Genre: Fantasy — Flintlock
Series: Powder Mage
Publisher: Self Published (November 17, 2015)
Length: 135 pages
My Rating: 4 stars
The Powder Mage series is one of my favorite fantasy fixes of the moment. No, I haven’t finished the initial trilogy yet, but I loved Promise of Blood and have found all of Mr. McClellan’s short stories set in this fascinating world spectacular. And the reason why, quite simply, is the flintlock fantasy setting and the brilliant concept of powder mages. Both of these things meshing together so well that this universe comes alive before your eyes; the smell of gunpowder filling your nostrils; the shrieks of an angry mob demanding blood roaring in your ears..
Okay, okay, I also have to give some credit to the interesting characters inhabiting the tale (No story works without great characters after all.), because Field Marshall Tamas, Taniel, and all the others pop off the pages, but, honestly, the flintlock fantasy backdrop used by Mr. McClellan is so creative, so refreshing that it has single-handedly converted me into a flintlock lover instead of a doubter.
With this short story collection, the author takes readers back into that amazing Powder Mage universe, skipping from time period to time period and from character to character, using these brief snapshots to flesh out the history of several of the stars from Promise of Blood.
It all begins with a tale focusing on Captain Verundish and her personal travails, which, inevitable, involves General Tamas. The narrative not only giving a reader a background of the good Captain, but also allowing us a chance to see the General through the eyes of his soldier. You can read all my thoughts about “Hope’s End” in my full review.
“The Girl of Hrusch Avenue” takes place ten years before the events in Promise of Blood. Here Vlora is an orphan who finds herself bereft of a real home (She is in a foster care type setting.), and when a stranger arrives at her “home” wishing to take her away, she fears the very worst and flees into the city to live a precarious life on the streets close to the muskets factories. Her fascination with gunpowder and rifles causing her to spend endless amounts of time observing their use. Eventually, fate causes her to befriends a youth named Taniel. Their strange friendship changing both their lives.
“Green-Eyed Vipers” is told through the viewpoint of Baroness Petara. This politically savvy, stunningly beautiful woman is a hunter of men; her current prey being the widowed Field Marshall Tamas. But while everything seems to be proceeding exactly as she plans, the Baroness soon discovers that the hunter is really the prey.
“The Face in the Mirror” is an exciting, poignant showcase for Field Marshall Tamas’ son Taniel. While this young powder mage’s exploits in Fastrastan is mentioned numerous times in Promise of Blood, his adventures were not fully revealed. Here, though, the details of his involvement in the frontier war between the vile Kez and brave revolutionaries of this “New World” come to life, revealing so much about Taniel and his internal issues.
“Return to Honor” concludes this collection in style. The story taking place immediately after the events of Promise of Blood, putting Vlora in the spotlight after she spent much of that novel as the woman-who-was-engaged-to-Taniel-and-cheated-on-him. Now, she is shown in her true element, as a strong, competent soldier who accepts her mistakes but demands that she not be defined by them.
In the Field Marshal’s Shadow is a highly entertaining return to the Powder Mage universe. It touches upon most of the major characters from Promise of Blood in some shape or fashion, showing them as multi-faceted people who have their own issues, problems and strengths. While I would have loved even more powder mage awesomeness from the collection, Mr. McClellan gave me just enough to whet my appetite for more stories while simultaneously helping me appreciate Captain Verundish, Taniel, Vlora and Field Marshall Tamas even more than I already did.