Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Promise Of Blood Promise Of Blood
by Brian Mcclellan

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Jacqui Smith

Viva la revolution! The country of Adro has been languishing under an inept monarch who has been frittering away the royal treasury on fripperies, while the people starve. Before said monarch can sell the country to their enemy, a cabal led by Field Marshal Tamas, stage a military coup… but that’s just the start – the King and his nobles all meeting the guillotine by the end of chapter 5. There’s the question of the enemy Kez, their agents, stray royalists, traitors to the cause… but the biggest problem is on the lips of dying sorcerers: "You can’t break Kresimer’s Promise". Unlike revolutionary France, this is a magical world, and killing kings might have unexpected consequences – like the return of long vanished gods.

I have to say that I liked McClellan’s world. He gives us swords, sorcery and gunpowder, and makes it work. He adds an original twist – powder mages, who can do remarkable things with bullets, for whom powder is power, and is a drug on many levels. McClellan provides detailed maps, and they do appear to make some sense, which is both an aid to the reader and forms a solid foundation for world building.

Unrelenting pace and a fine touch for action make this novel hard to put down. The main characters hold your interest because they are described in sufficient depth that the reader wants to learn more about them, their often-chequered past, and what will happen to them. There is Tamas, the aging powder mage, leader of the coup, who hates the enemy, the Kez, for what they did to his wife. There is his son Taniel, tasked with hunting down the remnants of the King’s Cabal. And there is Adamant, a private investigator with problems of own, who is assigned to find the traitor in Tamas’ camp. For comic relief there was the mad chef Mihali; yet even here there is a serious nod to gastronomy and its role in logistics and in maintaining morale that I quite appreciated. It’s appropriate too, because both the modern restaurant and the soufflé had their beginnings in the French revolution.

Given that this is his first novel, a few glitches and inconsistencies can be forgiven (and are often unnoticed in the rush of events), leaving us with a pretty auspicious beginning both to this trilogy and to McClellan’s writing career.

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