The conclusion to the Powder Mage trilogy
Tamas, Taniel, and Adamat have been betrayed and Adro now lies in the hands of a foreign invader. But it remains the duty of the powder mages to defend their homeland unto death…
The capital has fallen…
Field Marshal Tamas returns to his beloved country to find that for the first time in history, the capital city of Adro lies in the hands of a foreign invader. His son is missing, his allies are indistinguishable from his foes, and reinforcements are several weeks away.
An army divided…
With the Kez still bearing down upon them and without clear leadership, the Adran army has turned against itself. Inspector Adamat is drawn into the very heart of this new mutiny with promises of finding his kidnapped son.
All hope rests with one…
And Taniel Two-shot, hunted by men he once thought his friends, must safeguard the only chance Adro has of getting through this war without being destroyed…
Brian McClellan’s first two Powder Mage novels were great — I remember devouring them both. With great characters, an interesting magic system, and a balanced blend of action and political mystery, they ticked pretty much all of my reading buttons. For some reason, I left The Autumn Republic for quite some time before reading it (the author has written an entire other trilogy since this one). I enjoyed it, but it didn’t pack the kind of punch I expected from the end of a trilogy.
The Autumn Republic picks up quite soon after the end of The Crimson Campaign. All of the surviving characters return, and face new obstacles and challenges as tensions increase between nations and secret agendas are revealed. The story moves between the various fronts of our heroes’ struggles, building to an explosive ending.
It took me a little while to get re-oriented, after the long gap between reading The Crimson Campaign and starting this novel. McClellan provides just enough reminders in the opening chapters to keep readers situated, without wasting time reiterating past events. (Although, a short “The Story So Far…” style preface might have been handy.) I was quickly reminded why I liked these characters — they are well drawn, and McClellan does a very good job of bringing them to life on the page. Even peripheral and characters are well written and, when necessary, we quickly get a good sense of who they are (even when some of them die rather soon after we meet them).
Tamas finds his way back to the head of Adro’s army, facing off against a huge Kez force. There’s some betrayal, some pitched battles, a brutal siege, and more. I enjoyed these scenes, but for some time I felt like these characters were treading water, waiting to be called together for the conclusion. Some of the transitions felt a touch rushed or sudden, which is a shame. Adamat, the investigator with perfect recall, has a case that takes him from Adro city to the front, and back again. I really enjoyed this storyline, more than I expected, as it was the main thread that seemed to be moving the whole storyline forward — we learned things, it connected the other threads in certain ways, and for me had the best momentum.
Meanwhile, Taniel and Ka-poel, who I remember being rather prominent in The Crimson Campaign didn’t feature nearly as much as I expected in The Autumn Republic. This is a shame, because they are among my favourite characters in the series. I do like the fact that McClellan doesn’t feel the need to explain everything in his fantasy world — this is most evident in his treatment of Ka-poel’s magic, which just seems to happen and even she isn’t fully aware of how it works.
Bo, Taniel’s childhood best friend and Privileged, returns with his new apprentice, Nila. Bo has a pretty hard time in this novel, but he remains eternally optimistic about life and the future. He’s another great character, and I enjoyed seeing Nila coming into her own — even if there maybe needed to be a bit more, here. As the story has grown over the series, it was maybe the case that the author had too many characters who needed substantial stories and development. There’s a fair amount going on, of course, but I think there maybe could have been more. This did, unfortunately, rob some of the impact from the ending — it was strangely slow going, at times.
In conclusion, The Autumn Republic is another good novel from McClellan. I do remember the first two novels being more gripping. Perhaps some of the issues I had with the novel were just the result of my leaving so much time between books. However, I do think it wasn’t as focused as the previous novels, with a plot that didn’t move as smoothly as it maybe could have. There were definitely moments and chapters when I wondered why we were spending so much time on content that was expanding the setting/world/story, rather than getting us to the end.
The final act of the novel was pretty great: lots happened, identities revealed, plots confronted, tragic and sometimes moving endings. If you enjoyed the first two novels, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing how the first trilogy set in this world is concluded. After finishing The Autumn Republic, I immediately bought The Mad Lancers, a novella that serves as a prequel to the author’s new (already completed) trilogy, Gods of Blood and Powder. I hope to get caught up as soon as I can.
Also on CR: Interview with Brian McClellan (2013); Guest Posts on “Protagonist Ages in Epic Fantasy” and “My Favourite Novel”; Excerpt from The Autumn Republic; Reviews of Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign