One of my passions aside from wildlife and sci-fi/fantasy is history and in particular Napoleonic History. I am a big hero of the Duke of Wellington and grew up on Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe books.
Last year, whilst waiting for the latest books in the series I am reading to come out I looked for a new series and was interested in looking for something along the steampunk lines. In doing this I started to read a series of books called the ‘Shadow Campaign’ by Django Wexler ( a topic for another review) which was very Napoleonic French in feel and the helpful ‘you may also like’ column on my e-reader suggested Brian McClellan.
The Powder Mage series of books, currently set as two Trilogies and a series of novellas is a well thought out romp, full of action and heroism. The world in which the novels are set is rich and diverse in some ways more so than Wexler’s. The series is most definitely fantasy based and blends the advent of gunpowder with magic.
Most high fantasy is medieval in context and it is refreshing to move this on to a new setting. Magic and gunpowder now sit alongside each other as equal and opposite powers. How do Gods and wizards play against a man with a musket?
The powder mage universe is deep in scope and well thought out, each nation has an identity and a past and it is easy to see the various protagonists in situ combatting the struggles they face. The way that magic works is inventive. There is no one source of magic, powder mages use gunpowder to heighten their senses and abilities, Privileged are more traditional hand wizards and there are knacked which are basically people born with innate abilities. Each of these classes has their own strengths and weaknesses which lends a richness to the novels.
There is obviously a main narrative to the books, revolving around the return of the worlds gods but the politics between the nations and within the nations and between the magic users makes each action and reaction more poignant and complex. The lead characters are extremely likeable especially Field Marshall Tamas and their actions are believable and three dimensional likewise the antagonists are well rounded and have a range of motivations for their actions.
The Powder Mage books are the kind of books I watch the bookshelves for avidly and then consume with gusto. I would recommend this to fans of Django Wexler, Robert Jordan and Scott Lynch or anyone with a love of magic and military history. Move over Sword and Sorcery and welcome in Musket and Sorcery.
Brian McClellan’s web page has lots of details on the series and can be found here. Powder Mage novels are available from all good booksellers.