An intriguing, entertaining new novella from the author of the Powder Mage series: a new universe, new armies, and new monsters…
Teado is a Changer, a shape-shifting military asset trained to win wars. His platoon has been stationed in the Bavares high plains for years, stranded. As they ration supplies and scan the airwaves for news, any news, their numbers dwindle. He’s not sure how much time they have left.
Desperate and starving, armed with aging, faulting equipment, the team jumps at the chance for a risky resupply mission, even if it means not all of them might come. What they discover could change the course of the war.
Despite falling behind on his ‘main’ fantasy series, the Powder Mage trilogy and the new Gods of Blood and Powder, McClellan is one of my favourite (fantasy) author working today. When I heard that he had a novella on the way from Tor.com, I immediately put it on my must-read list. Due out in a couple of weeks, War Cry lived up to my expectations: it’s really good.
War Cry introduces readers to a whole new world: a world seemingly caught in a perpetual war of attrition. However, while it appears to be World War II-esque technology-levels, this world’s armies also employ sorcerers and shape-shifters. This novella focuses on the travails of Teado, a shape-shifter who, after a daring raid, is separated from his platoon and must make his way back.
The novella contains some good action, for sure, but also examines the lives and psychologies of the war-weary soldiers on the ground. With limited or non-existant supplies, and no end in sight, morale is low, tensions are high. The information war is ongoing, too. At one point, Teado and his comrade Aleta talk about the enemy’s radio broadcasts they sometimes catch:
“No, not by accident. We all listen, Teado. We all wonder if their food is better, or their beds and clothes warmer. We all look toward the enemy air base and wonder if we could make it there without one of our friends shooting us in the back for desertion.”
Teado’s journey, while relatively small in scale, nevertheless offers readers a great look at the world McClellan has created. There are divided loyalties, tense chases and a great ending. I won’t go into any more detail about the plot (it’s a rather slim novella, so spoilers would abound at — in my opinion — an unacceptable rate). One thing I will say, however: I really hope McClellan has plans to explore this world more.
Also on CR: Interview with Brian McClellan (2013); Guest Posts on “Favourite Novel: The Count of Monte Cristo“ and “Protagonist Ages in Epic Fantasy”; Excerpt from The Autumn Republic; Reviews of Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign