Ted Nolan <tednolan>
2017-05-05 06:28:32 UTC
by Brian McClellan
_Promise of Blood_ (Powder Mage Trilogy 1)
_The Crimson Campaign_ (Powder Mage Trilogy 2)
_The Autumn Republic_ (Powder Mage Trilogy 3)
More than a thousand years ago, the god Kresimir came down to set
things to rights in the Nine Kingdoms. It was a big task and he
ended up having to call in his siblings, whom some also call gods
and others saints. In the end he established the template which
has governed the kingdoms ever since, even through a dark age. Of
course, now, though his Church survives, the enlightened believe that
there was no such real being and the tales personify the various
cultural and economic forces in play during that turbulent era.
Be that as it may, whereever the system came from, it now perpetuates
itself. A king rules each kingdom, supported in his rule by a cabal of
the "Privileged", sorcerers who can touch and shape the "Else". Kingdoms
may war with each other, boundries may move, but no kingdom will take down
another's throne or cabal.
Below the "Privileged" are the "knacked", people who have one talent
or knack. Some can tell the truth from lies; others can go without sleep;
some rare knacked can heal, but none of them can go up against a Privileged.
In fact, no one can go up against a Privileged -- until now.
Many things have changed since the time of Kresimir, if he existed.
Books are printed en masse on presses; the world is starting to harness the
power of steam -- and black powder has come to the battlefield. And with
that powder, a new class of powerful: The Powder Mage. A Powder Mage
can ignite black powder from a distance, can channel the power of exploding
black powder, can even direct bullets propelled by black power around corners.
A Powder Mage can even snort black powder like cocaine and get the powder
a cocaine user only thinks he is getting: A powder trance heightens the
body's senses, speed and strength. Of course there is always the risk of
going powder blind or succumbing to powder addiction. The cabals fear
Powder Mages since only they can kill a Privileged from a distance.
Most kingdoms hunt them down, a few tolerate them, but only one, Adopest
Book one opens as Field Marshall Tamas, the most powerful Powder
Mage of his age, has just led a Powder Cabal against the Adopest
Privileged Cabal almost all of whom they have killed, along with
the unfortunately named King Manhouch. Tamas's reasons for doing
this are several. Most publically he was against Manhouch's signing
what would ammount to an Act of Union with neighboring Kez, a
treaty which would effectively end the independence of Adopest while
leaving the Kresimirian forms intact. More privately, his motives
are personal and while not against the interests of his country by
design may embroil it in an unwinnable fight. Kez will certainly
attack and most other Kings, fearful for their heads, will offer
at least tacit support.
If he is to have any chance of making the Republic stick, he will need
the help of his semi-estranged son, and powerful Powder Mage in his own
right, Taniel Two-Shot, a retired police inspector who is fighting
powerful underground forces on the home front, the last Adopestan Privileged,
who by the way he just tried to have killed, the collection of rogues,
union leaders, priests and scalawags in his provisional cabinet, an
out-country savage and a penniless washerwoman.
If royalist holdouts and armies from two different countries weren't enough,
there is a rogue privileged on the scene determined to bring back Kresimir,
and it seems clear, that if Kresimir is real, he will only be coming back
in a "don't make me stop this car and come back there" kind of way.
I enjoyed the heck out of these books. It's a tale told on a large
scale, but with a reasonably small cast of characters about whom
we care. None of Weber's cast of thousands, or Turtledove's "grunts
on each side" approach. Tamas is perhaps not the most sympathetic
of the characters at first, but his unbending impetus moves the
plot along and as we gradually come to understand what drives him,
he becomes more sympathetic with all his flaws. The only character
who from time to time overstays his welcome is the inspector, but
his perspective reminds us that in the end more is at stake in the
new Republic than just the play of armies in the field.
The trilogy has a satisfying ending while leaving enough threads for a new
series, which I see has started, and which I will be picking up.
_Northern Lights_: An Imp World Novel
by Debra Dunbar
Of the Angels of Order, archangel Raphael is the closest to being
an Angel of Chaos. Close enough that he has always gotten along
with former Imp and now Angel of Chaos Sam, though his brother, not
he is her love. Now with the Elf migration started, and wild gates
popping open everywhere, and a rebellion in Aru, the Angels of Order
are pushed to the limit. Normally wild gates spewing cryptids into
the Alaskan ecosystem wouldn't rate an archangel to deal with them,
but when push comes to shove Raph is the only one available. Of course
anglels can close but not sense the gates, so he will have to partner
with a demon to point them out, but the local angel agent seems curiously
reluctant to pair him with the maker of the maps he is going by. And maybe
there is one other type of being which can sense gates..
Ahia has always been told she is a Nephilim, the offspring of an angel
and mortal, beings that angels kill on sight. For centuries she has kept
a low profile, hiding among the Alaskan werewolf packs. Now as wild gates
threaten her beloved countryside and neighbors, she uses the infatuation
of the local angel agent to request help for her state. If it takes
direct interaction with a visiting angel, that's the risk she will take...
You see where it's going, and it goes there satisfactorily. As a bonus
we get a novellette pairing the local werewolf Alpha with the extrodinary
doctor he meets as a supporting character in Raph and Ahia's story.
On the whole I like the Sam (Imp) and Amber books best of Dunbar's Imp World,
but this is an entertaining addition.
_Far From Center_: An Imp World Novel
by Debra Dunbar
This book highlights Gabriel, the archangel who has always seemed the one
of the brothers who is the most hidebound and stick-in-the-mudish.
(Some have characterized the stick as being in another position entirely).
But what if he lost is powers and became human for a time? In Aruba. With
Sam's ward, Elf changeling rescue and all around clothing optional carpe
diemist Nyalla. There's a mission to recover an important artifact for Sam,
and some funny demon support characters, but in general the big concentration
here is on making Gabriel likeable (he hasn't been, especially, up to now)
and pairing him up. I didn't like this one as much as _Northern Lights_
as it seemed too rushed. It was still entertaining, but a change like
that needs to happen over several books, and on the whole I would rather
that author time be devoted to Sam.
_Agent of Enchantment_ (Dark Fae FBI Book 1)
by C.N. Crawford
Cassandra Liddell is an FBI profiler on loan to the London police
to track down a serial killer who is sowing terror across the city.
She has always been drawn to terror though she dismisses the psychologists
who profile profilers. It's just what she does, and if she can help
the locals she will. But there are a lot of things about the case that
just don't add up. Things about the killer and things about the
authorities. Gradually she comes to believe the killer may not be
human, and she may not be either..
I thought this was pretty well done. There's a bit too much "is he my
ally, or is he the killer?" and being paired with the only policeman who
might actually believe her is a bit facile, but an entertaining read
and I will probably pick up the next one.
by Susan Sizemore
I am almost sure I read this before because I had a huge sense of deja vu
through most of the book. The fact that I am not totally certain probably
says what needs to be said about the memorability of this book. And
I really didn't care for the Jack The Ripper pov sections.
What's not in Columbia anymore..
What's not in Columbia anymore..