The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan
Brian McClellan’s debut series The Powder Mage Trilogy has managed to catch my interested and hold it easily through the three books and the multitude of short stories he’s written in the Powder Mage Universe. The last book, The Autumn Republic, came out a few days ago and finished the first trilogy in a flash of grand action scenes.
I say the first trilogy, as another is already sold and will be published in the next years. I’m looking forward to the next series, even though the setting and characters are different. Still, Brian McClellan has promised that some characters from the first trilogy will be part of the next. I’m looking forward to seeing them again.
That means that while this book concludes the first series, it’s by no means the ending for the universe and while it is a parting, it’s not irreversible. As I enjoyed all stories Brian McClellan has written so far, knowing that another series in his compelling universe is being written as I speak makes me wonder at what he’ll manage to cook up for us to enjoy again.
The reason why I even managed to indulge myself with this book was only through the kindness of others. I’ve hit a rough spot and am cutting corners wherever I can. That would have meant for me to be unable to enjoy the last book in the Powder Mage series, had not Kenton offered to gift the book to me. I’ve written about the rough spot and Kenton’s kindness more here. I thought it would be prudent to say my thanks here too, as this review is the fruit of someone’s generosity.
You might have already guessed it: I enjoyed the third and final book of this series. It might not be as new as the first, or as militaristic as the second, but it’s as action packed as both these books. It’s the amalgamation of everything from the two preceding books in a fury of black powder trances, armies pitted against each other, and grand magic unleashed upon the world.
As the rest of the series, it’s a rather light read. That’s by no means something negative but going into the book you shouldn’t expect something deep or surprising. It’s a predictable book that still manages to tug at your emotions and is very well done. Despite its length, it’s a fast read and I managed to finish it in two days. It leads you on a chase and laying the book down isn’t an easy task. In fact, the story kept me awake until the early hours and I don’t regret the next, sleep-deprived day one bit.
While fans of the previous books won’t go wrong picking this one up, I found it could have done with a slower pace. Not much, mind you. They are fast and action-packed books, but this one felt like it was going too fast from one crisis and battle to the next. Especially the interpersonal charm of the books suffered from this frantic pace, with the dynamic duo Taniel and Ka-poel seemingly in the background.
Nila took over their position as the most likable character in this book and she did a damn fine job. Her PoVs were the parts I enjoyed the most throughout the book. Watching her grow into her strange Privileged power and altering the opinions of those around her, most prominently those of Bo, held rare charm. In this book, she became my favorite character and with good reason. The servant-turned-privileged holds to her values without getting corrupted by her newfound vast power. Being so powerful isn’t easy though and she struggles with the things she’s forced to do to protect herself and those around her.
The war against the Kez had been a major part of the series and this book sees the end of it, though I couldn’t help but feel that the last book did it better. This time the book falls for an often-used trope: To show the tactical mind and strategical prowess of a protagonist/main character, the enemy commanders are made to be brainless puppets devoid of any battle intelligence. While that is explained in the books (Kez chooses their commanders not for their ability) that explanation isn’t enough for me to enjoy the way the battles progress. As I don’t want to take away too much, I’ll add a spoiler to the next page detailing what exact battle I’m talking about and my problems with it.
Another issue I encountered in this book was a lapse in the character of Tamas. I’d encountered something similar in Promise of Blood, but this time I found it to be a more pressing concern. It’s the same scene mentioned above, which I’ll detail in a spoiler later on. Without trying to spoiler too much, let me just say that I don’t believe Tamas doesn’t seem the character to jeopardize the whole war for such a small and arbitrary reason.
Concluding: As I’ve said in my review for Promise of Blood, Brian McClellan has built an amazing series. While the last book of the series isn’t just as good as the second, it has managed to gift me some wonderful hours of reading time. The ending is bittersweet, but lacks a real surprise. As such, the whole book is somewhat predictable. Still, it’s a worthy finisher for a great series and has established Brian McClellan as an author to look forward to in the future too. While I’m very interested in the second series in his Powder Mage Universe, I’m looking forward to what universe he’ll invent after that even more.