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The Crimson Campaign

by Brian McClellan

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8452725,905 (4.13)23
Fantasy. Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:

"Just plain awesome"??Brandon Sanderson


A staggering defeat on the border of Adro and Kez leaves Tamas and his powder mages in grave danger and cut off from all aid. Meanwhile, deadly political games threaten his allies at home.


When invasion looms...

Tamas's invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy's best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god, Kresimir.
But the threats are closer to home...

In Adro, Inspector Adamat wants only to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers will lead Adamat on a darker journey.
Who will lead the charge?

Tamas's generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself as the last line of defense against Kresimir's advancing army.


THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN continues the most acclaimed and action-packed new epic fantasy series in years, following on from Promise of Blood - an adrenaline-fuelled debut of flintlock mages, civil war, and cold-blooded murder in a world where gods walk the earth.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
While I enjoyed the first Powder Mage book, I was concerned by the near complete lack of women with any real power or agency. Erika was dead but driving the story via Tamas's revenge, Nila was a laundress and was shuffled from place to place as a perpetual victim and temptation for men, Ka-Poel was literally voiceless and basically had as much agency outside of Taniel as one of her wax dolls with no discernible motives besides the ones that Taniel, her male 'translator' assigns to her. Vlora was just something for Taniel to be angry about.

I was told Brian McClellan got better. That he took criticism on this seriously, and added 'more' for women in his next book. So I got to it, eventually, and at first it seemed... okay. Not much had changed. We got more women talking, but that's not the same as having real women as characters with their own stories and narratives alongside their male counterparts. In the end, Vlora sums it up with her rant at Tamas for his unjust rage over her cheating on his son during wartime: It was all about you.

All of the women lack anything like agency. Faye is a victim, Ka-Poel becomes a victim, Nila is rescued but is still a victim for most of the book. Ket and her cadre may as well be genderless for all that they're caricatures of bad villainy -- which is criminal no matter what gender they are, because they're not cunning, clever, or even remotely believable -- and seem to be a hasty 'I'll make this character a woman so we can have some "powerful women" around!' Winslev literally exists as Vetas's conquest, Abraxas and Fell are servants to male power with no real stories of their own, and not a single one of these characters is allowed their own real voice, own real arc, or anything else of the sort. Every one of them is subservient to a male narrative, and in the end, that destroyed my enjoyment of the men's narratives.

When Adamat doesn't understand why Faye can't just overcome her pain and suffering for him and the children, I stopped caring about his character. He wasn't worried about his wife -- he was worried about having his possession back. He wasn't worried about a person, with thoughts and feelings, who gave him NINE CHILDREN, he just wanted the status quo back. He wasn't concerned about what'd been DONE to her to, explicitly because he was involved with Tamas, he just wanted things back to normal, and it was reiterated over and over. His simpering bullshit destroyed my ability to give a shit about him and his arc anymore.

Same for Taniel and Ka-Poel. The 'savage' got beat by five men and was going to be raped while Taniel watched? Is this the same woman who got Taniel out to safety after helping him fight a Gopd, who literally skips among the fields of battle and kills with needles like it's nothing? We're supposed to believe the lowest of the low in Ket's brigade got her without all of them being dead long before Taniel came to get her? I guess her magic powers depend entirely on "how badly does Taniel need a dose of manpain".

So I'm done. Fuck this series. Fuck what this series represents in the safe, coddling notion of what is 'new' in fantasy. Flintlocke's just a wingding tacked on to the drearily boring fantasy of yore - oh you've got magic with GUNS in it! But it's the same old male war fantasy pastiche with the same old male characters aiming at the same old safe demographic. It's been done a thousand times over, and while yes, Brian does it reasonably well, it's still -old- and -tired- and I'm -done to death with this bullshit-. ( )
  crowsandprose | May 15, 2024 |
I'm scared to start Book #3 because I don't want this story to end. Loving it! ( )
  jazzbird61 | Feb 29, 2024 |
Book 2 of the trilogy commences with Field Marshall Tamas and two of his divisions setting up an attack on the Kez army who are assaulting Budweil, a town that controls one of the entry points into Adro, and then being cut off when the enemy use their new weapon: Powder Mages who have been warped into Wardens, the mindless killing machines which the Kez use as terror troops. Tamas and his army must now march through hostile territory, tracked and outnumbered by the enemy's cavalry, for many miles to get back into Adro and battle the threats now facing it, which escalate during the book.

