The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan
The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan is a great book. If you read Promise of Blood and liked it, the second book will be right up your alley too. There’s not even a hint of the feared sophomore slump. The book wins you over with a never-ending barrage of happenings. There is no downtime. You’ll follow the main characters on a joyride of action with ever new complications to spice it up. The tension holds until the end and I’d like to kick Mr McClellan in the buttocks ’cause I can’t wait until February 2015 to read on. Blasted cliffhangers! The book ends in the perfect position to make a reader tear at his hair in longing for more.
Before I tell you what Brian McClellan does right with the second installment of the series, let me first tell you what it’s about:
We are right in the war between Adro and Kez. Even the victory before, that culminated into Taniel shooting a god in the eye, hasn’t made a big dent into the Kez’ military might. Their army numbers in the hundred thousands and only strategical and tactical might can help Tamas defeat the enemy. He’s got enough of that, but he ends up cut off behind the enemy lines. With Tamas out of the picture and presumed dead, the generals give ground to the Kez every day.
Taniel Two-Shot stumbles in this situation and tries his best to assist the Adro army. But the Hero of two Continents doesn’t find a warm welcome everywhere.
Adamat is on a mission, homing in on his family, to rescue them from the clutches of Lord Vetas.
The book whisks you away into the rich world of the Powder Mage Trilogy with an opening nearly as grand as for Promise of Blood. The book introduces action from the start and doesn’t stop. Things happen and then more things and still more things on top. The book has a great flow and you can lean back and let it carry you. You don’t really notice the pages turning because there’s always something to make you want to read on. To make you dread stopping. It’s a book that’s very easy to read. I read about 80% of it in one day and I suspect even people who don’t read as much can finish it in a couple of days.
The characters are the same as in the first book and I found especially Adamat grew as a characters. His duty to his family has him charging after Lord Vetas like a bloodhound. His search is riddled with hard decisions with one particular hard one at the end of the book. This decision lends the story a depth it had not had before and shows that Brian McClellan can do more than write an enjoyable story.
The same can be said about Tamas. Even the great general is pressured by the dangerous situation he has maneuvered his forces into. Through him we learn more about Vlora too and how her decision has changed her life. Their confrontation is one of the great signs of the army’s precarious situation. Tempers are boiling from the lack of food and supplies and everyone knows the Kez are right on their heels. Brian McClellan does a good job conveying the perilous chase in a believable way and the reactions of the characters are understandable.
Taniel on the other hand felt too angry for my tastes. He rages against the world and while I can understand it partly, he’s digging his own grave most of the time. What I did enjoy was that the relationship with Ka-Poel matures and how she takes matters into her own hand. She knows what she wants and she won’t let Taniel’s stubbornness stand in her way anymore. That his addictions kinda gets brushed under the rug wasn’t to my liking though. It seems Taniel can just decide he doesn’t need the powder as much anymore. Well, one could argue that it’s part of his newfound strength, but I don’t like that explanation. His addiction gave his character a great flaw and showed the dangers of being a powder mage. I’d have preferred to see him struggle harder against his addiction, to show that getting clean is a hard fight.
One of the many great points of this series are the magic systems. There aren’t just the powder mages and the privileged. If I count right (and it depends on what you count as a different magic system) there could be more than seven different magic systems and their users. Especially Ka-Poel’s magic stands in the spotlight in this book. Fully unleashed, her magic is incredible and more powerful than one might think. There still are drawbacks, which I find nice. She needs to set her spells up and is vulnerable to sudden attacks. Without this downside she’d feel overpowered. I’m glad she doesn’t. In her stead Taniel has become much more powerful and that doesn’t always work so well. While he was already strong in Promise of Blood, he’s now a force to be reckoned with. That makes for good action, but at the moment his power feels too strong. Especially when you compare Taniel in Promise of Blood with the Taniel in this book. His increase in power went too fast and was too much. And you shouldn’t forget that even at the end of this book his limits still aren’t visible.
I enjoyed reading the book and I can recommend it to anyone that liked Promise of blood, no questions asked. For those without any prior knowledge of the series, I’d also recommend it. With the second book displaying as much expertise in writing an engaging story as the first, this series is shaping up to become something great. It’s a series carried by its fast plot and unique setting. Especially the powder mages are one big reason why you should at least try out the books. I for one can’t wait for the next installment, The Autumn Republic. What can bridge the gap until february next year will be his new short stories/novellas. As far as I know a new one’s nearly finished, so we might see a new story from the powder mage world soon.