Field Marshal Tamas hopes to take the fight to the Kez but is cut off behind enemy lines and presumed dead. Without his father’s backing, Taniel, who has joined the fight at the southern front, clashes with the corrupt military leadership. Back in the capital, former police inspector Adamat continues his desperate search for his wife and oldest son, who are being held prisoner by the henchmen of Lord Claremonte, a nebulous figure with his eyes on control of Adro. Finally, Nila, formerly a laundress to a powerful duke, must try to protect the last royal heir, a young boy, who is also under Claremonte’s thumb.
Whereas Promise of Blood had the characters jumping from plot line to plot line over a period of several months, TCC’s timeline is relatively condensed, so each character really only gets one main arc. This allows for a deeper dive into each of the characters, especially Tamas. His march across enemy lines to get home has its share of exciting battle scenes, but McClellan does a good job weaving in a feeling of desperation as supplies dwindle, injuries mount and morale plummets. Taniel and Adamat’s storylines also provide plenty of action, although Adamat’s feels like it ends about 100 pages too soon, and instead he is used at the end to move the overall plot along rather than advancing his own story. After being relegated to the background in PoB, Vlora, Taniel’s ex-fiancee, finally gets a larger role, although after reading McClellan’s short story The Girl on Hrusch Avenue, I was hoping for her to be promoted to one of the POV characters. Another main character from one of McClellan’s other short stories makes a brief cameo, which served as a nice nod to the reader and made the world feel more organic.
TCC definitely feels like the middle book of a trilogy, as a good deal is left hanging for the final volume, and its climaxes are on a slightly lower level than the first book. In particular, the reader only observes one of the final scenes from afar, which lessened its emotional impact (although hopefully more will be revealed in the last book). That being said, I look forward to reading the conclusion of the first powder mage trilogy next February.