In 2013 local Cleveland author Brian McClellan infroduced readers to a new fantasy setting with his Powder Mage trilogy. In this world Powder Mages can manipulate magical forces to ignite gunpowder with a thought, change a bullet’s flight path in mid-air, and actually ingest gunpowder to imbue themselves with extraordinary physical prowess. This compelling, all-action series continues with Sins of Empire, the first story of a new trilogy titled Gods of Blood and Powder.
Sins of Empire takes place eleven years after the Powder Mage stories in the wild, frontier land of Fatrasta and its capital, Landfall. For a decade Fatrasta has been ruthlessly controlled by Lady Chancellor Lindet and the vicious Grand Master of the Blackhats, Landfall’s secret police, Fidelis Jes. Their harsh rule has caused nothing but grief for the natives of Fatrasta, called the Palo, who have begun an organized resistance against the Lady Chancellor and her Blackhats. In response, Lindet hires Vlora Flint, a Powder Mage and captain of the Riflejacks Mercenary Company, to combat the rebellious Palo within Landfall. Meanwhile Grand Master Jes tasks Michel Bravis, a Blackhat spy who talks to himself, with investigating who printed a new, seditious pamphlet. In among all this is Benjamin “Mad Ben” Styke, a disgraced Fatrastan colonel who finds himself released from prison only to become a pawn of Gregious Tampo, a lawyer who knows much more than he should, who orders him to join Lady Flint’s mercenaries. But Styke has his own problems, and needs to deal with his own past with Fatrasta’s leaders if he is to be truly free. These three characters, Vlora, Michel, and Mad Ben Styke, form the narrative backbone as they work with and occasionally against each other while a newer threat arises.
While not as action-packed as the Powder Mage books, Sins of Empire presents a solid, accessible reintroduction to this world of magic and gunpowder with enough new elements to keep things fresh for returning readers. Fans of Brandon Sanderson, Naomi Novik, and Django Wexler will likely enjoy this story.