Book Review: The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

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Disclaimer: Spoilers for Promise of Blood’s ending and minor spoilers for The Crimson Campaign. Read the review for Promise of Blood here.

I read Promise of Blood within the span of three-four days. The Crimson Campaign, in contrast, I read over six adrenaline-fueled hours. For three-quarters of Campaign, my heart was in my throat, my eyes nearly skipping through the words because of how badly I wanted to know what would happen next. And a whole lot happens, let me tell you that.

The Plot and Characters:

Like Promise of Blood, this sequel continues following Adamat, Taniel and Tamas as the former two deal with the fall-out of Promise’s ending. Tamas, meanwhile, begins from a place of strength, quickly lost when the Field Marshall makes a grave tactical error against the Kez, leaving him trapped far behind the enemy lines and with no certain way back. So it is that Tamas’ section of Campaign is an adrenaline-fueled retreat through enemy lands with some unforgettable battles, a dash of subterfuge and a lot of great banter with his bodyguard and my favourite Knacked soldier, Olem. A bit more focus is placed on the relationship between Tamas and Vlora with some heavy, emotional scenes between father and surrogate daughter (that’s what they are, really), which I was all for!

Taniel’s story here, the beginning of it, was difficult to read. After the physical and emotional torture that was Promise’s finale, we find Two-Shot in a mala-den, drugging himself for everything he and his possessions are worth. It’s a sorry state to see him in but it makes the journey of him getting back to his feet all the more satisfying. I had a few issues with the way Taniel would occasionally get into the dumbest fights (for good reason, granted) with people who far outranked him. It does fit who he is as a character, hot-headed and brusque but my sense of him was, he’s also clever enough to know where the road he goes down on might lead but he goes down it, regardless.

Adamat meanwhile is keeping a low profile, trying to outsmart and outplay Lord Vetas, the mysterious, cold-blooded antagonist working against the interests of the new government. In his attempts to thwart the evil mastermind and free those Vetas holds hostage, Adamat makes an alliance with my favourite Priliveged, Bo, who is as scary as he is entertaining!

Nila’s in the novel, too! Again, her PoV is tiny compared to the others but I was pleasantly surprised by the route Brian decided to take this former laundress in! Her relationship with a certain spell-slinging character, in particular, is something I quite enjoyed..but on that point, I’ll return when I review the third book!

Solid writing where dialogue, action and general plot direction are concerned. I breezed through the novel in an evening. And a night. It set my imagination ablaze even more than Promise of Blood and for that, I am happy to praise it to high heaven.

This was an excellent second instalment to McCllelan’s Powder Mage trilogy. Not only does it develop previous storylines, it manages to throw in a few surprises while showing a piece of the greater world outside of Adro. A few accounts were settled, a new villain established and a veritable sea of blood was spilt! 5/5 stars!

This review took me a while. Nevermind that I wrote 3/4ths of it the day after I wrote the review for Promise of Blood. Blame it on my lazy ass, or on doing fifty things at once, all day, every day. I’m lame, I know! I’ll try to finish up the last book of the trilogy very, very soon and re-read Sins of Empire in order to FINALLY read Wrath of Empire. 

Book Recommendation: The Walls of Air

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Ah, recommending the second book of a trilogy, that’s a new one for this blog!

The Walls of Air is the second novel in Barbara Hambly’s Darwath trilogy. The second book of a trilogy is always a bit tricky; you have to find a balance between answering some of the questions that the first novel set up while setting up the final stage of the final book.

Barbara Hambly manages to do just that in an admirable way. Our main characters — Ingold, Rudy and Gil — all face considerable challenges and each of them grow and change; some in ways that you’d expect, while others might surprise you. What Ingold goes through at the end of the novel, in particular, changes him into a much darker, more cruel version of himself; a version that was only hinted at, previously.

I won’t go into detail, but it’s an understandable transformation which feels very much ‘earned,’ if you will.  Appropriate. So it is with Gil and Rudy, whose transformations are more gradual and less…contested.

The Walls of Air features two storylines:

The first storyline deals with Rudy and Ingold’s journey to Quo, the Magical Capital/College of the world. I didn’t quite fancy Rudy as much as Ingold or Gil in the first book, but this storyline had me rooting for him time and time again. Our San Fran wizard’s apprentice is quite a charmer, that’s for sure.

Gil has some problems of her own in the Keep, overshadowed only by her proclivity to scholarly work, and her ability to see patterns early enough to make her brilliant but late enough not to resolve the tension over Rudy and Ingold’s quest.

Hambly’s prose is once again splendid. I read it with such ease that it’s a challenge not to lose myself and any notion of time when I’m within the confines of Darwath’s fantastic world.

I could say so much more about it…but I’m afraid to spoil a great experience for you. I’d really rather not do that, so you go ahead and read it!