Book Review: Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of Gods of Blood and Powder

Publisher: Orbit (May 15, 2018)

Length: 656 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

It’s good to see Brian McClellan’s second trilogy is coming along nicely. Wrath of Empire is the second installment of Gods of Blood and Powder, which picks up from the end of Sins of Empire, so bear in mind this review may contain possible spoilers for the first book if you aren’t caught up yet. In this sequel, the author continues to develop one of the major plot points from the previous novel concerning the ancient, magic-infused obelisks known as godstones. Intent on unifying his people, the leader of the invading Dynize army is seeking to claim these powerful artifacts for himself, with the goal of creating a new god.

Desperate to prevent this from happening, Taniel Two-Shot and Ka-Poel team up with General Vlora Flint, who along with her Riflejack mercenaries are currently assisting in the evacuation of refugees from the conquered Fatrastan capital of Landfall. With the help of Ben Styke and his Mad Lancers, our characters must divide their attention between fighting the enemy and finding the godstones before the Dynize can. Meanwhile, former Blackhat spy Michel Bravis has been tasked by Taniel to infiltrate the now Dynize-occupied capital. His mission: to locate the one known as “Mara” and to get them out of the city.

Once again, McClellan combines the action of battle, the intrigue of politics, and the magic of fantasy to bring us another stunning addition to the Powder Mage universe. However, I must confess I was a little skeptical at first. Despite recalling a fond experience with Sins of Empire, I was surprised to see how much of its plot I had forgotten, and being thrown headfirst into the events of this sequel without any preamble served only to increase my confusion. Thankfully, when all is said and done, I think Wrath of Empire will end up being a more memorable book for several reasons.

First of all, this sequel features a better balance between the characters. Despite my fondness for Vlora, who might be my favorite character this time around, I was nevertheless happy to see more attention devoted to Taniel and Ka-Poel. Their involvement in the first book was something of a surprise treat, though now it appears they have become fully integrated into the plot. There are some truly excellent scenes between Taniel and Vlora and even Ka-Poel and Styke as the characters begin to form new relationships or strengthen old ones. My second favorite character was probably Celine, even though she was a relatively minor figure. Through her interactions with both Ka-Poel and Styke, readers are able to get a deeper feel for these two characters, whose back stories were also greatly expanded in this novel via interesting side plots like Styke’s personal revenge tour or the revelations behind Ka-Poel’s secret origins. Truth be told though, while I may point out only a few examples, I think we got to see strong improvement in character development for everyone. In fact, the only POV I couldn’t really get into was Michel’s, simply because I wasn’t feeling as interested in his espionage storyline.

That being said, Michel’s mission in Landfall does help increase the urgency of the novel, with the higher stakes making this one a worthy follow-up. The story also continues to add depth to the situation surrounding the Dynize invasion of Fatrasta, underscoring the importance of finding the godstones. Still, as it is soon revealed, destroying these mysterious monoliths is only a piece of the puzzle. At the risk of sounding like a horrible tease, I am intentionally being vague in order to avoid revealing too much about the plot, but just when you think you have the ending figured out, hidden deep behind enemy lines are even more secrets and conspiracies, proving there is so much more left to discover. Wrath of Empire ends with another momentous showdown containing plenty of surprising twists and unexpected difficulties for our protagonists, which makes me think we’ll be getting even more bombshells before long.

Now to wait and see if McClellan can stick the landing, though with his winning trend continuing so strongly, I’m not too worried. I’ll be keeping an eager eye out for Blood of Empire to see how this epic journey plays out.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Sins of Empire (Book 1)

15 Comments on “Book Review: Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan”

  1. This trend of writing a series or trilogy with no “this is what has happened so far” really troubles me. With at least a year, if not more, between releases, most of us readers simply can’t retain all the necessary info.

    I also realize that the likes of McClellan are pushing out quality books every 12-14 months, which isn’t long at all in book terms, but still, a one page synopsis to bring the reader up to speed would be nice. It is definitely a contributing factor in my decision on how I read series now.

    So thank you for mentioning that. Helps me to keep a stiff upper lip while I sit and wait for it to be done. Helps remove the temptation to think about starting these early 🙂


    • Yes, say what you will about Mark Lawrence, but he does this – just as you described, a couple pages at the beginning of the book providing a brief rundown of the series so far, like a quick refresher crash course on all the relevant information that you would need to jump right back in.

      I love this. Other reviewers have mentioned how ML does this, and they seem to love it too. So, I really don’t know why it hasn’t caught on with more authors. In fact, I can’t think of anyone else who does this!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m jumping on board with the ML way of giving a brief round up of what previously happened – it’s such a good idea and means you can jump back into the story really easily without that horrible feeling that you’re fumbling around in the dark trying to find your bearings.
    I really don’t know why it isn’t used more. I mean, of course, you’ll remember things from the first book as you read along but it’s more fun to have been prepared beforehand, and, I think it’s probably why so many people wait for a series to be complete before picking up because they can read all the books in fairly short order and not have this issue.
    Lynn 😀


  3. Yes, the character balance you mentioned is indeed one of the best features of this novel, and also the good pacing that kept the story moving along ad a very fast clip. Unlike you, however, I did warm up a little more toward Michel because I felt how much the loneliness of his “profession” was weighing on him, and how much the acceptance into (((spoiler))) meant to him.
    And now we wait for the conclusion…. 🙂


  4. it’s nice to see that it’s a good second novel there. Not sure I remember your review of the first one.


  5. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

  6. I only found out about Brian McClellan, like, a couple of weeks ago. I know I shouldn’t have read this review, but it’s good to know he’s looking goo so far … 😀


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