Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan – A Review

A story that drew me in, held me tighter the more pages I turned, and wouldn’t let me go.

“A world on the cusp of a new age…

Sins of Empire

The young nation of Fatrasta is a turbulent place — a frontier destination for criminals, fortune-hunters, brave settlers, and sorcerers seeking relics of the past. Only the iron will of the lady chancellor and her secret police holds the capital city of Landfall together against the unrest of an oppressed population and the machinations of powerful empires.


Sedition is a dangerous word…
The insurrection that threatens Landfall must be purged with guile and force, a task which falls on the shoulders of a spy named Michel Bravis, convicted war hero Mad Ben Styke, and Lady Vlora Flint, a mercenary general with a past as turbulent as Landfall’s present.

The past haunts us all…
As loyalties are tested, revealed, and destroyed, a grim specter as old as time has been unearthed in this wild land, and the people of Landfall will soon discover that rebellion is the least of their worries.”

A fantasy in which there are rifles and canons as well as magic, a world with an 18th century feel. I have not read the Powder Mage Series that came before, but don’t think it mattered in the least, as I fell easily into the narrative. This first book of Brian McClellan’s new series, Gods of Blood and Powder, did not require me to have previous knowledge of this world or the characters that people it to enjoy the read.  McClellan’s world-building was extensive, yet unintrusive. I liked the many magic forms used in this world, such as the classic wizard types with ice, fire, and lightning abilities,  blood-magic with its more earthy, pre-historic feel, and powder mages who draw their power from gunpowder, which I thought was an interesting new concept. There are also other, lesser, forms of magic, which heighten senses and abilities. There are many great, and well-rounded and relatable characters.

Most of the story is set in a city of a million, Landfall, a seething mass of humanity with the inevitable quarters from rich mansions to light-deprived tenements. Landfall is the capitol of a new country, Fatrasta, “…a land of bickering immigrants…” – much like so many of our countries now. It is ruled over by Governor Lindet with a crushing grip and a vast security cadre called the Blackhats under the authority of the brutal and bloodily efficient Fidelis Jes. A mercenary company, the Riflejacks, led by Lady Vlora Flint, a powder mage and hardened war veteran, has attitude – and needs every bit of it. She is hired by Lindet, first to suppress the population, then to protect Landfall against invasion. Ben Styke, a giant of a man in stature and personality, newly released from prison, is not only a war veteran but a legend. He becomes a man with two masters yet has his own agenda of revenge to follow. Michel Brevis, the Blackhat investigator with the forgettable face but unforgettable ways of thinking, has ambitions – I’ll say no more, except that I like this fellow.

Brian McClellan’s prose was evocative and easy to read. I was always fully immersed in the story, one which sped along at an ever increasing pace. I look forward to the next book in this trilogy, and also to reading the first trilogy set in this world.

All the best

R B Watkinson

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