So I’ve finished the Powder Mage trilogy, and my only thought is: wow.
In my previous reviews for the first two books, which you can read here and here, I’ve tried to remain fairly spoiler-free. However, the plot of this book is fairly insane, and I don’t think I’m going to be able to get through this blog and do the book justice without mentioning a couple of things, so proceed at your peril!
First of all, I really enjoyed this book. I think that has been true for all of these books, which are each pushing 600 pages, yet I’ve scampered through them much quicker than my usual pace for such things. Brian McClellan has such a way of keeping the action moving, you really don’t want to put the thing down! I read the final 200-ish pages in a day, the last 80 or so kept me up well into the night as I just wanted to see what happened before finally going to sleep! There are very few books that I can say that about, I have to admit!
Picking up where The Crimson Campaign left off, Tamas arrives at the front line with his reinforcements of Deliv troops to discover the absolute shambles that has been made of the war in his absence. He roots out the traitor in the ranks, before heading off into the mountains in search of his son Taniel, who is on the run from escaping the clutches of the Kez at the end of the last book. Tamas leaves detailed plans for the coming battle with Vlora, which I thought was a hilarious way of showing Tamas’ military genius, by having him fight the battle on paper the night before, and it pretty much went that way! You can really see here, if it hasn’t been clear enough already, just why Field Marshal Tamas is the central character of this story. Tamas also recovers Taniel and Ka-Poel, and everyone returns to the camp.
Adamat is also at the camp, and presents his report to Tamas on the whole thing with Lord Vetas, ending with the news that Lord Claremonte and his Brudanian soldiers now hold Adopest. The urgency to end the war with Kez becomes more pronounced and, after the decisive battle mentioned earlier, King Ipille sues for peace. However, during the negotiations, a group of Kez soldiers and Privileged steal into the camp and kidnap Ka-Poel, riding north with her. Taniel pursues them immediately, while Tamas is enraged at the fact Ipille seems to have gone back on his words of true.
Things begin to get extremely complicated in Adopest in the run-up to the elections for the First Minister, especially when Ricard Tumblar is almost killed in a bomb attack. Adamat interviews Lord Claremonte as a prime suspect, and discovers that he has no shadow, which leads him to the startling discovery that he is, in fact, the two-faced god Brude returned to earth. Adamat eventually discovers it is one of the union heads, Lady Cheris, who is responsible for the bomb. Taniel’s pursuit of Ka-Poel’s kidnappers turns up the alarming discovery that they are, in fact, disguised Brudanian soldiers. Just what’s going on?!
Tamas lands a hammer-blow against the Kez at Budwiel, only to discover that Ipille’s son Florian je Ipille has led a coup, killing his father and most of the court, and surrenders to Tamas to avoid further bloodshed. With the war with Kez pretty much concluded, Tamas returns to Adopest and the Brudanian menace. Arriving shortly before the elections, Tamas manages to secure the good will of Claremonte if the god loses the election, in exchange for Kresimir’s body, which has been recovered when the Kez surrendered. The elections go as smoothly as can be expected, and Ricard wins. During his inauguration speech, however, Sablethorn prison collapses, almost killing Ricard – Lady Cheris is revealed to be the second half of the god Brude, and attempts to exact vengeance against the Adrans.
All manner of hell breaks loose in Adopest then, with the Adran forces split between the royal palace, where Claremonte had been residing, and the square, where the Brudanian Privileged attempt to kill Ricard once more. Learning that Ka-Poel is held in the palace, Taniel joins is father there and the two powder mages take on the god Brude, unleashing sorcery the like of which has never been seen before. Tamas is mortally wounded in his battle, and only the timely intervention of Adom manages to save the whole city being destroyed in the process. Tamas dies during the battle with the gods, and Taniel is also pronounced dead, though he uses this to escape from a life following in his father’s wake. Vlora is promoted to general of the army to lead them into the new age of republic.
Okay, so I’ve tried to leave out as many spoilers as I could, but that is pretty much the course of the novel, right there! I couldn’t not talk about the death of Tamas, because it is such a climactic event, and written so damn heart-wrenchingly that I found myself tearing up reading it! Such a profound yet grounded scene, it was just superb, and a fitting end for the character.
There were some parts of this book that I feel were a little rushed, particularly the end of the hostilities with the Kez. Such a central event for so long in the trilogy, it ended probably the only way it could end easily, but Florian surrenders, then we’re suddenly at the gates of Adopest, and it’s a bit like there was a missing chapter or two that could have dealt with some of the aftermath a little more. The Brudanian threat to Adopest, though, was pretty well done, and while I suspect some folks might think it was a bit unnecessary, I thought it worked exactly as it needed to. The intrigue with Lord Claremonte was just great, and I had no problem at all believing his storyline as the novel moved forward.
We get to learn a little more about the magic system in this book, which I was kinda expecting in the last one, as I mentioned in that blog. Borbador spent a portion of the last book working with Nila, the laundress from Duke Eldaminse’s house who I haven’t previously mentioned in the blogs because I found her to be a bit of an annoying character, to be honest. At the end of the last book, she was revealed to have magical power, and here she is trained to use that power by Bo, with some pretty amazing results. Consequently, her character arc is pretty amazing, and perhaps one of the only characters in the entire trilogy who actually grows. Some of her early characterisation therefore becomes clear – she’s always portrayed as a bit weak but yet fiery, and I felt sometimes this was too much at odds to work properly. But the fact that she is possibly the most powerful Privileged of the last six hundred years can’t go unnoticed!
All in all, anyway, this book is just amazing, and a definitely worthy end to the trilogy. Indeed, the trilogy as a whole is some of the most fun I’ve had with books in recent memory! There are, however, a number of loose threads left dangling at the end here that, if I hadn’t known about a new book coming out next year, I’d be a bit mad about… For one thing, just what is Nila? Is she merely a Privileged, or a Predeii? What’s the future for Kez? Why exactly is Beon in hiding now? What are Taniel’s plans? Things seem a little vague here…
The next book, Sins of Empire, is coming out next March, as per the tweet above. I was studiously avoiding anything about this book before making it to the end of The Autumn Republic, as I didn’t want to accidentally discover something that could be a spoiler, you know? Well, as it turns out, the only thing I could possibly have deduced is that Vlora appears to be in this next one, but it seems to be a totally different setting etc. We’re going to Fatrasta! Excellent! The setting for this novel series is far too rich for us to remain in Adro for too long, of course. Given that Ka-Poel is from Fatrasta, I’m guessing we’ll be seeing her and Taniel, and maybe learning more about her magic and whatnot, so that could be cool. I’m not sure if I’d want an entire trilogy set just there, however, so here’s hoping it’s either (a) amazing, and I’m wrong, or (b) more wide-ranging than a single nation, and I’m still wrong!