Novella Review: SERVANT OF THE CROWN, by Brian McClellan (Powder Mage 0.2)

As the main character in the Powder Mages trilogy, Field Marshal Tamas comes across immediately as a strong, intriguing figure, and not just because of his connection to this peculiar brand of magic.  Finding more about his past, and what made him the person we meet for the first time in Promise of Blood, is a fascinating journey: we saw a glimpse of him at the end of the first novella I reviewed, Forsworn, but here he takes center stage in a story that dovetails nicely with that first prequel and happens shortly after those events.

Young Captain Tamas is a commoner who rose in the army’s ranks through courageous feats in battle and dogged determination, but his road has not been an easy one: in the realm of Adro, military prowess is not enough for a man to overcome his origins, and Tamas finds himself having to defend his honor (or rather deal with the huge chip on his shoulder…) through duels.  The latest one, where he nicked a nobleman son’s earlobe as a gesture of contempt, has frozen his appointment to major and is heading him straight toward a board of inquiry, where his career hopes might be dashed forever.    While he tries to clear his name, he finds himself enmeshed in the struggle between the King and the Privileged cabal, whose thirst for power has the ruler of Adro more than willing to play a dangerous game with Tamas as the main pawn.  The only positive side of the whole situation comes from Tamas’ meeting with Erika ja Leora, and the relationship that slowly builds between these two practitioners of powder magic, the seasoned soldier and the young, headstrong noblewoman.

The best part of their encounter – apart from the verbal skirmishes and the personality clashes – comes from Tamas’ reluctant acknowledgment that not all nobles are arrogant, self-centered creatures who enjoy looking down on him and making him the object of their scorn, but that there are people who care about others and value them for what they are.   Erika’s selflessness in the rescue of Norrine, makes Tamas realize that this young woman might have lost everything – including her life – to save a virtual stranger, and he feels diminished by her gallantry, when he understands that “he battled primarily for his own gain and honor”, while Erika had far higher goals in mind.   For her part, Erika comes across as a strong personality, one graced with both courage and an impish sense of humor – not to mention an aptitude for ruthlessness when necessary – that slowly but surely breach the seasoned soldier’s armor and move him away from his self-imposed grimness, and loneliness.

The more I learn about this world, the more I’m fascinated by it and feel compelled to explore it at length: Brian McClellan is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, and I berate myself for having waited so long before finally learning more about his works.  But I’m getting there…

 

My Rating: 

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Posted on June 6, 2017, in Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I loved all these short stories/novellas by McClellan. Theyr eally built teh foundation which allowed me to fall in novel with THE POWDER MAGE TRILOGY

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love when authors write short stories to enhance their novels. I haven’t yet read this series, but it’s nice to know these stories exist!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I so need to get to this author – very soon. Although I have so many books waiting already – that being said, surely a few more can’t hurt.
    Glad you’re having such a good time with this world.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • What hurts is not the addition of a few more books, it’s the realization we can’t spend all our time reading… Damn real life, always intruding! 😀
      Anyway this is an author well worth adding to your reading queue!

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  4. This is on my TBR, I heard it recommended to read this prior to Sins of Empire. Glad to see you enjoyed it! (I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read by him, so not sure why I haven’t gotten to this one yet)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Strangely enough, I read the first book of his Powder Mage trilogy a few years back, and never moved along with the series. Then I read Sins of Empire (that can work very well on its own, by the way) and I felt the burning need to retrace my steps. And I always listen to my book compulsions… 🙂

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  5. Of all the characters from the Powder Mage trilogy, Tamas is the one I would most want to read an “origins” story about – the guy must have had some interesting adventures. And oh yes, I totally forgot he that he began as a humble commoner who made a name for himself in the army to eventually become Field Marshall!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Having re-read the almost forgotten Promise of Blood recently, I can say that reading the novellas first gives Tamas an added depth that shines a special light on him, and also helps to understand what makes the man tick… 🙂

      Like

  6. Christy Luis

    Brian McClellan seems like a nice counterpoint to the Mira Grant stories you’ve also been enjoying lately! High Fantasy vs grim zombie-post-apocalyptic!! Lol. I’m so glad you’re enjoying his novels and prequels. Whenever I get around to reading these, your reviews will be a great way for me to relive them and reconsider them. Can’t wait 😀 I still have book 1 on my 2017 tbr…*crossing fingers* that I’ll be able to get to McClellan soon!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Promise of Blood is a great novel – even more so if you consider it’s a debut book, and hardly looks like one! – and the background is different enough from the usual fantasy norm to make it stand out from the… crowd 🙂
      I hope you can start on it soon and that you enjoy it as much as I did.

      Liked by 1 person

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