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Review: Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

By / May 1, 2013 / no comments

Out of sheer luck I picked a review copy of Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan. I hadn’t heard of the author before and I didn’t know anything about the book. I was a bit skeptical at the beginning, as it was a trilogy (all the rage these days). It wasn’t until about 80 pages in that I found out that Brian was a student of Brandon Sanderson. No wonder the writing was so smooth.

Promise of Blood starts off with a coup against King Manhouch. Mission impossible it seemed but Tamas had a lot of allies, he needed them as Manhouch had his Royal Cabal, a group of highly skilled Privileged (sorcerers) to protect him. Tamas with the help from his cabal of Powder Mages (those able to manipulate gun powder with thoughts) is able to defeat and capture Manhouch. With the dying breath of each Privileged  they utter the words “You can’t break Kresimir’s Promise.” Unsettled, he hires investigator Adamat to track down the meaning; what did this have to do with the god Kresimir?

This book was pretty exciting. I mean I love Brandon Sanderson but I liked this book before I even knew he had taught Brian McClellan. It’s exciting because it reads and flows just like Mistborn: The Final Empire does (which I loved). It has some new magic systems, the story moves forward at a fast past and it has good character interactions.

The story revolves around 3 major characters:

Field Marshall Tamas: He is the coup leader, a powder mage and a father. His plate is quite full. He has to worry about royalists within his country, he has to worry about keeping the peace with other countries in the nine and he has to fight his own personal demons. Not letting his own prejudice and subjectivity get in the way of making the right choices for his country and its people.

Taniel Two-Shot: the best shot in the Nine and the most powerful Powder Mage along side Tamas. He is called Two-Shot because he can kill two people with a single shot. He has daddy issues which skews his decision making. Do right by himself or his estranged father, Field Marshall Tamas? His first job is to hunt down a Privileged who escaped the coup with the help of a MageBreaker and a reckless, hot headed Privilege, both not of his choosing.

Adamat: ex-military who is now an investigator. He is in debt after a failed business and takes as many jobs as he can get. Yet working for Tamas will put himself and his family in danger. Can he do his job without ticking too many people off?

Promise of Blood also has 3 different types of magic systems.

Privileged: Mages who draw magic from the “else” using gloves with runes on them. A subset of Privileged is MageBreakers. They are sorcerers who give up the ability to draw magic from the “else” instead, they act like a neutralizer of the area, preventing Privileged from either drawing the magic and it can prevent magic from hurting them or others close by.

Powder Mages: Are able to to manipulate gun powder by either igniting it within a certain distance or change the direction of bullets. What makes them even more powerful though is that they can sniff gunpowder which enchances all their senses and strengthens their bodies.

Knack: Ordinary people who have one extraordinary ability. It could be having amazing eye sight, not needing to sleep etc.

All three types of magic users also have the third eye, which means when they use this vision, they can see other magic users. They perceive them as having a glow (this very much reminds be of Dresden Files).

Now, I’m sure I’m not going to be the only one drawing parallels to Mistborn and Sanderson, but there are many. The story while starts off with the coup, it is essentially what Mistborn is about, killing the Lord Ruler. The magic I don’t think is original, but it is a twist of what the magic systems Mistborn has. Knacks are essentially Mistings without the limitations of the 8 abilities from Mistborn. Powder Mages are essentially Mistborn with ‘pewter’ strength, ‘tin’ senses and ‘steel’ push abilities combined in one. Privileged are a twist on normal magicians from other books.
Now, perhaps you are thinking I’m being a bit harsh and thinking he’s not original, but that’s not the case here. Nothing is truly original, but if you change it enough it does become your own. Brian has managed to change enough. Unlike a Mistborn, his magic users actually have limitations, they aren’t all powerful (I’ll let you find out their limitations). One of my problems with a lot of books/superheroes is that they are all powerful and you know they’ll get out of any situation, it’s just a matter of how. So knowing they were powerful but flawed kept me guessing at every turn of events.

Another great aspect of the book is that McClellan’s characters are very real. They have real problems and they act like real people would in their situations. This is probably one area I think that Brian McClellan excels more than Brandon Sanderson. The love interactions were built up and not thrust upon us. The rage and the insecurities all add up to real human qualities which I think is a good thing.

So why should you read this book?

In Short:
In depth and real characters
Complex story lines
The romance in here doesn’t feel forced
Balanced magic system

While the “cliffhanger” at the end of Promise of Blood had a bit to be desired, I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of this trilogy whenever it may come. I think those who liked Mistborn will like this book and I think those who didn’t think kindly of Mistborn, this book might fix some of those issues.

“Brian McClellan might be the best new author of this decade.” – Jon Snow from Best Fantasy Books


Thanks to Hachette NZ for providing the book to be reviewed.


About the author


Blog editor, admin and founder of BestFantasyBooks.comYou'll find me on the BestFantasyBook forums and spending my spare time reading fantasy books and writing lists for this site. In fact, I have no spare time -- running this site IS my spare time!


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