My first stop on the Trilogy Tour turned out to be somewhat of a dud, and even though all of the books in The Long Price Quartet were already published, I decided to abandon that series and start fresh.
Promise of Blood wastes no time in getting right to the action – the king is overthrown in the very first chapter by Field Marshal Tamas, the head of the Adran army and a powder mage. Powder mages fall in the middle of the magical hierarchy in the Nine Nations, with powerful Privileged at the top (who form royal cabals to protect the monarchs of the Nine) and the Knacked at the bottom (individuals who have one special talent, such as photographic recall or the ability to do without sleep). Powder mages, as the name suggests, use gunpowder as the source of their magic. They can gain enhanced reflexes, strength, and speed by sniffing gunpowder, they can shoot bullets over distances of several miles, and they can bend bullets around obstacles.
After Tamas and his powder mages depose the king and the nobility, he must work with his co-conspirators, who make up the various stakeholders in Adro (the unions, the criminal underworld, the church, etc.), to restore order to the country, while facing an existential threat from a rival nation. The story mainly rotates through Tamas’s point of view and two other characters – Tamas’s son Taniel, and Adamat, a retired police inspector. (A fourth character gets a few bits here and there and will probably be more prominently featured in the second book). Promise of Blood’s mix of politics, military exploits, a whodunit mystery, and the supernatural is compelling and although a lot of world-building information is thrown at the reader very quickly, it all manages to gel as the stakes escalate at the midway point.
A common criticism of Promise of Blood has been its lack of female main characters (the one female POV character accounts for about 20 pages total and the other female main character is mute). McClellan has rectified that by publishing several short stories and a novella set prior to the events of Promise of Blood featuring Tamas’s wife, Taniel’s fiancee, and one of Tamas’s soldiers. (A fourth short story appears in the online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies). These stories were entertaining in their own right, provided a window to the minds and motivations of Tamas and Taniel, and built on the interesting world McClellan has created. Unfortunately, the second book in the trilogy, The Crimson Campaign, was recently pushed back from a February to a May release, so the next several stops on the Trilogy Tour will again be new series.