Genre: Fantasy – Flintlock
Series: Powder Mage #0.3
Publisher: Self Published (November 24, 2014)
Length: 74 pages
My Rating: 4 stars
I have a confession to make: I wasn’t too excited when I began this novella. Why? The main character. Adamat was an okay guy in Promise of Blood; his plot line a nice addition to the other, more important events swirling around Field Marshal Tamas and Taniel; and, of course, the information the good detective uncovered in his investigation was vitally important. However, for me, Adamat just wasn’t as exciting to follow along behind as the other characters, so as I began Murder at the Kinnen Hotel and discovered it was focusing on an episode from our good detectives early career, I was certain it wasn’t going to be for me. Imagine my surprise when this one pulled me in and held my attention to the end. Yet another amazing Powder Mage novella!
Here we find Special Detective Constable Adamat as a new member of the First Precinct of Adopest, having followed along behind his superior, Captain Hewi, to this new post with the belief that it would help his advancement up the ranks. But things are not rosy, as our young “knack” finds that his shrewd investigation skills and minor magical ability to recall information are not nearly as important as his social pedigree and political connections. The proverbial crap hitting the fan when Adamant and a Lieutenant Dorry (Commissioner Aleksandre’s relative) clash over a murder investigation: Dorry more than happy to pin the crime on a cook when Adamat clearly sees the signs that a powder mage has committed the killing. The backlash from this internal brouhaha landing our young detective in trouble: his career and his very life in jeopardy from parties unknown and unseen!
At this point, I wrongly assumed the ongoing narrative would revolve around Adamat attempting to clear his name. Brian McClellan does something unexpected however, introducing an agent from the Royal Cabal. This steely woman taking on Adamat as her partner, firmly compelling him to focus his skills on unraveling the identity of the powder mage assassin and who employed him. The rousing adventure which follows not only mesmerizingly entertaining but also informative, as it provides amazing details about the world of Adopest including a glimpse inside the Royal Cabal, turning these magicians into an even more ominous group to be dealt with.
What did I enjoy most about Murder at the Hotel Kinnen, though?
First and foremost, I continued to love the thorough but organic worldbuilding Mr. McClellan is displaying with these novellas. Each story a snapshot of the Powder Mage world. Each revealing more details of prominent characters and groups from the trilogy. The bits of insight gained from Murder and its sibling stories deliciously addictive, as they add layer upon layer to this vibrant place, slowly building a living, breathing world.
Especially entertaining was Mr. McClellan’s subtle look at the Royal Cabal. The idea to use one of their agents as Adamat “partner” was brilliant. This method allowed flashes of the Royal Cabal and their world to be seen, but never reveal all of it. Or, to put it another way, these magical individuals are still mysterious figures of great power who stand just outside of the light, but Murder has begun to reveal them more clearly.
As for the character of Detective Adamat, I really have to apologize to him and his creator for doubting his vitality as a lead character. No, he isn’t on par with Field Marshal Tamas, but where before he was merely a lackluster supporting character, he is now a man I understand and admire. This novella going a long way in making Adamat a character I want to read about again and again.
The only criticism I have of the story is the ending. It was a fitting one which tied up all the loose ends, but it felt too neat and too convenient. Not saying that it was unrealistic, because it was not, but it was just not messy enough for my tastes. But that small bit of consternation at the conclusion may be merely my personal tastes rearing their heads rather than an indictment of Mr. McClellan’s closing.
All in all, Murder at the Kinnen Hotel is another amazing Powder Mage novella. Whether you’ve enjoyed the trilogy already or this is your first taste, this short story will be enjoyable, entertaining, and informative, a great introduction to Brian McClellan’s fabulous world of magic, muskets, and mages or a welcome return. So do go pick it up and enjoy a rousing, murder mystery in a world where gunpowder does more than make things go boom!