“Hope’s End” is a short novella set in Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage world, which began with the novel Promise of Blood. Where Promise was epic in its scale and ambition, depicting vast power struggles between huge forces, sorcerers and demons fulfilling ancient prophesy, and the story of the social and economic cost of a political revolution, “Hope’s End” is a bite-sized snack, allowing a current fan or a newbie reader to experience an exciting snapshot of a soldier’s life in this flintlock and sorcery world.
The story itself shines the spotlight onto one of General Tamas’s soldiers: Captain Verundish. (Yes, you read General Tamas, because this novella takes place before the Powder Mage Trilogy and immediately before Tamas’ ascension to Field Marshall of Adro’s armies.) You see, Captain Verundish is a good soldier: dedicated to her career and to her general, but she has her own personal problems outside of being in harm’s way at all times. One, she is married to a horrid man, whom she wishes to divorce but cannot due to family and religious reasons. Two, she has a young daughter by her foppish husband, and he has threatened to do something awful to this innocent child if Verundish does not give him a divorce – in a very unusual way. And three, General Tamas has placed her lover in command of a Hope’s End: a suicidal attack against a fortification, where her fellow soldiers will be casting themselves into the teeth of both musket fire and sorcery!
How can Captain Verundish save those she loves from such terrible situations without sacrificing herself?
The story that ensues from this setup is all you could ask for from a novella. You get an appearance of General Tamas and a look at his inner motives for future actions. Captain Verundish and her lover are solid characters with real life dilemmas. And there is even a short but exciting battle. At the end, all the problems get neatly resolved.
I have to warn you about one thing though. Once you finish this novella, you will feel it was too short and you will want even more of Mr. McClellan’s Powder Mage universe. But I mean you already knew that right? Why else would Mr. McClellan be giving people such tasty morsels as “Hope’s End” to sample if not to whet their appetite for more? So be prepared to download the author’s other novellas or to buy Promise of Blood immediately after reading this one.