The Girl of Hrusch Avenue & Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
The Powder Mage series has been on a lot of best of lists and it’s easy to see why. An excellent entry into the fantasy genre, we’ve got an almost colonial universe — men with sabres and single shot muskets — coupled with massive magic users. One group is the Privileged, folks who don white gloves to commit heinous destructive magics. And the other are Powder Mages, men and women who snort gunpowder to enhance senses and create explosions and shoot more actively. It’s a cross between the British colonialism and the wild west, and it’s fucking AWESOME.
The Girl of Hrusch Avenue is a prequel novella and I read it before the first book. It works, in that it’s an introduction to the main characters of the novel more or less, a few years before they appear in Promise of Blood. It doesn’t necessarily spoil anything. It actually kind of deepens the wounds of the characters — seeing them in a positive light before the dimness that pervades them later. The novella gives you plenty of bloodshed and gruesome cruelty of the world, casual swearing and the meanness and caste system. It’s a nice primer.
Promise of Blood gets into the meat of things and boy howdy does it. We’re immediately thrust into a coup by the Field Marshal Tamas, the man in charge of the powder mages. It quickly spirals from there into a story full of gruesome gory battles — people exploding, torn apart by explosions or slashed open with blades. Bullets battering heads, uniforms soaked in blood, people nearly dying. It’s high carnage, and it’s excellent. Into that we set several intriguing story threads — inspectors trying to root out traitors, a god returned, ancient mages with more power than the Priviliged, double crossing, triple crossing. It’s high drama, and it CONTINUES to be excellent.
I’d highly recommend this series if you’re less enamored with the elves/pixies element of fantasy and more into A Song of Ice and Fire. Especially if you really wished there were more people exploding into entrails and using pistols to shoot each other in the face.