Local Cleveland author Brian McClellan makes a welcome return to his world of sorcery and gunpowder with Wrath of Empire. Set a short time after the events of the previous book, when the continent of Fatrasta is invaded by the neighboring Dynize Empire, who capture Fatrasta’s capital city, Landfall, Wrath of Empire drops readers right into the action and hardly gives them any time to stop for breath before the story’s conclusion.
At the heart of this story are three sorcerous artifacts known as “godstones.” Supposedly these stones, combined with powerful sorcery and blood sacrifice, can be used to create gods. And the Dynize have already secured one of these stones. Desperate to find the other two stones before the Dynize, Lady Vlora Flint, a powder mage and General of the Riflejack mercenary company, and Colonel “Mad” Ben Styke, the legendarily violent leader of the Mad Lancers cavalry company, divide their forces to search for and destroy the stones. Helping them look for these monoliths are two old allies who claim that they’ll be able to detect the godstones when they are near: Taniel “Two-Shot,” a powder mage who is both Lady Flint’s adopted brother and former lover, who accompanies her and her soldiers, and Ka-Poel, a self-trained blood sorcerer and Taniel’s wife, who accompanies Styke’s cavalry. Whether these two can be fully trusted or not is up for debate.
Meanwhile, former Blackhat (i.e. secret police) spy Michel Bravis finds himself to be a hunted man in Landfall after it’s discovered that he betrayed the Blackhats during the invasion. But Michel can’t leave town. He has been given a new task from his true master, Taniel “Two-Shot”: find a Dynize spy named “Mara,” a woman who runs in the higher social circles of the Dynize Empire, and extract her. Michel manages to get himself in the good graces of the Dynize conquerors in Landfall, but with no other information to go on, Michel must take care while searching for this spy, because the Dynize do not treat traitors very well.
With a unique magic system, over-the-top action, and remarkable characters, I thoroughly enjoyed returning to this universe of flintlock pistols and political intrigue. While reading the first book will help you better understand some of the background behind the major events and characters, once the story gets going you can enjoy this book on its own.
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