Review: Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Last Updated on March 8, 2024

It’s pretty rare that I get the first 50 pages into a book and decide on the spot to go purchase the rest of a series, but there are times when you just know that you’re going to love an author’s work. It happened to me the first time with Joe Abercrombie’s The Heroes, and then again with Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns. And even though I thought I didn’t like flintlock fantasy, it’s happened again with Brian McClellan‘s Promise of Blood.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellanPromise of Blood reads like the French Revolution crossed with Lightbringer. McClellan presents Adro through the eyes of Adamant, a retired investigator whose taken up as a freelancer. His old general, Tamas, has called him back into service. In need of work, he responds, only to find the coup has already happened. Tamas, the military leader of the coup, has just killed all bar one – his son Taniel’s best friend Bo – of the royal cabal and had a group of his powder mages killed by a fleeing Privileged of incredible power. Taniel Two-Shot, famed Powder Mage marksman, hunter, and killer of Privileged has come home to see his father. His relationship with famed general Tamas is a strained one, and despite his best efforts, Tamas always seems to want him around as no more as a particularly useful soldier.

As the city reacts to the coup – the royal family and supporting lords and their families put to the guillotine, the Royalist military’s last stand, the new council in charge – Tamas sends Adamant on a mission to find out what Kresimir’s Promise is, apart from the final words on a dying Privileged’s lips. Adamant gets knee-deep in Adro’s underworld to find out what danger comes the realm’s way. Taniel chases the mystery Privileged through the city, before being retasked with taking out the last Royal Cabal member, his best friend Bo. All the while, Tamas tries to keep his new city and council in one piece, and the mighty Kez nation have smelled blood in the water and are on the way with their immense army.

As the Predii and a few ancient gods nobody actually believed were real come in to play a part in the ever-twisting treachery, the end game becomes clear. And what an end game it is. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t pick up this series as soon as possible.

McClellan’s story has brilliant depth, with plenty for you to get your teeth stuck in to. There’s a rich and inventive magic system that pitches a more traditional fantasy magic system against the powdermages, whose expertise is in manipulating gunpowder. The gods in the background are an enjoyable part of the story, without becoming ridiculous as many gods in stories are wont to do. Political factions, both under and Tamas’ nose and far away, provide another level of depth to the story, and McClellan makes sure there are plenty of tantalising bits to keep you interested in the series beyond the back cover of Promise of Blood.

One of the things that really makes Promise of Blood stick out to me is the relationship between Tamas and Taniel. Father and son, they struggle to have a normal relationship. Taniel wishes for a more fatherly figure, while Tamas struggles to separate his family from his soldier subordinates. To me, McClellan writes these characters so well that this relationship alone is enough to put me on to the second book.

Promise of Blood is a brilliant book that you need to pick up immediately. I’ll race you through The Crimson Campaign and meet you at the end of The Autumn Republic.

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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.

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