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Sins of Empire
Read by Christian Rodska
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 7, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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A world on the cusp of a new age. . .
The young nation of Fatrasta is a turbulent place — a frontier destination for criminals, fortune-hunters, brave settlers, and sorcerers seeking relics of the past. Only the iron will of the lady chancellor and her secret police holds the capital city of Landfall together against the unrest of an oppressed population and the machinations of powerful empires.
Sedition is a dangerous word. . .
The insurrection that threatens Landfall must be purged with guile and force, a task which falls on the shoulders of a spy named Michel Bravis, convicted war hero Mad Ben Styke, and Lady Vlora Flint, a mercenary general with a past as turbulent as Landfall’s present.
The past haunts us all. . .
As loyalties are tested, revealed, and destroyed, a grim specter as old as time has been unearthed in this wild land, and the people of Landfall will soon discover that rebellion is the least of their worries.
Privileged Robson paused with one foot on the muddy highway and the other on the step of his carriage, his hawkish nose pointed into the hot wind of the Fatrastan countryside. The air was humid and rank, and the smell of distant city smokestacks clung to the insides of his nostrils. Onlookers, he considered, might comment to one another that he looked like a hound testing the air—though only a fool would compare a Privileged sorcerer to a lowly dog anywhere within earshot—and they wouldn't be entirely wrong.
Privileged sorcery was tuned to the elements and the Else, giving Robson and any of his brother or sister Privileged a deep and unrivaled understanding of the world. Such an understanding, a sixth sense, provided him an invaluable advantage in any number of situations. But in this particular case, it gave Robson nothing more than a vague hint of unease, a cloudy premonition that caused a tingling sensation in his fingertips.
He remained poised on the carriage step for almost a full minute before finally lowering himself to the ground.
The countryside was empty, floodplains and farmland rolling toward the horizon to the south and west. A salty wind blew off the ocean to the east, and to the north the Fatrastan capital of Landfall sat perched atop a mighty, two-hundred-foot limestone plateau. The city was less than two miles away, practically within spitting distance, and the presence of the Lady Chancellor's secret police meant that it was very unlikely that any threat was approaching from that direction.
Robson remained beside his carriage, pulling on his gloves and flexing his fingers as he tested his access to the Else. He could feel the usual crackle and spark of sorcery just out of reach, waiting to be tamed, and allowed a small smile at the comfort it brought him. Perhaps he was being foolish. The only thing capable of challenging a Privileged was a powder mage, and there were none of those in Landfall. What else could possibly cause such disquiet?
He scanned the horizon a second and third time, reaching out with his senses. There was nothing out there but a few farmers and the usual highway traffic passing along on the other side of his carriage. He tugged at the Else with a twitch of his middle finger, pulling on the invisible thread until he'd brought enough power into this world to create a shield of hardened air around his body.
One could never be too careful.
"I'll just be a moment, Thom," he said to his driver, who was already nodding off in the box.
Robson's boots squelched as he followed a muddy track away from the highway and toward a cluster of dirty tents. A work camp had been set up a few hundred yards away from the road in the center of a trampled cotton field, occupying the top of a small rise, and a small army of laborers hauled soil from a pit at the center of the camp.
Robson's unease continued to grow as he approached the camp, but he pushed it aside, forcing a cold smile on his face as an older man left the ring of tents and came out to greet him.
"Privileged Robson," the man said, bowing several times before offering his hand. "My name is Cressel. Professor Cressel. I'm the head of the excavation. Thank you so much for coming on such short notice."
Robson shook Cressel's hand, noting the way the professor flinched when he touched the embroidered fabric of Robson's gloves. Cressel was a thin man, stooped from years of bending over books, square spectacles perched on the tip of his nose and only a wisp of gray hair remaining on his head. Over sixty years old, he was almost twenty years Robson's senior and a respected faculty member at Landfall University. Robson practically towered over him.
Cressel snatched his hand back as soon as he was able, clenching and unclenching his fingers as he looked pensively toward the highway. He was, from all appearances, an awfully flighty man.
"I was told it was important," Robson said.
Cressel stared at him for several moments. "Oh. Yes! Yes, it's very important. At least, I think so."
"You think so? I'm having supper with the Lady Chancellor herself in two hours and you think this is important?"
A bead of sweat appeared on Cressel's forehead. "I'm so sorry, Privileged. I didn't know, I …"
"I'm already here," Robson said, cutting off the old professor. "Just get to the point."