Meanwhile Tamas' son Taniel has recovered from the coma into which he succumbed following his shooting of the apparent god Kresimir in book 1, but has crawled off to the local equivalent of an opium den. And when the "savage" sorceress Ka-Poel forces him to dry out, he then lurches from one crisis to another due to alienating a particular general in the army who it seems is enriching herself and her sister by selling army supplies, and may be an actual traitor. (Though in a time of war, any military person doing that would likely be shot - she is robbing the army of critical supplies such as gunpowder.) Inspector Adamat also has his own problems, trying to recover his wife and son who have been kidnapped by Vetas, a villain who appeared in book 1 and who may be working for the Kez or another, as yet undisclosed, enemy.

The problem I found with this book is that there is no light and shade or change of pace to act as an opportunity to take a breath. Peril piles upon peril. Characters are not really developed - I find them all pretty much cardboard cutouts. Some do eventually become important after coasting for book 1 and most of book 2 - Nila is the big example of this, and the startling revelation about her is sprung on the reader without any foreshadowing whatsoever. (Yes, it should be a surprise but the reader should also have the satisfaction of realising that the clues were there all along.)

Events happen in this series to rack up the tension, rather than because they make sense, are an understandable development of something that happened before, or are ever explained (the sudden appearance of dozens of cave lions in book 1 is a case in point). Characters become important temporarily, such as the Prime character in book 1, and are then dropped. Some are never heard of again, such as the female wizard who killed so many of Tamas' Powder Mages in book 1, caused havoc by fighting a duel with her rival Julene, and then promptly left.

The concept of flintlock magic is a great idea, but it is diluted by having so many rival systems of magic - Powder mages, Privileged and the bone magic of Ka-Poel, plus the more minor 'talents' possessed by people referred to as Knacked. This leads to a huge number of practitioners of the different systems, and additional ones too: Prime, Julene and the other woman whose name I don't recall are all some higher type of long-lived Privileged who form a fourth category of magic user since they are almost unstoppable even by powerful Privileged such as Taniel's friend Bo. And even more powerful than them are the gods such as Kresimir.

I found the sequences disturbing and unnecessary where a female character threatens to have another woman raped by a squad of convict types to teach a lesson to a man who is perceived to 'own' her and then actually arranges for it to happen - there are such women in real life but this character isn't portrayed as a sociopath, just as someone who is making money dishonestly from her position. Her vendetta against Taniel seems transparently personal to an extent that it becomes unbelievable that she could get away with hanging the son of the Field Marshal, even if the latter is supposedly dead, especially as Taniel is an acclaimed war hero among most of the army and also the public at large. And the constant racism and misogyny against Ka-poel is pretty wearing though maybe that is intentional, but it seems an irrational way to behave towards someone who has shown herself pretty useful in destroying the enemy. A more believable way for the other characters to behave would be for them to treat Ka-Poel as an honorary/token acceptable person while still retaining their racist/misogynistic attitudes towards others.

Given all these reservations, I can only rate this as a sold 3-star read but not a keeper. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
I thought the first book in this series was good, but that it didn't measure up to the 2nd series. But this one was just as good. Constant tension in all three developing storylines. I am sad about the death of one of my favorite characters, and a little confused by some romance and power levels of some characters who seem weaker in the later books, but this was a ton of fun with characters I'm very familiar with by this time. ( )
  ragwaine | Sep 9, 2023 |
I started off this book expecting a continuation of my passive appreciation but general lack of love for this series. Boy, was I wrong. It’s not perfect; the characters still frustrate me often, and multiple-POV storytelling has never been my preferred style to read. But the second half of this book was easily one of the most riveting and well-told narratives I’ve read in a LONG time. Every primary character was pushed into uniquely challenging circumstances that served for their own development as well as realistic plot movement. On top of that, several secondary characters abruptly and unexpectedly got bumped from the “ugh why do I care” to the “now that’s interesting” category. And best of all, McClellan managed to incorporate multiple surprising plot twists while still cohesively tying together a multi-country political, military, religious, and personal narrative. 4.5 stars ( )
  jhellar | Jan 14, 2023 |
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For Michelle, my one and only, my friend, my collaborator, and my love.
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Adamat stood perfectly still in the middle of a deep hedgerow outside his own summerhouse and stared through the windows at the men in the dining room.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Fantasy. Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:

"Just plain awesome"??Brandon Sanderson


A staggering defeat on the border of Adro and Kez leaves Tamas and his powder mages in grave danger and cut off from all aid. Meanwhile, deadly political games threaten his allies at home.


When invasion looms...

Tamas's invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy's best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god, Kresimir.
But the threats are closer to home...

In Adro, Inspector Adamat wants only to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers will lead Adamat on a darker journey.
Who will lead the charge?

Tamas's generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself as the last line of defense against Kresimir's advancing army.


THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN continues the most acclaimed and action-packed new epic fantasy series in years, following on from Promise of Blood - an adrenaline-fuelled debut of flintlock mages, civil war, and cold-blooded murder in a world where gods walk the earth.

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