I’ve now finished book two in the Powder Mage trilogy, and while I can’t say it was as enthralling as the first book, Promise of Blood – it is the second book after all – it was nevertheless a really great read!
Following the events of the previous book, the god Kresimir has returned to the earth, and is leading the Kez army against the Adran forces of Field Marshal Tamas. The Adran army attempts to push back the invading force at the border town of Budwiel, but the arrival of powerful mutants made from Powder Mages, known as Black Wardens, tips the balance in the favour of the Kez, and separates the army of Field Marshal Tamas. He is trapped behind enemy lines with only a portion of his best fighters, but fortunately his Powder Mages, and so begins the long march along the mountains to return to his native land.
Meanwhile, the war is not going well in Adro, as the Kez continue to push further and further into the country. What’s more, it seems like the General Staff are possibly in league with the Kez, sounding the retreat whenever it looks like the Adrans might be within a chance of victory. With the rumours that Field Marshal Tamas is dead, his son Taniel does not have a good time of it on the front line, and is eventually court marshalled and dishonourably discharged from the ranks. Attempting to kill the god Kresimir, he is captured behind enemy lines and learns of a traitor in the ranks before he barely manages to escape with his life.
In the midst of all of this, Adamat continues his quest to rescue his family from the clutches of the evil Lord Vetas. He manages to track down his wife and most of his children, with the help of Bo, the last remaining Privileged from the royal cabal, but his eldest son seems to have been sold into slavery in Kez as a Powder Mage…
Things aren’t too great for Adro, as the members of Tamas’ ruling council decide to hold an election for the first Prime Minister of the country. While Ricard Tumblar begins to put his campaign together, the arrival of the Brudania-Gurla Trading Company, under the leadership of Lord Vetas’ employer, Lord Claremonte, arrives in force in the capital Adopest with the promise of salvation from the Kez. But just what is really going on?
The job of the second book of any trilogy is, of course, to deepen the drama and relationships that were built in the first part, enrich the world-building, and set the stage for the final confrontation of the third act. The Crimson Campaign certainly does all of this, though I sometimes felt like something was missing. The pacing was great, the relationships deepened and the plot became so much more intricate, though ultimately I don’t think we got too much of the world-building this time around. We’re very much in the world of Promise of Blood, so let’s just get on with it. There were some odd bits we learnt, for sure, but I suppose I tend to judge these things in comparison with The Empire Strikes Back, and it just fell a little short on that mark.
The book was fantastic, though, don’t get me wrong. I found myself more sucked-in that the last time, and was content to just sit through for hours at a time – consequently, a book of nearly 600 pages took me less than a couple of days to actually read, rather than the usual fortnight! I was a bit concerned that things like Tamas’ trek through northern Kez might prove to be the biggest stumbling block in the book, but found myself enjoying those sections more than the main fighting (mainly because the Adran General Staff are so annoying and childish).
We eventually make our way to Deliv in the latter third of the book, and meet some of the folks there. I was really interested in seeing more of the world, so was hoping for a bigger portion than we eventually got, though I think it’s cool that we get to see more stuff. If we don’t venture further in the third book, then I really hope that we’ll get out more in the upcoming trilogy that’s starting next year (I’m purposefully avoiding spoilers there, so don’t know if anything has been answered to that effect yet).
Overall, this is a great book, and a perfectly fine central part of a trilogy. Where so many books like this suffer from bridge syndrome, I think Crimson Campaign is definitely a better class of book overall. If you haven’t checked this trilogy out yet, you really ought to do so!!
Before I leave you all, however…
Wow, a Powder Mage RPG! This sounds amazing!