As they drew closer to the camp Robson noted a dozen or so guards, carrying muskets and truncheons, forming a loose cordon around the perimeter. There were more guards inside, distinguished by the yellow jackets they wore, overlooking the laborers.
Robson didn't entirely approve of work camps. The laborers tended to be unreliable, slow, and weak from malnourishment, but Fatrasta was a frontier city and received more than its fair share of criminals and convicts shipped over from the Nine. Lady Chancellor Lindet had long ago decided the only thing to do with them was let them earn their freedom in the camps. It gave the city enough labor for the dozens of public works projects, and to lend out to private organizations including, in this case, Landfall University.
"Do you know what we're doing here?" Cressel asked.
"Digging up another one of those Dynize relics, I heard." The damned things were all over the place, ancient testaments to a bygone civilization that had retreated from this continent well before anyone from the Nine actually arrived. They jutted from the center of parks, provided foundations for buildings, and, if some rumors were to be believed, there was an entire city's worth of stone construction buried beneath the floodplains that surrounded Landfall. Some of the artifacts still retained traces of ancient sorcery, making them of special interest to scholars and Privileged.
"Right. Quite right. The point," Cressel said, wringing his hands. "The point, Privileged Robson, is that we've had six workers go mad since we reached the forty-foot mark of the artifact."
Robson tore his mind away from the logistics of the labor camp and glanced at Cressel. "Mad, you say?"
"Stark, raving mad," Cressel confirmed.
"Show me the artifact."
Cressel led him toward the center of the camp, where they came upon an immense pit in the ground. It was about twenty yards across and nearly as deep, and at its center was an eight-foot-squared obelisk surrounded by scaffolding. Beneath a flaking coat of mud, the obelisk was made of smooth, light gray limestone carved, no doubt, from the quarry at the center of the Landfall Plateau. Robson recognized the large letters on its side as Old Dynize, not an uncommon sight on the ruins that dotted the city.
Robson felt his stomach turn. The sorcery crackling at the edges of his senses seemed to shy away, as if repulsed by the very presence of the obelisk. "It looks entirely ordinary," he said, removing a handkerchief and blowing his nose to hide the tremble in his fingers. "Just another old rock the Dynize left behind."
"That's what we think, too," Cressel agreed, adjusting his mudsplattered spectacles. "There is very little unique about this artifact, except for the fact that it is so far from the ancient city center."
"If there's nothing special about it, why are you bothering to dig it up?" Robson asked petulantly.
"It sank into the soft soil of the floodplains. Aside from the water, we thought it would be a very easy dig."
"And is it?"
"So far," Cressel said. He hesitated, and then said, "Until the madness set in, that is."
"The workers." Cressel gestured toward the stream of laborers hauling baskets of rubble up the wooden ramps at the edges of the excavation site. "We estimate the artifact is about eighty feet tall—probably the longest of its kind in the city. Last week, about sixty feet down, or rather twenty feet from the bottom, we found some unusual writing. That very day, one of the laborers went mad."
"Correlation is not causation," Robson said, not bothering to hide the impatience in his voice.
"True, true. We assumed it was just heatstroke at first. But it happened again the next day. Then the next. And every day since. By the sixth we decided to call on you because, well, you've been very keen on the university and we thought …"
"I could do you a favor," Robson finished sourly. He made a mental note to make his annual donations to the university a few thousand krana smaller. Best not to let them think him overly generous. He liked the university, was fascinated by their search for knowledge both past and future, but they'd overstepped their bounds this time. He was a busy man. "What do you mean by 'unusual writing'?" he asked.
"It's not written in Old Dynize. In fact, no one at the university recognized the language. Here, you should come down and see it." Cressel immediately began descending one of the ramps leading into the excavation pit. "I would appreciate a Privileged's perspective on this."
Robson's skin crawled, and he remained rooted to the ground, dread sinking to the pit of his stomach like a ball of lead. He couldn't quite place the source of his misgivings. Ancient ruins on this continent were always marked with Old Dynize. Finding a different language written on one of these obelisks might have historical significance, but surely a matter of translation shouldn't leave him with such trepidation.
He wondered if his senses were trying to warn him off from something. It would be easy enough to tell Cressel no. He could order the dig closed, the obelisk destroyed by gunpowder or sorcery.
But Privileged didn't maintain their reputations by being timid, so he followed Cressel down into the depths of the dig.
Laborers scurried out of their way as Cressel led Robson across the rickety scaffolding until they were standing beside the obelisk, staring at a spot only a few feet from the bottom of the pit. One of the stone's smooth faces bore an intricate inscription. It had been meticulously cleaned of soil, revealing an almost-white face covered in flowing letters entirely unfamiliar to Robson's eyes.
