The Crimson Campaign is book two of McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy. Having really enjoyed the first book, Promise of Blood, I was ready to dive into book two. The Crimson Campaign picks up right after the events of the first book in which Tamas has overthrown the monarchy and consequently woken a god, only to have his son Taniel, kill said god. However, is it possible to kill a god? And if you don’t succeed, might you expect that god to want some retribution? Well, readers find that out in The Crimson Campaign.
Like the first book, the story is told in multiple points of view: Tamas, Adamat, Taniel and Nila, each offering a different perspective, which is especially important now that war is officially on. Each character offers a different look into the war effort. Tamas is lost in enemy territory, presumed dead by many; however, to readers, Tamas is merely making his way back home to reinforce the dwindling troops. Adamat remains in the city searching for his missing wife and eldest son, both taken by a mysterious lord. Machinations abound. Taniel is recovering from his run in with the god that he presumably killed, but he soon finds himself in trouble without Tamas to protect him. And finally, we have Nila, a laundress that has found herself in a much more elevated role than she could have ever imagined, one that is only going to grow as she learns more about herself.
What I liked about The Crimson Campaign is that it is basically a continuation of the first book in the trilogy, so I was pretty much guaranteed to like it. The characters continue to evolve. In particular, I enjoyed Taniel’s story and seeing him make his way out of the shadow of his father’s career and reputation. And being me, I also enjoyed his tentative romance with Po. Po is one mysterious lady; not only does she practice a form of magic that even the gods fear, she also doesn’t speak. Po is hard character to know, but I really enjoy her relationship Taniel. Taniel is a bit of a naïve, idealistic young man, and that is very evident in his interactions with Po, but I liked this fact about him. In fact, many of the characters in the trilogy are more-or-less upstanding. None of the characters are without nuances, but I think they all fall on that “good” spectrum. If you’re a fan of the anti-hero ideal in your fantasy, I don’t think you’ll be quite enthralled with this trilogy, but I do think the complex, struggling heroes of The Crimson Campaign will really appeal to fans of character-driven fantasy. While there is a lot of description about the battles and the politics, this is well balanced with the development of the primary characters.
The Crimson Campaign ends on a high note, moving the battle closer to home. For the bulk of this novel, the conflict was occurring elsewhere. Political intrigue was happening in Adopest, but not much bloodshed. This all changes by the end of the novel and McClellan has perfectly set the stage for an explosive finale. Bring on book three!
While I haven’t read Sebastien de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade, I did give in to some Boxing Day deals in which I purchases a very discounted digital copy. It sounds fabulous and from all reports it’s supposed to be a witty read. While I’ve seen this one recommended if you liked McClellan’s books, only by reading this one will I find how the two are similar.
Another character driven fantasy that I think will also appeal to readers is Erin Lindsey’s Bloodbound series, especially book two which uses the same change in perspective that I enjoyed so much in McClelland’s work. While I had mixed feelings about the first book, it is necessary to get the most out of book two.
For more similar reads, check out my review of The Promise of Blood, the first book in McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy.