Brian McClellan POWDER MAGE prequels six short stories review

Six POWDER MAGE prequels by Brian McClellanSix POWDER MAGE prequels by Brian McClellan

After noticing what John and Kevin said about Brian McClellan’s POWDER MAGE trilogy, I was eager to give the books a try, but I thought I’d start with the six short prequels that McClellan has written to introduce his world and its characters. Each of these is available in Kindle and Audible formats, often with the Whispersync deal. For example, the first novella (Forsworn) can be purchased for $2.99 in Kindle format and you can add Audible narration for an additional $1.99. I read all of these stories in audio format. The narrators are Julie Hoverson and Daniel Dorse.

I read the prequels in chronological order:

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsForsworn (2 hours long) takes place about 35 years before the events of the first POWDER MAGE novel, Promise of Blood. It introduces Erika ja Leora, a powder mage who lives in Kez, a place where her magic is illegal. If she wasn’t a noblewoman who had forsworn the use of her magic, she’d be killed by one of the Privileged, the cabal of legal sorcerers who serve the king. When Erika discovers a young commoner who is trying to escape Kez because she has powder magic, Erika decides to help her evade pursuers and sneak across the border. This is a dangerous mission and Erika will suffer much loss as she tries to accomplish it.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsServant of the Crown (3 hours) occurs just after Forsworn and features Tamas, a protagonist of the POWDER MAGE novels. Here he is a captain in the Adran army, despite his low birth. After unwisely dueling with the son of a nobleman, he must suffer the consequences. Fortunately, he has an admirer who turns out to be helpful: Erika ja Leora, the noblewoman we met in Forsworn.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMurder at the Kinnen Hotel (3 hours) takes place 22 years before Promise of Blood and introduces Special Detective Constable Adamat, who is investigating a couple of murders. Adamat has a “knack” which gives him perfect memory. He’s also conscientious and scrupulously honest. So when this supposedly open-and-shut case leads to political pressures that threaten to turn deadly, Adamat doesn’t balk.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsHope’s End (1 hour) occurs a few years after Murder at the Kinnen Hotel. Tamas is now a General in the Adran army and, because the Privileged want him to fail, his company has been ordered to attack an enemy stronghold that’s protected by sorcerers. Tamas knows that most of his unit will be slaughtered. When Tamas assigns a man to lead the charge, the man’s suicidal girlfriend volunteers to take his place.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Girl of Hrusch Avenue (1 hour), which happens a decade before Promise of Blood, tells the story of Vlora, a little girl who lives at a boarding school as a ward of the state. She spends as much time as she can on Hrusch avenue, dreaming of handling the guns she sees in a shop window, and trying to avoid a couple of bullies known as the Bulldog Twins. When she befriends a boy named Taniel, she is brought into the world of the Powder Mages.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Face in the Window (1.25 hours), which was published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies (issue #140) takes place two years before Promise of Blood. Taniel, a young Powder Mage and son of Tamas, is on a tour between college semesters. While visiting one of Kez’s rebellious colonies, he gets involved in their war of independence. During the fighting he is helped by a mysterious girl named Ka-poel and he kills his first Privileged.

Despite being unfamiliar with the POWDER MAGE trilogy, I enjoyed all of these stories and felt like they were a good introduction to McClellan’s world and some of his most important characters. I was intrigued by the different types of magic and the way that magical diversity led to class divisions and political corruption. I found it easy to sympathize with Tamas, a smart competent man who is looked down on merely for being a commoner, and I suspect that the background and history that was revealed in these stories will help me better understand his motivations when I read the trilogy. I also appreciated the strong female characters present in each of these stories.

These prequels will be of special interest to fans of the POWDER MAGE trilogy who want to know, for example, how certain characters met each other, but they are also a great way to get a feel for whether or not new readers may enjoy this series. They certainly piqued my interest and I look forward to reading Promise of Blood soon!


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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