Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood (Orbit, £14.99) is a fantasy which takes its start from revolution. So far it is not the naïve sort of revolution in which the monarchy is beheaded and the world moves on but the type which threatens to fall apart. So far, so French or Russian revolution.
Adamat is asked to come to the palace by Field Marshal Tamas, during the night to find that the monarchy has been overthrown, the King in jail and a revolution in full flow. Despite going through the machinations of redistribution, Tamas finds that the Church has its own views and rebels against him. His estranged son, Teniel, takes on the Church, portrayed as a institution found deeply corrupt and wanting, revealing rather more than it wishes about its head.
Meanwhile the world itself is in flux, moving from the more visible pseudo-Medieval world to an Industrialised world. These are not worlds in stasis, or being threatened with a fake change. Using magic as cyphers for change with guns as well comes across as slightly messy. Rather than coming from the Miéville form of rewriting from the barricades, he is more aligned to the Tad Williams’ form of rewriting from within the epic sub-genre. There is a certain mixing of militarism with a rollicking adventure but perhaps questions might need to be asked about where this really goes in future volumes. Is this an exploration into the politics of revolution or an experiment in writing it?
So McLellan begins what might be an intriguing series. One where the revolution does indeed fall apart in the midst of its own internal and external threats. Each group has its own motivations and desires and the author uses these in intriguing ways, dividing the world into factions. In turn, the kingdom is also under threat from its neighbours.
I do have questions as to where this might go at a political level but McLellan has an eye for the dramatic and a touch for writing fast paced fantasy. None of the characters are particularly likeable but have their own motivations and the world is well-realised. I do have some hopes for this series but the fact that it is a series does place some questions in my head. I hope it stays this interesting.