He peered at the letters for several moments. "Have there been any patterns in the madness?" he asked absently. Behind them, the soft thumping sound of laborers hacking at the soil with mattocks and shovels reverberated through the pit.
"It appears to affect only those who spend the better part of the day down here," Cressel said. "When the third case happened, I suspended faculty or camp guards from descending into the pit unless it was an emergency."
But not the laborers, Robson noted. Oh well. Someone had to suffer in the pursuit of knowledge.
Robson tilted his head to one side, beginning to see repeated patterns in the flowing letters. As Cressel mentioned, this was indeed a script of some kind. But what language? A Privileged of Robson's age was as learned in a broad selection of studies as most professors were in their own fields but Robson had never seen anything like this.
The writing was ancient. Older than the Dynize script surrounding it, which was one of the oldest languages known to modern linguistics. Slowly, hesitantly, Robson lifted his hand. He reached out for the Else, grasping for the wild sorcery from beyond this world. The sorcery once again shied away, and he had to wrestle to keep it close at hand in case he needed it in a pinch. There was something sinister about this obelisk, and he would not be caught unawares.
When he was certain he'd prepared himself against any sort of backlash, he touched his gloved fingertips to the plaque.
A vision stabbed through Robson's mind. He saw a man, a familiar face wreathed in golden curls, hands held out as if to cradle the world. Whiteness surrounded the figure, brilliant and unforgiving, and Robson was not entirely sure whether the man was creating the whiteness or being consumed by it.
Robson jerked his fingertips back and the vision was gone. He found himself shaking violently, his clothes soaked with sweat, as Cressel looked on in shock.
Robson rubbed his hands together, noting that the fingertips of his right glove were gone, seared away, though his fingers were unhurt. He left Cressel standing on the platform, dumbfounded, as he ran up the ramps and through the camp, sprinting all the way back to his carriage.
The snoozing driver jolted awake. "My lord?"
"Thom, I need you to take a message to the Lady Chancellor. Give it to her in person, without anyone else present."
"Yes, my lord! What is the message?"
"Tell her that I've found it."
Thom scratched his head. "Is that it?"
"Yes!" Robson said. "That's all you need to know for your own safety. Now go!"
He watched the carriage cut across the highway, nearly running a train of pack mules off the road and leaving a cursing merchant in its wake. Robson pulled out his handkerchief and dabbed his forehead, only to find that his handkerchief was also soaked with sweat.
Robson turned to find that the old professor had caught up.
"Privileged," Cressel wheezed. "What's happening? Are you all right?"
"Yes, yes, I'm fine." Robson waved him off and began striding back toward the camp. Cressel fell in beside him.
"But, sir, you look like you've seen a ghost!"
Robson considered the brief vision, his brow furrowing as he let it hang in his mind for a few moments. "No," he said. "Not a ghost. I've seen God."
Fort Samnan was in ruins.
The largest fortification on the western branch of the Tristan River, Samnan's twenty-foot palisade of split cypress trunks enclosed a sizable trading town and wooden motte that held a community center and several administration buildings. Forty-foot guard towers overlooked the river on one side and a few hundred acres of cleared, drained farmland on the other.
The fort stood as a monument to civilization in the center of the biggest piece of swampland in the world, which made Vlora all the more saddened to see it in its current state.
The mighty doors lay broken just inside walls that had been breached in a dozen places by artillery. Most of the towers were nothing but smoldering remains, and the shelled motte had been reduced to splinters. Smoke rose over the fort, billowing a thousand feet high into the hot, humid afternoon sky.
The aftermath of a battle rarely elicited horror within her. No career soldier could view battle after battle with horror and keep her sanity for very long but for Vlora there was always a sort of melancholy there, masking the shock. It tugged at the back of her mind and stifled the urge to celebrate a fight well won.
Vlora tasted the familiar tang of smoke on her tongue and spit into the mud, watching soldiers in their crimson and blue jackets as they drifted in and out of the haze. The men cleared away the dead, inventoried the weapons, set up surgeries, and counted the prisoners. It was done quickly, efficiently, without looting, rape, or murder, and for that Vlora felt a flash of pride. But her eyes lingered on the bodies, wondering what the final tally would be on both sides of the conflict.
Vlora worked her way through what remained of the gatehouse, stepping over the shattered timber that had once been the fort doors, pausing to let two soldiers pass with a stretcher held between them. She sucked nervously on her teeth as she got her first view of the trading town inside the fort. Some of the buildings had escaped the shelling, but the rest had fared little better than the motte.
Frontier forts were built to have modern weapons and light artillery on the inside, with Palo arrows and outdated muskets on the outside. Not the other way around.
Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of a soldier creeping out from a half-ruined building, a small box under one arm. She tilted her head, feeling more bemused than angry, and struggled to remember his name. "Private Dobri!" she finally called out.
The soldier, a little man with an oversize nose and long fingers, leapt a foot into the air. He whirled toward Vlora, attempting to hide the box behind his back.
"Ma'am!" he said, snapping a salute and managing to drop the box. A few cups and a load of silverware spilled onto the street.
Vlora eyed him for a long moment, letting him stew in his discomfort. "You looking for the owner of that fine silver, Dobri?"
Dobri's eyes widened. He held the salute, eyes forward, and Vlora could make out just the slightest tremble. She approached him sidelong, ignoring the silver, and did a quick circuit around him. He wore the same uniform as her, a blood-red jacket and pants with dark blue stripes and cuffs. It had gold buttons and a brass pin at the lapel of muskets crossed behind a shako—the symbol of the Riflejack Mercenary Company. The uniform was dusty, with soot stains on his trousers and arms. He opened his mouth, closed it, then gave a defeated sigh. "No, Lady Flint. I was stealing it."
"Well," Vlora said. "At least you remembered how little I like a liar." She considered the situation for a few moments. The battle had been short but fierce, and Dobri had been one of the first of her soldiers through the walls once their artillery had battered down the gates. He was a brave soldier, if light-fingered. "Give the silver to the quartermaster for inventory, then tell Colonel Olem you volunteer for latrine duty for the next three weeks. I wouldn't suggest telling him why, unless you want to end up in front of a firing squad."
"Yes, Lady Flint."
"The Riflejacks do not steal," Vlora said. "We're mercenaries, not thieves. Dismissed."
She watched Dobri gather the silver and then scramble toward the quartermaster's tent outside the fort walls. She wondered if she should have made an example of him—she did have the moniker "Flint" to uphold, after all. But the men had been on the frontier for almost a year. Sympathy and discipline needed to be handed out equally, or she'd wind up with a mutiny on her hands.
She turned, finding a young sergeant approaching from the direction of the demolished motte. "Sergeant Padnir, what can I help you with?"
The sergeant saluted. "Colonel Olem's asking for your presence, ma'am. He says it's urgent."
Vlora scowled. Padnir was pale, despite the heat, and had a nervous look in his eyes. He was a levelheaded man in his late twenties, just a few years younger than her, one of the many soldiers under her command to be forged during the Adran-Kez War. Something must have gone wrong for him to get so worked up. "Of course. Just making my rounds. I'll come immediately."
She followed the sergeant down the street, turning onto the main thoroughfare of the town. She paused once to examine the line of prisoners, all kneeling on the side of the road, a handful of soldiers guarding them. Every one of them was a Palo—Fatrastan natives with bright red hair and pale freckled skin. At a glance she could tell that they were villagers, not warriors.
This particular group had seized Fort Samnan, declaring that the fort was on their land and forbidding the Fatrastan government from passing through the area. They'd killed a few dozen settlers and torched some farmhouses, but not much else. It was fairly mild as far as insurrections went.
The Fatrastan government had responded by sending Vlora and the Riflejack Mercenary Company to put down the rebels. It wasn't the first time Vlora had put down an insurrection on the frontier—the Fatrastans paid well, after all—and she didn't think it would be the last.
A few of the faces glanced up at her, staring vacantly. Some of them glared, a few cursed in Palo as she walked past. She ignored them.
She didn't like fighting the Palo, who tended to be passionate, underfunded, and out-armed. That meant a lot of guerrilla warfare, with leaders like the elusive Red Hand causing disproportionate damage to any Fatrastan army with the bad luck to get singled out. Pitched battles—like the siege of Fort Samnan—turned into a damned slaughter in the other direction.
As far as Vlora saw it, the poor fools had a point. This was their land. They'd been here since the Dynize left this place almost a thousand years ago, long before the Kressians came over from the Nine and started colonizing Fatrasta. Unfortunately for them, the Palo couldn't afford to hire the Riflejacks, while the Fatrastan government could.
