fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Crimson Campaign (THE POWDER MAGE TRILOGY) by Brian McClellanThe Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

War is hell. That is true on many different levels, and each individual copes with it differently. Brian McClellan’s The Crimson Campaign is a journey into hell from four perspectives — each character’s hell no less terrible than the others’.

Tamas is the acknowledged tyrant, military leader,and  instigator of the overthrow on the Kingdom of Andro when his group of crack powder-mages killed the King and his royal cabal of Privileged (extremely powerful users of magic). Tamas has been through hell, fighting war after war until finally the murder/execution of his wife leaves him with just one goal left: revenge. Fighting the armies of Kez is something he knows well, but losing battles to them is not. When a bold, risky maneuver fails and leaves him trapped with an elite but relatively small group of soldiers behind enemy lines, Tamas has to find a way to save them. Watching these soldiers die, some of them long-term friends, is torture for him even while he must wear the mask of unquestioned leader who refuses to fail.

Adamat has been blackmailed, tricked and into serving and betraying so many different employers in order to protect his family that it must be a blur. After having to admit to the betrayal of Tamas and then being given a chance to redeem himself, Adamat relinquishes any qualms he may have in order to save his wife and family. It really is a compelling question. To length would a parent go to save their spouse and children? What price is too great?Powder Mage Series (3 Book Series) by Brian McClellan

Taniel’s reaction to killing a god is to obliterate his memory through drugs and alcohol. His burden of conscience of the many, many people he has killed and friends he has lost is more than he can bear, and so he hides in the increasingly brief effects of powerful narcotics. At his side, Ka-Poel the Bone-eye sorcerer only watches as he tries to destroy himself. He will eventually rise from the depths of his self-pity, but only when he learns that his father has been lost in battle.

Nila is the most interesting of them all. Her love of the child she has followed all through the war is amazing. In order to protect him, she becomes involved in the machinations of the evil, merciless Lord Vetas. When he realizes that her beauty and discretion make her another tool for him to employ, she is forced to do more and more just to protect the child. As she witnesses Vetas’s cruelty, her love is twisted as she plots to free herself and Jacob from him.

In this maelstrom of death, destruction and betrayal there are small lights of hope. Good people try to do good things, and every now and then someone supremely bad gets destroyed. I love the stress of the situation, and the lengths and depths that the characters go to. Even when I hate the heroic characters, it’s fascinating to envision their struggles.

McClellan presents a grisly, harsh story that draws you in and gives you much to absorb. We learn much about the painful events that have shaped the characters’ personalities. Plot elements from the political aspirations of a union organizer to bureaucratic military leadership failures are all sparks in a non-stop fireworks show. The pace is frantic and there are many plot twists. I really, really liked The Crimson Campaign, and it’s a wonderful follow-up to Promise of Blood, the first installment in the POWDER MAGE TRILOGY.

Published in 2014. GUNPOWDER AND BULLETS WILL DETERMINE THE VICTOR.  When invasion looms… 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, Kresimir.

But the threats are closer to home…In Adro, Inspector Adamat wants only 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 will lead Adamat on a darker journey.

Who will lead the charge?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. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself as the last line of defense against Kresimir’s advancing army. THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN continues the most acclaimed and action-packed new epic fantasy series in years, following on from Promise of Blood – an adrenaline-fuelled debut of flintlock mages, civil war, and cold-blooded murder in a world where gods walk the earth.


  • John Hulet

    JOHN HULET is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years. We still hear from him every once in a while.