A new sequence, following the outstanding Powder Mage fantasy trilogy (The Autumn Republic, 2015, etc.) and set in the same war-torn world—gratifyingly, some of the characters reappear—gets under way.
In a narrative that builds upon, but adds no fresh ideas to, the previous books, the scene switches to the land of Fatrasta and its capital city, Landfall. Here, the natives, called Palo, suffer under the repressive government of Lady Chancellor Lindet and her chief enforcer, the psychopathic Fidelis Jes, grand master of the Blackhats, the secret police. So great is the unrest that Lindet engages powder mage (one who ignites powerful magic by inhaling or ingesting gunpowder) Vlora and her army, the Riflejack Mercenary Company, to defend the city and keep order. Jes, meanwhile, orders Blackhat spy Michel Bravis to find the individuals responsible for stirring the Palo to rebellion. Lindet also has a secret project to secure a powerfully magical “godstone” abandoned by a long-vanished civilization—but why? Other important actors in the drama include Ben Styke, ex-colonel of the Mad Lancers (clad in impenetrable magic armor, they devastated opposing armies in the previous books), now falsely imprisoned for treachery by Jes, and the enigmatic Gregious Tampo, who seems far too well-informed and resourceful to be merely the lawyer he represents himself as. These sturdily drawn characters struggle, contend, and plot, not always in entirely convincing fashion, amid brief bursts of action. After 500 pages of this elaborate and often remarkable scenery-chewing, McClellan finally delivers the concluding furious, visceral, and relentlessly thrilling action that so delighted readers of the original trilogy.
A yarn that promises more than it delivers. Fans will be entitled to a small measure of disappointment.