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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

In The Shadow Of Lightning by Brian McClellan (reviewed by Shazzie)



Official AuthorWebsite
Pre-order the book here
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Promise Of Blood
AUTHOR INFORMATION: Brian McClellan is an American epic fantasy author from Cleveland, Ohio. He is known for his acclaimed Powder Mage Universe and essays on the life and business of being a writer. Brian now lives on the side of a mountain in Utah with his wife, Michele, where he writes books and nurses a crippling video game addiction.

Brian's novels include the Powder Mage Trilogy, Gods of Blood and Powder, and Valkyrie Collections.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Magic is a finite resource—and it’s running out.
Demir Grappo is an outcast—he fled a life of wealth and power, abandoning his responsibilities as a general, a governor, and a son. Now he will live out his days as a grifter, rootless, and alone. But when his mother is brutally murdered, Demir must return from exile to claim his seat at the head of the family and uncover the truth that got her killed: the very power that keeps civilization turning, godglass, is running out.

Now, Demir must find allies, old friends and rivals alike, confront the powerful guild-families who are only interested in making the most of the scraps left at the table and uncover the invisible hand that threatens the Empire. A war is coming, a war unlike any other. And Demir and his ragtag group of outcasts are the only thing that stands in the way of the end of life as the world knows it.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I had heard a lot about Brian McClellan's Powder Mage Series and never picked them up as I felt a lack of interest in flintlock fantasy. I now see what I missed all along. I picked up this book because of the premise, and partly because I heard he took Brandon Sanderson's creative writing class, and it did not disappoint.

It starts with one of the most intense prologues I have ever read in fantasy, and is set in a world where magic and science go hand-in-hand.

The book mostly follows the POV of Demir Grappo, an outcast who has to take on the responsibility of being the patriarch of his guild family, Tessa, a siliceer apprentice who ends up in a partnership with him, and his friends, Kizzie Vorcien and Baby Montego, as most of the plot-driven narrative tries to capture the geopolitical events in the nation of Ossa, as they navigate through a period of time when magic is running out, and it could mean the end of their society as they know it.

The plot moves fast, is engaging, and a couple of the interactions between the characters it follows are full of sarcasm and dry humor. The author did a great job trying to give all the characters sufficient motivation in order to justify their actions, and though I really enjoyed the story, and couldn’t wait to discover what happened, I found the lack of exploration of character harming my overall reception to the story. There were a couple of instances where I felt that the growth or change displayed by a particular character happened a little too quickly, and in other cases, some character arcs remained quite static over the course of the book.

\What I loved about this book is that the author injected a sense of humor into tense scenes that somehow did not take away from the sense of urgency that needed to be conveyed to keep the story engaging.

As for the characters themselves, I am slightly conflicted. If not for the chuckle worthy lines in some parts of the story, I would want to read the next book in the series to know where Demir's sense of fairness and loyalty takes him, as well as his relationship with Baby Montego. There is no denying that Baby Montego is one of the most endearing characters I have encountered in an epic fantasy book, and while I don't particularly agree with one of the choices the author made for him at the end of this book, I will keep reading to see what happens to him. 

A running theme in the book is the idea of fairness and loyalty, along with some acts of kindness that can be emotionally touching. I am quite impressed with Brian's decision to make Demir the patriarch of a minor guild family and a politician who doesn't hesitate to offer opportunities to the others, in order to keep things fair. His relationship with Baby Montego and their loyalty to each other make me wonder if they will rise to the ranks of Locke and Jean in modern fantasy fiction.

Another noteworthy aspect of this book is the fact that there were no hints toward it being set in a culture with considerable gender inequality. There were multiple mentions of both men and women in action in differing spheres of the Ossan elite, as well as among the other classes, though I would like to see further exploration of their roles and the impact of the crisis being set up has on their daily lives in the future books.
The way the author chose to end this book is not something I generally enjoy. I like to see endings that are honest to the promised premise, and the resolution at the end of the book seemed to deviate from that, and left me feeling like it was completely disconnected from the previous few hundred pages before it. It delivers some shock value, which is not something I tend to appreciate in my reading experiences lately. It might serve the purpose of setting up for much greater scope in the next books, but I admit that it felt rather clunky, and did not work for me at all.
CONCLUSION: I have many nice things to say about the book, but I wouldn't recommend it to everyone because I did not find the magic system creative enough (yet), and I prefer a bit more depth to the characters. It is well-paced, enjoyable, but the last bit missed the landing by a mile. There are supposedly larger things at play in this story, and I will wait to read the next book before telling any reader that it is a must-read. But if you enjoy fast-paced, plot-driven fantasy, or something that is just an easier read between doorstoppers, or are looking to venture into fantasy and need a gripping read that need not do something unique, you might want to consider this.



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