Vlora left the prisoners behind and found Colonel Olem just a few moments later, on the opposite side of the destroyed motte. At forty-five, the colonel was beginning to show his age, streaks of gray creeping into his sandy beard. Vlora thought it made him look distinguished. He wore the same red and blue uniform as his comrades with only the single silver star at his lapel, opposite the crossed muskets and shako, to mark his rank. An unlit cigarette hung out of one corner of his mouth.
"Colonel," Vlora said.
"Flint," Olem responded without looking up. Technically, he was Vlora's second officer. In reality, they were both retired generals of the Adran Army and co-owners of the Riflejack Mercenary Company, putting them on equal footing. He preferred the formality of just being "Colonel" Olem, but she deferred to his judgment just as often as he did to hers.
Olem sat back on his haunches, hands on his knees, looking perplexed.
The corpse of an old Palo man lay stretched out before him. The body was bent, with freckled skin as wrinkled as a prune, and still bleeding from multiple gunshot and bayonet wounds. At least two dozen bodies in Riflejack uniforms lay scattered around the corpse. Throats and stomachs had been slashed. A pair of rifles had been snapped clean in two.
"What happened here?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," Olem said. He stood up and struck a match on his belt, shielding the flame from the breeze. He lit his cigarette, puffing moodily as he eyed the corpse of the old man at their feet.
Vlora gazed at the bodies of her soldiers. She named them silently in her head—Forlin, Jad, Wellans. The list went on. They were all privates, and she didn't know any of them well, but they were still her men. "Who's this son of a bitch?" she asked, gesturing at the Palo corpse.
"Did he do this?"
"Seems so," Olem said. "We already dragged off fifteen wounded."
Vlora chewed on that information for a moment, trying to catch up. It didn't make any sense. Palo tended to be scrappy fighters, but they dropped like anyone else against trained soldiers with bayonets fixed. "How did"—she did a quick count—"a single old man inflict almost forty casualties on the best damned infantry on the continent?"
"That," Olem said, "is a really good question."
"And …?" She gave him a long, annoyed look. It was one that sent most of her men scrambling. Olem, as usual, seemed unaffected.
"The boys say he moved too fast for the eye to follow. Like …" Olem paused, meeting her eyes. "Like a powder mage."
Vlora reached out with her sorcerous senses, probing into the Else. As a powder mage she could feel every powder charge and horn within hundreds of yards, each of them showing up in her mind's eye like points on a map. She focused on the body. The old man didn't have an ounce of powder on him, but she could sense a sort of subtle sorcery around him the likes of which she'd never felt. Further examination gave her a headache, and she closed her third eye.
"Well," she told Olem, "he wasn't a powder mage. There's something … sorcerous about him, but I can't pin it down."
"I didn't feel it," he responded. He had his own Knack, a minor sorcery that allowed him to go without sleep. But his ability to see into the Else was not as strong as hers.
Vlora knelt next to the body, giving it a second look without sorcery. The old man's hair had long since faded from red to white, and his gnarled hands still clutched a pair of polished bone axes. Most Palo dressed for their surroundings—buckskins on the frontier, suits or trousers in the city. This warrior, however, wore thick, dark leathers that didn't come from any mammal. The skin was ridged, tough to the touch, textured like a snake.
"You ever seen anybody wear an outfit like this before?"
"It's swamp dragon leather," Olem observed. "I've seen satchels and boots, but the stuff is damned expensive. Hard to tan. Nobody wears a whole suit." He ashed his cigarette. "And I've definitely never seen a Palo fight like this. Might be cause for concern."
"Maybe," Vlora said, feeling suddenly shaken. Being stuck in the swamps with the swamp dragons, snakes, bugs, and Palo was bad enough. But out here, the Riflejacks had always been at the top of the food chain. Until now. She ran her fingers over the leather. The stuff appeared to make an effective armor, thick enough to turn a knife or even a bayonet thrust. "It's like a uniform," she muttered.
"Rumors are going to spread," Olem said. "Should I put a stop to idle talk?"
"No," Vlora said. "Let the men gossip. But give them an order. If they see somebody wearing an outfit like this, they're to form ranks and keep him at the end of their bayonets. And send someone running for me."
Olem's brow wrinkled. "You think you could fight someone capable of cutting through this many infantry?" he asked.
"No idea. But I'll be damned if I let some Palo yokel carve through my men like a holiday ham. I can at least put a bullet in his head from thirty paces."
"And if there's more than one?"
Vlora glared at him.
"Right," Olem said, finishing his cigarette and crushing the butt underfoot. "Form line, call for General Flint."
Vlora and Olem stood in silence for several minutes, watching as the rest of the corpses were carted off and the fires finally put out by the bucket brigade. Messengers dropped reports off to Olem, and a flagpole was raised above one of the few remaining fort towers. The Fatrastan flag, sunflower yellow with green corners, was run up it along with the smaller, red and blue standard of the Riflejacks.
Vlora watched as a woman on horseback rode through the shattered fort gate and guided her horse through the crowds and the chaos of the battle cleanup. The woman examined her surroundings with a jaded, casual air, a sneer on her lips for the Palo prisoners on their knees in the street. Vlora didn't know the woman, but she recognized the yellow uniform well enough—it matched the flag her men had just run up the pole. Fatrastan military.
The rider came to a stop in front of Vlora and Olem, looking down on them with a fixed scowl. No salute. Not even a hello.
"You General Flint?" the woman asked.
"Who wants to know?" Vlora responded.
"Message from Lady Chancellor Lindet," the woman said. She pulled an envelope from her jacket and held it out. Olem took it from her, tearing it open with one finger and smoothing the paper against his stomach. The woman turned her horse around without a word and immediately rode back down the street, heading for the fort gate.
Fatrastan soldiers tended to be arrogant pricks, but Vlora had seldom seen one so rude. She tapped the butt of her pistol. "Would it be terribly unprofessional of me to shoot her hat off?"
"Yes," Olem said without looking up from the letter.
"Damned Fatrastan army needs to show more respect to the people doing their dirty work."
"Console yourself with the fact that you make far more money than she does," Olem said. "Here, you'll want to see this."
Vlora turned her attention to the letter in his hand. "What is it?"
"Trouble in Landfall," he said. "We've been recalled. We're to head to the city immediately."
- "Skillful worldbuilding and nuanced characters."—Library Journal (starred review) on Sins of Empire
- "Fans of McClellan's Powder Mage trilogy will be happy to return to this fascinating fantasy world, where magic and technology come together in the midst of complicated relationships and unsure alliances . . . . [A] compelling read."—RT Book Reviews on Sins of Empire
- "Furious, visceral, and relentlessly thrilling action."—Kirkus on Sins of Empire
- "McClellan continues to expand and build on the interesting and engaging world of his previous trilogy while also providing an exciting and fast-paced new story that even those new to the series will enjoy immensely."—Booklist on Sins of Empire
- "In Sins of Empire, Brian McClellan returns to the world of his Powder Mage trilogy for a novel that is equal parts military adventure and spy tale, and succeeds wildly on both counts."—Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on Sins of Empire
- "This book is just plain awesome. I found myself enjoying every moment of it. Innovative magic, quick-paced plot, interesting world. I had a blast."—New York Times bestselling author, Brandon Sanderson on Promise of Blood
- "Promise of Blood is a hugely promising debut. Guns, swords, and magic together? What more could you want? How about tense action, memorable characters, rising stakes, and cool, cool magic? Not only the finest flintlock fantasy I've read, but also the most fun. Brian McClellan is the real thing."—New York Times bestseller Brent Weeks
- "Brings a welcome breath of gunpowder-tinged air to epic fantasy."—Anthony Ryan on Promise of Blood
- "The world of the privileged sorcerers and the strange abilities of the powder mages who can manipulate gunpowder are just as well drawn in this captivating universe."—RT Book Reviews (4 1/2 stars) on Promise of Blood
- "McClellan's debut packs some serious heat.... A thoroughly satisfying yarn that should keep readers waiting impatiently for further installments."—Kirkus (Starred Review) on Promise of Blood
- "McClellan's debut is a lot of fun --- a historically influenced fantastical romp filled with machismo, intrigue and magic."—SciFi Now (UK) on Promise of Blood
- "McClellan neatly mixes intrigue and action... in a society where new forces like labor unions, gunpowder-armed soldiers, and explosion-causing 'powder mages' clash with traditional magics, more, and beliefs."—Publishers Weekly on Promise of Blood
- "War, magic, shape shifters, a few haunting pasts, swords, muskets and a cook... err.... chef... who thinks he's a reincarnated god. Not just another epic fantasy but the McClellan debut fantasy and the first of a trilogy. Ripping!"—thebookbag.co.uk on Promise of Blood
- "Brian McClellan has penned a gripping fantasy novel about a military coup and its bloody aftermath in Promise of Blood... McClellan's writing expertly allows the reader to visualize the action, understand each character's psyche and motivation, and keep turning the pages well into the night."—Deseret News on Promise of Blood
- On Sale
- Mar 7, 2017
- Hachette Audio