It’s not uncommon for a high fantasy book to start their story with the dead of a king, it’s been done a lot of times already and Promise of Blood used the same plot device but there is a little bit of a twist. The main protagonist, Field Marshall Tamas is the assassin and the story that follows in the book is all the aftermath of his revolution. There are tons of actions to be found here, making the book’s pacing an ebb and flow of fast and slow with great climax resembling Sanderson’s formula waiting at the end of the book. Of course, the revolution alone won’t provide an intriguing plot, this is where the rumors of the old Gods coming back to the world, the characters and magic systems combined to make the book more interesting to dive into.
The story is told from three main POV, Tamas, Taniel, Adamat and one side POV, Nila. There are some great characters in the book but my favorite will have to be Taniel and Ka-poel. It’s awesome how Ka-poel, one of my favorite characters in the book is a mute and this means we never see her spoke but her character, abilities and relationship with Taniel is really compelling to read. If you haven’t realize, the characters names in this book are mostly ugly and quirky, this is due to Brian adding or replacing one letter of the original name for his characters. For example, Thomas -> Tamas, Daniel ->Taniel , Flora -> Vlora, how do I know this? Well, one of the characters is named Petrik (gasp), Patrick -> Petrik. Not gonna lie, it pleased me to see my weird name used in a book, or anywhere really. Other than his uncanny descriptions with me (skinny, wear glasses, did Brian stumbled upon my profile somewhere during this character creation?), his brief appearance also took the spotlight with his sass and I love him for it.
One of the main strength of the book is its unique magic systems. Clearly this is where Brian’s apprenticeship under Sanderson shines. There are three main magic systems here and they all played a huge factor in bringing the actions to life.
- Powder Mage, by ingesting black powder, it will boost the users perception, physical abilities and have the ability to float a bullet with high accuracy or explode a gunpowder from faraway. The best comparison I can give is that Powder Mage has a high resemblance with the effect of digesting pewter in Mistborn series (read this amazing series if you haven’t) by Brandon Sanderson.
- Knack, not exactly a magic systems but a special set of skills bestowed such as perfect memory (this may sound awesome but can you imagine remembering all bad decisions you ever made?) or the lack of need to sleep.
- Privileged, a powerful Sorcerer that required a special Privileged glove with arcane runes embedded upon it to use their magic without limitation (so far). Think of this one like what like Roy Mustang from Full Metal Alchemist did, where he draw his runes on his gloves, wear it and with it, he could cast fire alchemy.
Picture: Roy Mustang from Full Metal Alchemist casting flame (an example of the Privileged magic.)
Magic aside, the world-building itself is really great. For the first book in a trilogy, Promise of Blood provide lots of background in its industrial revolution settings, lore, religions and Gods that will be a great foundation for the rest of the trilogy.
I usually put one or two memorable/philosophical quotes from the book in my review but you won’t find them here. Brian’s prose is really simple, easy to access, it’s there for the purpose of guiding the story-line fluidly and it did successfully. There is however one specific quote that I’d love to put in my review but I won’t. It got something to do with a doctor and cyanide, everyone who has read this book will know what I’m talking about and it’s better for you to experience it for yourself cause it was so memorable, came out of nowhere and hilarious.
Sadly, I do have two minor issues with the book, the first lies in Adamat’s POV. It’s not that it isn’t interesting but it bothers me how everyone praised him to be the best investigator and with that praise, came my expectation that he’ll be someone with genius intellect like Sherlock Holmes or maybe Detective Conan. However, all he did was asking questions and have the answers given to him without any threats or obstruction. For someone with the Knack of a perfect memory, I expected so much more out of his story but there aren’t any genius deductions to be found in his POV.
The second being the storytelling construction of the book, most of the chapters felt somehow a bit disjointed. Chapters consist mostly of an event or mini arc that get resolved in that specific chapter as well, even if the conflicts weren’t exactly solved yet, the next POV chapter will always fast forward several hours or sometimes days after the previous chapter. They all of course provide something to the main overarching story and although this decision provides a sense of quick pacing to the book, consequentially, this made the book seems like a consecutive set of short stories that kills the sense of intensity after a while.
These are minor issues for me and in the end my overall experience with Promise of Blood is still a very enjoyable read with great promises. It’s a great flintlock fantasy debut from Brian McClellan and I will continue to binge read this trilogy, especially after hearing from my trusted friends and fellow reviewers that the series only gets better from here on out.