Review: The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

Last Updated on March 8, 2024

Having not had the chance to read as many books as I wanted to in 2015, I feel like it’s been ages since an author really grabbed me by the collar and dragged me through a sequel faster than my own feet could carry me. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some excellent books that I rave about and recommend to random barflies wherever I find a pint in my hand, but of the very few I was lucky enough to read in 2015 none could match McClellan’s The Crimson Campaign in sheer ferociousness of pace. In fact, very few in the last few years are it’s equal.

The Crimson Campaign is an absolutely barnstorming read, so fast that I completely forgot to take notes throughout the experience – hence this rather short review (I’ve got memory retention abilities similar to a sieve’s ability to hold water).

The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellanIn this kick-arse tome of fiction, Field Marshall Tamas for once oversteps the boundaries of his awesomeness. Trapped in the lands of the Kez, he and his footsoldiers must make a mad dash for a distant pass with the Kez cavalry in pursuit in order to swing back around to Adro and defend his homeland. In the meantime, Taniel Two-shot drags himself (with the help of Ka-Poel… actually, without her he’d be buggered) out of a drug binge that would make Maroto from A Crown for Cold Silver proud to feature in some of the best front line mass-battle scenes I’ve read since Joe Abercrombie’s The Heroes and Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts. Finally, our man Inspector Adamat once again has himself wrapped up in intrigue and danger as he tries to stay true to his promises while saving what’s left of his family.

McClellan’s writing is so easy to read I sometimes forgot I was reading, or that I was supposed to be at work, or get off at that bus stop, or sleep. The plotting is intense enough to really pull you in and keep the grey matter working while not being so complicated or convoluted to lose the reader.

Some of my favourite parts of the book were:

  • Taniel and Ka-Poel’s relationship grows more enjoyable as Taniel becomes a better person and survives because of Ka-Poel. She is the strength in their relationship, and his character is all the better for it.
  • Tamas’s love for his son, at the forefront of his mind, really grows his character beyond the general without enough time for his son while he’s off saving Adro.
  • Tamas’s big reveal to his brother-in-law in a break during their flight from the Kez is one of my favourite pages of fiction I’ve read in a long time. It put a big grimdark smile on my face to see this side to the heroic Tamas.

The Crimson Campaign is a fantastic sequel that I unreservedly recommend to fantasy lovers, from grimdark to epic. I’m not a raging fanboy of too many authors, but for whatever it’s worth, I’m now one of McClellan’s.

I give The Crimson Campaign 5 Grimdark Lords out of 5. Light in terms of the grit you might find in a book like beyond redemption, but enjoyable for the depth of character McClellan introduces and the sheer ferocity of the battle scenes.

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Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.