Book Review: The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Book 3 of The Powder Mage
Publisher: Orbit (February 10, 2015)
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
The end of the Powder Mage trilogy has finally arrived with The Autumn Republic. I really enjoyed the first two novels, and was very much looking forward to this concluding volume. So did it meet my expectations? All told I’m happy to say that it did, in all the ways that count. Still, I confess I can be quite particular about my series-enders. As much as enjoyed this book, if I’m to be completely honest, I did feel there were a couple areas that fell short.
I can’t deny that Brian McClellan did a wonderful job wrapping things up, though. The Autumn Republic starts the way the previous book The Crimson Campaign ended – with the world in chaos. The capital city of Adro has fallen, and Tamas returns from the field only to find his beloved country occupied by a foreign force. His son Taniel is missing and presumed dead. Without strong leadership, his own army is tearing itself apart from the inside out. And on top of all that, the Kez have not ceased their attacks on Adran territory.
For various reasons, I had hard time getting into this book. Catching up at the beginning of each sequel is never easy for me, and it wasn’t helped by the book’s slower pacing, at least for the first half. I recall I had a similar issue with book two as well. It appears I’m in the minority, but I felt that unlike The Crimson Campaign, things here didn’t hit its stride until well into the second half. That’s not to say I didn’t find the novel interesting; on the contrary, McClellan juggles multiple points-of-view and furthers his characters’ story lines. Tamas has his hands full dealing with angry gods and invading armies. Meanwhile, Inspector Adamat is on a mission to rescue his kidnapped son, and finds himself investigating more cases besides. Bo finds a worthy apprentice in the former servant-turned-Privileged-sorcerer Nila. And Taniel Two-Shot, who is in fact very much alive, is hiding in the hills with his companion Ka-Poel, the two of them on the run from enemies he once thought were his friends.
The scope of the story has expanded, and likewise the number of players. In spite of the many subplots, however, the feeling that we were just biding our time never truly left me. There’s so much going on, but that the ending is the main showpiece here was never in doubt, and many developments felt secondary when I could see that everything was building towards the grand finale. No other chapters made me feel this way more than Adamat’s. His eldest child had been taken from him, and yet his grief is hardly conveyed; after that issue plays itself out, he takes on another investigation and life goes on, almost like the author needed to give him something to do. I liked following his storyline, but its progression and resolution was just unexpected to say the least, especially in light of everything he and his family experienced. It was a bit disappointing, considering how Adamat was my favorite character in Promise of Blood.
That said, other characters were much more convincing. In the last book, Taniel was the one who emerged as the clear favorite as I found him and his story to be the most compelling, but he spends most of the time in this book on the lam. I therefore wondered if it would finally be Tamas’s turn to shine in The Autumn Republic. What actually happened surprised me. The one who really stood out for me this time was not any of the main characters but Nila, the young woman who started off as a secondary character in Promise of Blood, but whose role eventually grew when huge revelations about her were dropped on readers at the end of The Crimson Campaign. She gets a lot more page time in this book, along with her own side plot which I really enjoyed. Her relationship with Bo was one of the major highlights, and I wish it had been given more attention because something special was definitely happening there.
The writing has become more natural and polished over the course of the series, which makes this concluding volume all the more rewarding. I did assert that the ending here was the crown jewel of the book, and McClellan gives it his all, delivering a stunning send-off to the trilogy. He ties up the major loose ends, though I felt there were a few important matters still left unresolved. Ka-Poel’s character immediately comes to mind. Where did she come from? What’s the origin behind her amazing abilities? How did she get mixed up with Taniel in the first place? I’ve been asking these questions since the first book hoping to find answers in this final installment, but I still feel none the wiser. Nila’s transition from humble servant to powerful sorceress also happened way too quickly, and I wish there had been more time spent on her growth, not to mention a better explanation for her immense power that had remained latent for so long.
One thing to keep in mind is that I do tend to be more critical of endings – especially bittersweet ones. I have nothing against bittersweet endings (I love them, in fact) but predictability takes away a lot of the enjoyment. I had guessed correctly how things were going to end for at least a couple of the characters, so that dulled the emotional impact considerably. All told, however, I don’t want to come across too negative, or discourage anyone from picking up these Powder Mage books. They’re totally worth it. Even though McClellan may have missed a few opportunities here and played things a bit too safe, I liked this book and thought it was a worthy conclusion to a fantastic trilogy. My issues with it are minor and hardly deal breakers, especially for a relatively new author who now has a completed epic fantasy trilogy under his belt. I am looking forward to his future writing endeavors with much enthusiasm and interest.
Other reviews in this series:
The Crimson Campaign (Book 2)