protagonist's, lovable 'savage' sidekick I still found her an awesome character. Does that make me a bad person?

This was a really enjoyable book with a great setting, good plot and interesting characters. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in this series and seeing how it expands on what was introduced here.
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Reading Progress

May 25, 2014 – Shelved
May 25, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
June 15, 2014 – Started Reading
June 15, 2014 –
0.0% "Really psyched to start this one. The magic/firearms setting sounds really cool and I've heard good things about this book from a load of my friends on here."
June 16, 2014 –
34.0% "Liking this book so far. I'm kind of disappointed that after spending so much time early on establishing a complex magic system with rules and limitations a mysterious character (Rozalia?) just shows up and does whatever she wants. Hope her unexplained god-like powers aren't going to feature too much in this book."
June 17, 2014 –
52.0% "I'm struggling a bit with the Adamat storyline. The Taniel and Tamas parts are still awesome though. The blackmail sub-plot has finally kicked in as well, which is annoying. A mysterious, murderous underworld figure warned Adamat that he was looking for 'leverage' to get him to commit treason but Adamat apparently didn't think to warn/move his family. Or mention the spy to Tamas when talking to him. Dumbass."
June 17, 2014 –
52.0% "...So Taniel just learned that Ka-Poel is 19 rather than 14. I'm shipping 'Tan-Poel' so hard you guys."
June 18, 2014 – Shelved as: fantasy
June 18, 2014 – Finished Reading
June 26, 2014 – Shelved as: the-powder-mage

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Tamas was my favorite. You'll probably love The Crimson Campaign, then, I've heard everything he did wrong in this book he corrected in that one :D

By the way, he released a new novella only a few days ago, Servant of the Crown, that's about Tamas.


Conor I was gonna read the novella's in between the 2 books but I really want to start book 2 now. What did you think of the shortstories?


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I haven't read any, and I'm probably not going to, other than Servant of the Crown, hah. Most of them were released before the second book, though, so it's probably safe to assume you can read them without worrying about spoilers.


Conor Cool. I think they're all supposed to be prequels so there shouldn't be spoilers. I had been wondering if reading the novellas would provide any important context or background for book 2 though. I've heard the 'The Crimson Campaign' is supposed to be really good and I'm psyched to start it, think it's an improvement over 'Promise'?


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh, nice. They might, I have no clue. I haven't read TCC either, that's going to be later in the year for me. I already like what I'm hearing about it, though, so I'm inclined to believe the buzz that it's better than Promise.


Conor Cool. When I start reading 'The Crimson campaign' I'll try not to fill my updates and review with unmarked spoilers :D


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Lol, cool!


message 8: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee I read half of this and will come back and read the rest when I have finished the book. You need a spoiler warning. I did guess about Adamat's family, leverage seemed pretty obvious, but haven't got to that deed yet.


Conor Sorry bro :). There are a few things I want to edit out, I'll try to remember to put in the spoiler warning when I do that tomorrow. I only put that part in because I though I saw point mentioned in the book description somewhere. To even things out you get to spoil 1 minor plot point for a book on my to-read list.


Em Lost In Books I've it on my tbr but not getting time to start it...


message 11: by Damian (new) - added it

Damian Dubois I think I'll read your review in total once I've read the book but I'll just say the first few lines got me interested.


message 12: by Mr. Matt (last edited Jun 19, 2014 07:05AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mr. Matt Rabindranauth wrote: "I haven't read any, and I'm probably not going to, other than Servant of the Crown, hah. Most of them were released before the second book, though, so it's probably safe to assume you can read them..."

I echo Rab's comments. Read the short novellas. They are lots of fun. Well worth a quick read and a few bucks. Oh ... and nice review!


Conor Lee: Okay I put the spoiler warning in. Sorry about that bro.

Manju: Story of my life.

Damian: I've tried to avoid spoilers and stick with generalities but yeah, the review would probably make more sense once you've read the book. Hope you enjoy it.

