Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Gods of Blood and Powder (Book #2 of 3), Powder Mage (Book #5 of 6)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Flintlock Fantasy
Pages: 639 pages (UK paperback edition)
Published: 15th May 2018 by Orbit
Incredible character development given to Ben Styke and Michel; a bit conflicted regarding Vlora’s. Wrath of Empire sets up the stage nicely for the hopefully satisfying conclusion of the series.
I’ve mentioned in my review of Sins of Empire that the hype and the positive reviews for both Sins of Empire and Wrath of Empire were the main reason why I ended up giving this trilogy a go. Seeing that I absolutely loved Sins of Empire, I was excited to hear from everyone that Wrath of Empire, Brian McClellan’s highest-rated book so far, exceeded Sins of Empire in terms of overall quality. Admittedly, despite how much I enjoyed this book, I can’t agree with that notion.
Wrath of Empire begins three weeks after the end of the events in Sins of Empire, and the story revolves around the hunt for the godstones. Technically, the book can be considered as a mission-based storyline; the three main characters have their own designated mission that’s centered for the entire novel, and I believe that McClellan made a bold decision of separating the three main perspective characters from each other for almost the entirety of the book. Did it work? Well, Ben Styke’s and Michel’s storyline were great, but I have to admit that I struggled through reading Vlora’s story in this book. I’m actually surprised by the reviews that claimed that this book was fast-paced and devoid of fillers, I found that it’s the slowest paced out of all McClellan’s work and Vlora’s story was full of unnecessary content. I’ll get into that later, but first, let’s start with what I loved most about this book and series: Ben Styke and The Mad Lancers.
“Mad Lancers are as kind to our allies as we are cruel to our enemies. We take in the broken and we turn them into warriors. We crush those who think themselves invincible. We thrive on the ravages of war. The Mad Lancers protect Fatrasta—even from itself. Whenl all this is over, Lady Flint has assured me that all the survivors will be rich. But mark my words: If you disobey my orders, I will kill you myself.”
Now, I have mentioned how much I loved Ben Styke in the first book. In my opinion, Styke is McClellan’s best character, right up there Taniel Two-Shot and Ka-poel. There’s a lot of internalization exploration going into Ben Styke here. We have always known Styke as Mad Ben Styke, the brute who’s immaculate in the art of killing. The first book has shed light on his combat skills and prowess, and the first book also has shown the contrast in his characterizations when he’s with Celine and The Mad Lancers. In Wrath of Empire, McClellan truly dissects the characterizations and background of Styke wonderfully. I loved that Styke isn’t just a pure brute who’s born for killing non-stop; Celine brought the best of his personality to the surface. It was incredibly enjoyable and heartwarming to read about Styke’s development as a character and to see how much Celine means to him. The theme of revenge, friendship, duty, and family runs strong in Styke’s plotline, and It turned him into a more badass and empathizing character.
“Fearing your death because you won’t go on living versus fearing you death because someone else needs you is just semantics. You fear for Celine, and I’ve never known you to fear. You look at her in a way you’ve never looked at a friend or a lover, including me.”
As for Michel, this guy just can’t seem to catch a break. After what happened in the previous book, the new assignment he receives from his boss requires him to find a person named Mara, all by himself. It’s a brutal task full of hardship, mysteries, and challenges. I feel like Michel’s story is where McClellan’s improved so much as a writer; McClellan writes mystery and investigation plotlines superbly now compared to how he did with Adamat in the first trilogy, which I honestly didn’t care for. I was constantly hooked and compelled to find out how Michel will fulfill the mission assigned to him while being surrounded by enemies from all sides. I loved how the secrets and revelations he unraveled along his investigation ends up being inextricably linked to the overarching storyline.
Unfortunately, I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy reading Vlora’s storyline due to most of it feeling like a filler. Throughout the entirety of her POV chapters, especially after she’s separated from the other main characters, I was bored from reading the subplot included in her story. By the end of this book, I still think that most of her story could’ve been cut off. I need to mention that I’ve never been a fan of Vlora; she was more tolerable in Sins of Empire but I wouldn’t call myself a fan of her character. Plus, I’ve heard from several readers that Wrath of Empire has no filler sections at all, this led me to false expectations because I found Vlora’s story—excluding the final quarter of the book—to be full of fillers.
That being said, the final quarter of the book was just brilliant; it was exciting and full of bloody intense action sequences for all three main characters’ stories. We have learned more about the Dynize, Ka-poel, Godstones, and Ben Styke; the entire novel, especially the last quarter, has established the necessity of having Wrath of Empire as a great prelude for the final installment of the series. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all ends, hopefully Blood of Empire will be the best book that McClellan produced because I’ve heard that it will be the final novel in Powder Mage universe, at least for six years or more.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)