Book review: 'Promise of Blood' includes military coup, sorcery, suspense

By Denise Russell

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, April 27 2013 3:00 p.m. MDT

"PROMISE OF BLOOD," by Brian McClellan, Orbit Books, $23.99, 545 pages (f)

Brian McClellan has penned a gripping fantasy novel about a military coup and its bloody aftermath in "Promise of Blood." A host of supernatural creatures — gods, powder mages, Markeds, Knackeds, Privileged, Watchers, Wardens, savages — add an unearthly dimension to warfare as they magnify weaponry capacity, evoke the power of natural elements to accomplish their mission, and change human desires.

"Promise of Blood" is not the author’s first foray into fantasy, as McClellan began writing short stories as a teenager, no doubt influenced by his love of reading and video game playing, as well as encouragement from his parents. After majoring in English from Brigham Young University, McClellan honed his creative writing skills at Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp.

The author provides maps to illustrate the fictional world in which the story unfolds. The king of the Adro nation, King Manhouch, is about to sign an agreement that would subject the Adran people to the bordering nation Kez. The agreement would increase taxes beyond those already levied on the people, and is a last-ditch effort by the king to cover the kingdom’s debts. Field Marshal Tamas, motivated by love for his country and his desire to avenge the death of his wife, masterminds a coup to overthrow the monarchy. The toppled king and nobility are then sent to the guillotine without trial, and the public execution unleashes riots, looting and fiery chaos. Political intrigue underlies most of this fast-paced narrative, with power struggles within the military, the Kresim church and even between gods.

Tamas relies on his army, his son Taniel, his son’s former fiancée, a rogue mercenary and a sorcerer to bring a semblance of normalcy to the country. Soldiers and mercenaries — armed with guns, rifles, cannons and plenty of sorcery — help Tamas in his quest to stabilize a nation at the brink of ruin. In the process, they must quash the uprising of the royalists, battle against a sorcerer who escaped death in the coup and go to war against Kez.

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. "Promise of Blood," the first of a trilogy, will suit older teenagers and adults alike.

Expect mild vulgar language and brief reference to sexual violence, with no graphic details.

Denise Russell majored in psychology at the University of New Hampshire. She is an entrepreneur, quilting blogger and mother of three. Her email is derussell22@gmail.com.

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