Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Review: "Wrath of Empire" by Brian McClellan

In a year where I have almost as many DNFs as finished reads, it’s nice to have a few authors you know you can count on. Brian McClellan is one of those, and “Wrath of Empire” ($27, Orbit), the second book in his Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy, did not disappoint.

The Dynize have occupied Landfall and have their sights set on the rest of Fatrasta and the remaining godstones so that they can resurrect their fallen god. Taniel Two-Shot, known as the Red Hand, and his companion Ka-Poel, a Dynize bone-eye sorcerer, are determined to see that doesn’t happen, and he’s using every resource he has available.

In Landfall, Michel Brevis is working with the remaining Blackhats, despite having betrayed them, to try to get families smuggled out of the city and to safety as the Dynize round them up. When he gets a visit from Taniel, his mission changes. He’s to find a Dynize informant named Mara and get her out of the city. When his cover is blown, he finds himself in bed with the enemy to try to complete his mission.

Meanwhile, Vlora Flint and the Riflejacks mercenary corps, along with Ben Styke and the Mad Lancers are just trying to survive. Wanted by both the Fatrastan Army and the Dynize, Taniel recruits them to search for and destroy the remaining two godstones. Splitting their forces, Taniel and Vlora head to a remote mining town in the mountains, while Ka-Poel and Styke set out for an area known as the Hammer. Both have some unpleasant surprises and realizations ahead.

When I finished the Powder Mage trilogy, I couldn’t imagine McClellan telling a story as compelling as the tale of Tamas, but he’s simply reloaded in this trilogy, turning characters that played smaller roles in the Powder Mage books into fascinating heroes.

I’ve always been a firm believer that characters make books, and I love McClellan’s protagonists and the way that he develops them. All three of the main characters here – Vlora, Michel and Ben – face a crisis that causes them to question who they are and ultimately redefines them in the course of “Wrath of Empire.” Somehow, they all manage to come out just that much better and more relatable.

As usual, the tale moves fast and the tension ratchets up quickly. McClellan puts you on the edge of your seat early and leaves you there for the entire book with barely a moment here and there for his characters and readers to catch their breaths. It’s at times nerve-wracking for those who are invested, but always exciting, and that’s what a good story is about.

McClellan has yet to disappoint me in this world, and I’m looking forward to the finale next year and whatever the future brings. I can guarantee I won’t make the mistake of letting Blood of Empire sit around for six months before I crack it open. 

No comments: