The Powder Mage #2: The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan – Book Review [Bane of Kings]


Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews the second novel in the flintlock fantasy Powder Mage Trilogy, entitled The Crimson Campaign, written by Brian McClellan and published by Orbit Books in the UK and USA.

“An excellent second outing that gets better as it goes on – The Crimson Campaign should be one of the better books of this year, combining some well written action with some superb character development allowing for a great book that by the end, you won’t be able to put down.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields


Tamas’s invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god.

In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers might come too quickly.

With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself alongside the god-chef Mihali as the last line of defence against Kresimir’s advancing army. Tamas’s generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye.

I got the chance to read A Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan last year and really loved it, with it turning out to be one of the best debuts of 2013. McClellan ended on a cliffhanger that we had to wait until this year to find out what happened, and he certainly hasn’t disappointed, giving readers a brilliant second installment that will leave you breathless and eagerly anticipating the third novel, with the wait until February 2015 being longer than ever.

The-Crimson-CampaignWhilst The Crimson Campaign may get off to a slow start, it’s in high gear well before the end. McClellan’s prose is confident and his action well written, as he has crafted a compelling, page-turning read that should not disappoint those of you who enjoyed the first novel. With a great blend of rich characters and a fascinating world, this book manages to shine as one of the more promising epic fantasy novels of the year, and by the end of the book I was unable to put it down – which shows just how good it was. I had to find out what happened next, and when I did – I was not let down.

We pick up with the characters from the first novel and continue with their journeys very well. At no point did I find myself preferring one character’s arc to another, with McClellan managing to juggle Tamat, Taniel Two-Shot and Kresimir very well. Kresimir has made it out alive, and wants the man who shot him in the eye to pay for what he’s done, whilst Tamat is stranded deep behind enemy lines, and presumed dead – leaving Taniel in charge working with Mihali against Kresimir’s onslaught. And Inspector Adamat wants to rescue his wife, but this leads him on a collision course with the evil Lord Vetas.

So if you’re looking for plenty of characters then you’ve come to the right place. You should be familiar with McClellan’s writing style by now and he continues to evolve his characters and develop them over the book’s length, so they’ve changed in many ways since we first met them. He doesn’t fall into the trap of making the second novel a chore to get through as he spends time developing the world either, and although there is a somewhat slow beginning that does not detract from the enjoyment of the rest of the novel, which does everything that a sequel should do – up the stakes, and drag the reader in and not let them go.

The final quarter of the book primarily focuses on action and McClellan doesn’t let up – this is where you will be engrossed and he weaves a compelling sequence that will keep you hooked, and combined with the good use of military tactics and strong fight scenes, the book in its latter stages is incredibly strong, which is a contrast from many books that I have read where the ending is often a disappointment. Thankfully, that isn’t the case with The Crimson Campaign.

With the multiple point of views on the narrative handled well, The Crimson Campaign is another winner that really continues to give readers a taste of what flintlock fantasy is like. It’s smart, entertaining and aside from one or two problems that don’t really detract from the overall enjoyment of the novel – this book is everything I could have hoped from a sequel that really delivers.


Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer