Let me just say – wow.
I absolutely loved this book.
On GoodReads I very seriously considered giving it a five star rating which I almost never give to books. My five star books are my absolute favorites and this almost made the cut. I usually don’t do the whole fantasy thing but this seemed well enough outside the realm of fantasy and maybe a bit steampunky (something I also don’t really read) so I figured I would give it a try. I was wrong, by the way. It’s not really steampunk in any sense. And there is a lot of fantasy going on there. But obviously I still really like it.
Promise of Blood is marketed as ‘flintlock fantasy.’ It’s a fantastic sub-genre. I loved the setting. It was a world sort of on the brink of the industrial revolution. Where steam power is starting to come into play and science and technology are developing alongside magic. It wasn’t a very developed system of technology just yet. There are no cars or anything like that. Printing presses are just starting to become a big deal.
And, of course, there are guns.
Mostly the guns are on par with the American revolution style weapons, I think. Lots of gunpowder and the like. That’s where the powder mages get their power. And most of the characters you are supposed to really care about in this series are, in fact, powder mages. It’s a cool sort of magic development. As science brought them gunpower, the mages adapted. Sniffing up powder like cocaine, the powder helps them focus and hone their abilities. It’s only one of the really cool aspects of this world’s magic system. This world has a tiered magic system with varying levels and abilities. Plus there are various regional and aboriginal magics. But the coolest things – I think – are the Knacks. There are people with actual powers and then there are people with ‘Knacks’ which are just little sometimes useless abilities that are just magical enough to make them special but not to give them any amount of power. One guy remembers everything he’s seen, another guy never has to sleep. I don’t know. It’s just cool.
The whole book is pretty cool. At least I think so.
The basic plot is that Tamas, a military general, has decided that the only way to stop the king from signing over his country’s rights to a rival nation is to remove the man from power. And, you know, also remove his head. Plus the heads of a few hundred other nobles. It’s all very French Revolution. Of course, while Tamas has all these great plans of getting rid of the nobility and making something of this nation as a republic… he’s pretty much in over his head. He’s a military man. Not a politician. And even though he surrounds himself with people a whole lot smarter than himself things aren’t going very easily. Tamas has to call in retired inspector Adamat – who has his own problems to deal with – and his estranged son Taniel (along with his former fiance and the native girl Ka-Poel). Even then, there’s a lot going on. Class warfare, Royalist resistance, secrets, promises, and maybe a few supernatural elements…
It’s pretty crazy. And fun. And just great. I love political fantasies. That’s probably why I generally like Game of Thrones so much. Except for the fact that nothing good ever happens and everyone dies.
A Promise of Blood has a fantastic cast of characters that I absolutely loved. I mean, I didn’t care about everyone but the main characters are so well developed and the stories were so fantastically woven together. Adamat was my favorite – obviously. I am a sucker for the police types. And he’s basically a socially competent Sherlock Holmes. I liked Taniel, too, and his relationship with Ka-Poel. Who, by the way, is an awesome character in her own right. There are just so many memorable characters that weave in and out of the epic storyline. I feel for Tamas so much – especially in the beginning Strong military guy. Totally out of his league when it comes to politics. He knows what he thinks is right and he does what he thinks is right but a man his age should really know that’s not enough…
Basically, the story and the setting and the characters in this book are pretty freakin’ awesome. I can’t recommend this book enough.
I’m so glad I gave this book a chance because I am pretty much dying in anticipation of the rest of the trilogy now.
Fantasy fans: you need to read this book.