Mr. Matt: I was gonna read the novellas in between the 2 books but I really want to start on book 2 now. Is there any important background/context for book 2 in the novellas? And thanks mate.

Gary: Thanks bro. Going to start book 2 in this series soon McClellan is definitely a promising author. This book is even more impressive when you remember that it's his debut.


Mr. Matt "I was gonna read the novellas in between the 2 books but I really want to start on book 2 now. Is there any important background/context for book 2 in the novellas? And thanks mate."

Nope. The novellas are free standing. I read them while awaiting book 2.


Conor Cool. I'll probably read them after book 2 while I'm waiting for book 3 so.


message 16: by Shane (new)

Shane Silver I wouldn't call it complex, but it's a fun magic system. Basically allomancy with gunpowder instead of metal powder. :p


Conor I've never read 'Mistborn' but I've heard 'allomancy' in that series and powder magic in this one are very similar. This book also introduced the 'knacked', 'privileged' and Ka-Poel's mysterious powers (not normally a fan of unexplained magic but I thought it was done well here) who add more depth to the magic systems. Pretty impressive world-building, especially for the first book in a series.


Kaleb I heard that the follow-up trilogy, also in the Powder Mage universe, will be set in Fatrasta and be about the Dynize, so I'm guess that is when he will explain the magic.


Conor I hadn't even heard there was going to be a follow-up trilogy :D thanks for the heads-up bro. The Dynize sound pretty interesting (they're the powerful, mysterious empire yeah?) so reading more about them would be pretty cool. I do hope Ka-Poel's powers will be explained more in this series though especially since she plays such an important role.


Carmen Amazing and thorough review, Conor. I still haven't read any Sanderson.


Conor Thanks. And I'm glad at least 1 of my friends on here also hasn't read Sanderson :)


Carmen Oh! You haven't either? I feel better. He's on my list though, it's only a matter of time...


message 23: by Liam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Liam Johnstone I think Adamat is probably my favourite character. Tamas has always been really strong, too, and Taniel started to grow on me partway through the second book.


Conor Killian wrote: "Great review, your opinion is basically the same as mine. I haven't read the sequel yet but I've heard that it's supposed to be just as good."

I've just finished the sequel (should have a review up today if you're interested) and it was even better than this one imo.


message 25: by TS (new) - rated it 4 stars

TS Chan Brian McClellan was a student of Brandon Sanderson so that is probably the main reason why he was compared to the latter.

...establishes a comprehensive list of the rules, powers and limitations of magic
---> Sanderson's Laws :)


Terence I struggled with Adamat too. For such an intelligent and capable investigator he was pretty clueless.

Great review Conor.


Conor TS: But has the student... become the master?

Terence: Thanks mate.

And yeah, I liked him more in the later 2 books although there were still sections where I lost interest a bit. He was probably my least favourite of the 3 main POV characters tbh.


message 28: by TS (new) - rated it 4 stars

TS Chan Conor wrote: "TS: But has the student... become the master?

To know that, you need to read more Sanderson. Elantris was known to be Sanderson's weakest.. soooo... ;)

This series is still on my TBR, and I hope to get a start on it soon.


message 29: by Sree (new)

Sree Reading this now, good so far hope Tamil gets over his wining though, all the mains in this book are emotionally retarded


message 30: by Sree (new)

Sree *Taniel


Terence Sree wrote: "Reading this now, good so far hope Tamil gets over his wining though, all the mains in this book are emotionally retarded"

Yeah Taniel is a mopey prick. I would've enjoyed the series more if it was only from Tamas's pov. Bo and Ka Poel were more interesting individuals to me than Taniel. I like Taniel when he's fighting, but I didn't really enjoy listening to him.


Banner I just finished this last night. I can't decide if I'm ready to jump right into the second book or not (while the story is fresh on my mind).


Anirudh It was a good book but could have been much better


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