Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Gods of Blood and Powder (Book #1 of 3), Powder Mage (Book #4 of 6)
Genre: Fantasy, High fantasy, Flintlock fantasy
Pages: 604 pages (UK paperback edition)
Published: 9th March 2017 by Orbit (UK) & 7th March 2017 by Orbit (US)
That was amazing. So glad I ended up giving this a go. What an explosive return to McClellan’s beloved Powder Mage universe.
It’s been two years since I finished reading the Powder Mage trilogy. Honestly, I felt satisfied with the ending I got in The Autumn Republic that I thought I would’ve been fine with not reading the Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy. Thankfully, so many reviews and word-of-mouth have spread throughout the years, and they convinced me that this trilogy is even better than the first one. And it’s highly probable that they will be proven right. Just from the experience of reading this book, I know I would’ve made a grave mistake if I didn’t continue. I’ll go as far as saying that Sins of Empire alone is better than the first trilogy already.
Sins of Empire is the first book in Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy by Brian McClellan, and the story takes place ten years after the end of The Autumn Republic. A few things to mention first, if you haven’t read Powder Mage trilogy, I’m sure you can read this book and technically understand everything that’s going on in the progression of the main story, I do however think that it’s quite mandatory to read the previous trilogy first. You would be missing a lot of the nuances and background behind the names, events, and characters from the previous trilogy that enhanced the quality of the book. Please take some time to read the Powder Mage trilogy first, and if you’re super committed, read The Mad Lancers and Ghosts of the Tristan Basin novella as well to get more out of this book. IF you’ve read the Powder Mage and it has been a while since you’ve read the series, don’t worry about feeling lost; McClellan did a wonderful job in reminding the key points from the first trilogy that’s necessary to the main story here.
That being said, Sins of Empire comprises of a new storyline. Taking place in the city of Landfall of Fatrasta nation, both returning and new characters are in charge of driving the narrative. McClellan is mostly known for his capability to write a fast-paced story with unputdownable action scenes, and I do agree with them, but I personally think that his characterizations of the characters here—especially the new characters—should be taken into account as well. The narrative is told from the perspective of three main characters: Vlora Flint, Michel, and Ben Styke.
As some of you may recall, Vlora is a character from the previous trilogy, and she’s now the leader of Riflejack Mercenary Company. I’m honestly not a huge fan of Vlora in the Powder Mage trilogy, that’s why it’s good to see that McClellan succeeded in making her characterizations more believable and empathizing now. I also loved reading about Michel, he’s a fascinating character, and his investigations were compelling to read. And then we have Mad Ben Styke, my personal favorite character from the book. What can I say about this character without going into full essay mode? He’s the Logen Ninefinger of this series. A berserker with an immaculate talent for killing, and seeing him rampage was pure entertainment. But it’s not all about brute strength. What made Ben Styke more interesting as one of the main characters was the contrast we see on his characterizations that were shown in his genuine affection for his Mad Lancers and Celine—a child he met during his time in prison that he ends up caring.
“Food, in my experience, is one of the few things that can cement a good friendship between strangers.”
I found myself caring and feeling invested by the new main characters so much more quickly than before. The way the three main characters’ stories intersect with each other was just superbly done. In the previous trilogy, Taniel, Ka-poel, and Bo were the only three characters that I ended up caring; they totally stole the highlight of the trilogy for me. In Sins of Empire, none of the characters were boring to read. Both familiar faces and new characters were engaging, distinctive, and equally crucial in telling a story that’s surprisingly full of twists and turns. I loved reading about all the characters, and I can’t wait to find out more about their journey in the next book.
Contrary to McClellan’s usual thoroughly fast-paced storytelling style, Sins of Empire was mostly a slow burn with occasional deadly skirmish implanted; McClellan prioritized characterizations first, and it made me loved the book even more. However, McClellan’s staple action sequences that combine magic, guns, and this time, the charge of The Mad Lancers detonated with much impact in the final section of the novel. I’m not joking; the last 120 pages were so gripping that I ended up reading through them in one sitting. Seeing the Privileged unleash fire and lightning, the Powder Mage detonating powder to create a barrage of explosions, and the vicious charge of the Mad Lancers was just a delight for imagination. I’ve read many fantasy books, not a lot of authors can write battle scenes on breakneck pacing as good as McClellan, and to think that he only seems to get better and better at this!
“Styke’s people were outnumbered two to one. The Dynize, he decided, should have brought more men.”
The strongly positive vibes I found in Sanderson’s storytelling style in Mistborn trilogy—which I loved immensely—was evident in Sins of Empire. McClellan successfully combined tense politics, intriguing mystery, accessible prose, bloody actions, and a new cast of great characters into one package. Everything in Sins of Empire worked impressively towards creating a furiously immersive and vivid reading experience; the first book in Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy is an incredible return to the Powder Mage universe. Without a doubt, I’ll be diving into the sequel, Wrath of Empire, immediately.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)