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The Crimson Campaign: The Powder Mage #2    by Brian McClellan order for
Crimson Campaign
by Brian McClellan
Order:  USA  Can
Orbit, 2015 (2015)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Crimson Campaign is the second (following Promise of Blood) in Brian McClellan's explosive Powder Mage military fantasy trilogy. The final episode (The Autumn Republic) has just been released in hardcover too. I devoured this second episode in half a day of rabid reading and am now happily into the final one.

In Promise of Blood, popular powder mage Field Marshal Tamas led a French Revolution style coup in the capital, taking out the royal sorcerers, the Privileged (one escaped). After each died with these words on their lips - 'You can't break Kresimir's Promise' - Tamas hired retired police inspector Adamat to investigate. Tamas sent his son Taniel a strong powder mage accompanied by mute Dynize savage Bone-eye Ka-poel) after the escaped Privileged. Laundress Nila saved small Jakob from the guillotine. And Taniel eventually joined his best friend, Privileged Borbador, at Shouldercrown Fortress, where a god (Kresimir) was summoned, Kez invasion imminent.

As The Crimson Campaign opens, all these characters quickly get into dire straits. Tamas is cut off with only ten thousand men, scarce supplies and ammunition, and a very long way to march home through enemy territory. Adamat's family was taken by ruthless Lord Vetas and he desperately seeks to save them (Vetas also has Nila and Jakob). The army left by Tamas is controlled by his generals. They have very different ideas on how to run things and are unable to hold against the Kez - and the maddened god who is with them. Taniel Two-shot is effective though regularly undermined by his superiors. But he has grown in abilities since he shot a god in the eye, and Ka-poel, who is still by his side, has been demonstrating powerful magics of her own.

As in the first episode, there is constant action on all fronts, regular betrayals, romance and romantic misunderstandings, fascinating styles and uses of magic, and heroes and heroines growing into their powers as they struggle with the enemy and each other. Brandon Sanderson called the first book 'just plain awesome' - if anything, this second is even better, an enthralling read.

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