The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan
My rating : 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Powder Mage
Genre: Fantasy, Flintlock Fantasy, Military fiction
Published: February 10th 2015 by Orbit
The Autumn Republic is the third and last book of the Powder Mage Trilogy and again, it’s a brilliant (and equally frustrating) mix of military tactics, fantasy, politics and investigative narrative.
The action began a few days after the closing events of the Crimson Campaign. Some of the main characters found themselves in dire situations, others were beginning new adventures. So to say the least, the book started off with a bang.
“I would die for my country. But I’d rather kill for it. Ready your troops. We march!”
I was totally gripped and literally flew through the first half. Tamas and Taniel’s chapters were very exciting (as usual) and Nila’s were beginning to pique my interest… And then sadly, the book focused on Adamat’s arc… I won’t detail what bothered me lest I spoil a big chunk of the story. But in my opinion, Adamat overstayed his welcome. In the first two books, the detective’s POV was already pretty boring. Yet, it provided a lot of insight into the schemes and conspiracies that were hatched backstage. In the Autumn Republic, his story presented little interest and that’s putting it nicely. McClellan said : “Investigative science practically depended on lucky breaks”. And Adamat’s luck would put the lottery jackpot winners’ to shame…
I needed to talk about that part first because I was so frustrated with that POV that I considered dropping the book. Luckily for me, Petrik let me vent and we encouraged each other to look past it. And man!! I’m so glad I did. Because the last chapters were thrilling, action-packed, fast-paced and emotionally challenging. While the ending in both Promise of Blood and the Crimson Campaign was a bit underwhelming, McClellan crafted a grand and unpredictable finale here.
“I see a vision of the future, revolutions spreading out across the lands as people pull down their monarchs. The strongest men, unordained by saints or gods, rise to the top and carve out their own petty empires. Men and women die by the millions and all the progress that our world has made in the last thousand years is lost in the dust of time.”
The characters were another asset of this book. Aside from Adamat, most of the characters developed a lot and showed multiple and sometimes surprising facets. I loved Olem’s bluntness, Bo’s complexity, Nila’s perseverance, Pole’s loyalty, Taniel’s worthiness and Tamas’s courage, dogged determination and snappy retorts. The only complaint I have with the characters is that McClellan made them so dense sometimes! Despite all the evidence being aligned in front of them (the hints weren’t very subtle in this book), they were either totally distracted to take the hint, or too busy to bother. Again: FRUSTRATING !
The magic systems were well explored and finally better explained in this book and led to thrilling fights. Something I really loved in this series, is that the multiple magic systems didn’t hinder the technological progress. On the contrary, they even seemed to encourage innovation in lots of fields (chemistry, mechanics, weaponry…) and that was really exciting to read. However a lot of questions are left unanswered and I really really hope McClellan will provide more answers and explanations in the next trilogy.
Finally, McClellan’s writing improved so much and some parts were really beautiful and well turned. The black humor he used even in the most tragic situations was a huge bonus and never failed to make me giggle:
“I can give you some good news on that,” (he) said. “I’ve dug up […]spy reports, and if they’re to be believed, the Kez have left few enough of our people inside unmolested. Most were slaughtered in the initial attack and the rest have been sold as slaves.”
“That’s the worst good news I’ve ever heard.”
Overall Powder Mage was a very creative and intense series. If you like your Fantasy mixed with politics, intricate magic systems, religion, technology, genius military strategies and “ plans within plans within plans “, then you’ll probably enjoy this series.