I bought this because a) it had a cool cover; and b) the first page was intriguing. Same reason I buy most books, really. And I’ve had a bit of a thing for good old BFF (big fat fantasy) lately.
The world in Promise of Blood has magic, and gunpowder. If you’re a Powder Mage, you can blow someone’s head off from a mile away with your musket, or explode a powder barrel from a distance and blow up your enemies. Not to mention snort the stuff and give yourself heightened perceptions and a really good time.
The main character – well, there are a couple, but the guy about whom the story seems to be – is an old-and-bold Powder Mage field marshal, Tamas, who’s just staged a military coup, to overthrow a weak and decadent king who was mortgaging the kindgom’s future and losing an imminent war before it even started.
Tamas’s first act in charge is to execute, in public and in rivers of blood, the king, the queen, their family and the king’s entire court of sycophantic magicians. Tamas does not fuck around. Nice guy, eh? Well, no, not really. But Field Marshal Tamas does indeed appear to be the good guy, in the same way that we ‘root’ for Tyrion Lannister, even though he’s a vicious little bastard. He may not be nice, or indeed totally sane. But Tamas is the voice of reason in an unreasonable society, the righteous rebel in a glittering kingdom underpinned with poverty and suffering. Unfortunately for him, he can’t stage his coup alone, and has to deal with a cabal of the kingdom’s conniving power-brokers. A soldier in a nest of vipers.
There’s also a mystery plot, where a private investigator with a perfect memory (another species of magical talent, little tricks called Knack) is hunting down the truth about an old prophecy – or was it a curse? – spoken to Tamas by one of the dying magicians. There’s also Tamas’s cynical son, Taniel, a powder-addicted mage tasked with tracking down the last escaped magician, and trying to earn his ruthless father’s respect. Good luck with that.
I’m liking this book a lot so far! It’s cleverly written. The tone is realistic, as if the story’s about real people, rather than characters forced behave a certain way by the author’s rules.
Book 2 is The Crimson Campaign. If you like a bit of gritty, war-torn BFF with a stink of history – not so much grimdark as realist – and characters who act and talk like real people, then try this series.