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.
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
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)