Book Review – The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

My review of the The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan 9/10

When Gods walk the earth and war rages, Tamas suffers his greatest defeat at the hands of Kez. Beaten, but not broken Tamas must fight his way back to Adro and his son.

Taniel awakens from his coma only to hear of his fathers presumed death, traveling to the war front, many things are not as they appear. A traitor hides within the Army’s high command and Taniel will stop at nothing to find out who it is.

The hunt is on, Adamat will call in all favors and do everything that it takes to rescue his wife and son from Lord Vetus. Dark deeds and bargains abound for the man with a clear purpose.

Crimson Campaign is the second in the Powder Mage Trilogy and much like the Promise of Blood, it is simply fantastic. Gods, overt and introvert, magic, a struggle for survival and desire for revenge, bundled up across three main story arcs.

In the first, Tamas struggles to survive after a massive defeat at the hands of the Kez, trapped behind enemy lines, he and his men travel the long way home, harassed and hurried at every point.   In this journey we get to see a lot of Tamas’s inner personality coming through, his commitment, conviction and his dedication to the cause, all of which is written by Brian with passion and flare. We are even given a deeper insight into the reasons behind Tamas starting the revolution, it’s not a large revelation, but definitely something that helps round out the character.

Taniel’s initial story centers around his recovery after the events on South Pike Mountain and his attempted assassination of Kresimir. Lost in a haze of drugs, the consequence of trying to suppress the memory of killing a God, Taniel”s mental defenses are shattered, but slowly he recovers with the help of Ka-poel (Pole). Later, as Tnaiel makes his way to the war front we are delivered an ever-increasing level of frustration as obstacle after obstacle is thrown in his path, some by allies and some by enemies. This particular element was an interesting read, as I could feel the aggravation and irritation coming off the page from the character. It even set me on edge, and any book and author that can accomplish this level of immersion deserves all the accolades they get. There is a lot more coming for this character (and a lot has already happened) thanks to the protection and spells that Pole has woven around him. — Speculation — This advanced state of Powder Mage is one of the circumstances in which I believe Tamas will die. I sense Taniel will go up against something he cannot handle, even with his new abilities and Tamas will need to sacrifice himself to save him and Adro.

Finally, we have Adamat and the search for his wife and son. This is actually my favourite storyline from the book, it plays on all the key emotions of the reader, fear hope, angry and happiness. It definitely had the most variety in plots elements in my opinion. The character is smart, capable and willing to take action and inaction when necessary to achieve the end result. There is a common man feel to his personality and persona, a view of right, wrong and practicality I really enjoy. I could easily see Adamat having his own full length novel in the future, building on his early years and career such as in Murder at the Kinnen Hotel. Across the two main books, his role and interactions have been largely separate from Tamas and Taniel’s, but I am hoping in The Autumn Republic we get more of a crossover of plots between the three.

Sometimes in split view novels like this, one or two stories shine greater than the others and the reader (yes, I do this) rushes through some of the less fulfilling sections of the book in order to get back to their favourite, but in Crimson Campaign none of this is present. Each storyline is as engaging as the next and you savor each word, paragraph and chapter as revelations, betrayal and death lead the characters down a long and sometimes crooked path.

The few negatives I did have concerned the nature of the telling and certain issues with the Taniels interactiosn with the army after Tamas’s presumed death. I said it earlier, but I would have liked a little more crossover between the three characters, but considering the plot for each one of the them, it would not have been really feasible. One aspect of this view was I could imagine Crimson Campaign easily being read as three separate novella’s set around the same events, however his doesn’t take away from the novel or my enjoyment of it. Secondly, I did think the discovery and betrayal of Taniel inside his own army feels a little off. It comes across like the entire Adro command structure just fell to infighting and power mongering without Tamas, regardless of the actions of the traitor in their midst. Considering these characters all stood with Tamas during his initial revolution in Promise of Blood, it was just hard to see how this Taniel plot aspect came about so quickly. This was not a major concern but something that did niggle at the back of my mind.

Contains some Spoilers

My Autumn Republic speculation & predictions.

  • Tamas dies. Think about it, there is no other ending for him.
  • Tamas realises he is in love with Vlora. Considering his reaction after he sees her with Olem, he finally understands why he was so hurt by her betrayal of Taniel.
  • Adamant becomes the first Prime Minster of Adro, after Ricard dies.
  • Another sibling or two of Kresimir will turn up now that Mihali is gone.
  • Nila will become the reincarnated form of a Kresimir sibling.
  • I feel Pole’s power is linked to her silence. In order to save Taniel’s life at some point she speaks which causes her to lose her powers.
  • Privileged Borbador falls in love with Nila.
  • Adamants son, now found to be a latent Powder Mage will become something twisted and alerted by Kresimir as part of his search for Taniel.

End Spoilers

Rating 9/10

For even more reviews, author interviews and biographies, check out the site Fantasy Book Review.


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