Friday, 30 May 2014

‘Promise of Blood’ – Brian McClellan (Orbit)

It's a bloody business overthrowing a king...
Field Marshal Tamas' coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas's supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved...
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should...

I read a lot of books in a lot of (sub)genres and love them all for the most part. You’ll soon hear about it if I don’t… Despite this, I’m still more than a little old school with my fantasy. Swords, spears and shields are all good but the second we move on to muskets and pistols then I’m not into it as much. If you’re wondering, I can just about put up with cannons ;o) I think this is the reason why the whole ‘flintlock fantasy’ thing passed me by; part of fantasy for me is people getting up close when fighting and you just don’t get that when your hero can pick someone off, from hundreds of yards away, with a rifle. So I didn’t read ‘Promise of Blood’ when it came out back in April last year (I didn’t read Django Wexler’s ‘The Thousand Names’ either so there you go) but the recent publication of ‘The Crimson Campaign’ prompted me to go back and give it a read (that and the fact that I still think Tamas looks like George Lucas, I really need to let that one go now).
The long and short of it? ‘Promise of Blood’ is the reason is why blog content here has been a bit spotty recently, when I haven’t been reading ‘Promise of Blood’ I’ve been thinking about what is going to happen next. Now I’ve finished ‘Promise of Blood’, I can’t wait to get home so I can pick up ‘The Crimson Campaign’ and get going all over again. Can you tell that I really enjoyed this book? I really did…?

How often have you read a fantasy novel where the plot to overthrow the King is foiled at the last minute? ‘Promise of Blood’ starts just after the point where that coup was successful. The King is about a day away from being executed; long live the reign of Field Marshal Tamas, a man doing the right thing but for reasons all his own… What you get then is a story where you can almost smell the blood right from the first page, a book where the risk of counter-revolution means that the stakes are high right from the first sentence. ‘Promise of Blood’ is a book that throws you right into the thick of a messy coup and leaves you wondering just how Tamas and his committee are going to sort it all out. That’s what kept me reading, the problems, that were laid up even more problems, that had to be solved in order to keep the country just ticking over; McClellan piles it all into the laps of several characters who may not be entirely likeable (I’m looking at you Tamas) but who believe in their convictions enough to make you want to get behind them.

Problems, and their solutions, frequently come in the form of pitched battles and gunfights which swept me up in a hail of bullets and blood; just the kind of battles that I like to read about. I still have a preference for swordplay in fantasy but the blend of magic here made for a refreshing change for me. McClellan pitches his battles just right and it’s all too easy to keep reading. And if that wasn’t enough there are two Gods in play as well; one is wrathful and wants to destroy Tamas’ country, the other… is an amazing cook… I’m looking forward to seeing how that particular confrontation plays out in future books.

‘Promise of Blood’ does suffer slightly from being the opening book in a trilogy; a lot of the sub-plots are relatively self-contained but I couldn’t get away from the feeling that events weren’t flowing into book two so much as they were being left hanging so you would have to read book two.  With everything else going on though, it’s incredibly easy to forget that and just be carried along on a wave of intrigue, magic and blood. ‘Promise of Blood’ is ultimately an awesome read and I’m looking forward to continuing with the trilogy.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favourites from last year, the sequals actually better as well