Review: The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

Brian G Turner

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3 1/2 stars.

If ever there was an argument for the second book in a trilogy sagging, this is an example.

Main characters, especially Taniel, seemed to lack direction and just drifted through the story. All too often characters seemed to reach plot points for no other reason than the author wanted them there - being knocked unconscious, so other characters could take them forward in the story, was too common.

And some of the plot reveals were just ... strange ... not least the identity of The Proprietor, and Nila suddenly developing unusual skills without any foreshadowing.

The whole point of Promise of Blood was that Tamas had overturned the monarchy to establish a Republic - but in this book there is no sign of that Republic, no leadership, not even an army at home - and Tamas seems to have simply abandoned any attempt to set up government and governing. In effect, the founding premise of the first book seems to have been pretty much overlooked.

On the positive side, the general writing remains tight, some of the emotional responses of characters was good, and the story continued to jump forward. If there's a sense of disappointment about this book, it's simply because Promise of Blood was such an exceptional novel and it was always going to be a difficult act to follow.

The Crimson Campaign isn't a bad novel - it's better than a lot of what's out there - it's just that I was left feeling this book was rushed to meet deadlines, and parts of the story reflected that.

However, I've started The Autumn Republic, the last book in the Powder Mage trilogy, and it's coming out stronger and feels more confident. Hopefully that will continue and allow the trilogy to reach a decent ending.
 
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The Big Peat

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I read this without reading the first book and found it to be good writing and mostly mixed storytelling. Reading your review makes me feel like I got the better end of the bargain.
 

Brian G Turner

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I'm now being more blunt with my reviews, so I was more harsh with this one than normal. It's a real shame you didn't read Promise of Blood as IMO the premise is fantastic - but that seems overlooked in the sequel.
 

The Big Peat

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I can't say the premise of the series ever particularly excited me full stop - I picked it up at the library because people were talking up at McClellan and I was looking for a grounding in modern fantasy - but, since you mention it, the premise does seem a little absent.

Also, what you say about the lack of foreshadowing... it did feel somewhat like a Deus Ex Machina arms race to me. That was a big detractor to me.
 
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