Reviews

Novella Review: HOPE’S END (Powder Mage #4), by Brian McClellan

Another prequel story from Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage world: this one does not focus on Tamas directly, but rather sees him through the eyes of his subordinates, in particular Captain Verundish, a field officer.  At the beginning of the story Verundish is contemplating suicide: a letter she received from her philandering husband requests she divorce him, so he will be able to marry his mistress. Since it might be difficult for Verundish to grant him a divorce, or rather impossible, since her father – a minister of the faith – married them and he’s opposed to the idea of breaking a sacred bond, she should kill herself to free him – otherwise he will sell their daughter into slavery.  With this kind of threat hanging over the child, Verundish has every intention of ending her life to save her daughter, but the appearance of Captain Constaire – a fellow office and her lover – forces he to postpone her plan.

Constaire has been chosen to lead a “Hope’s End” attack against the stronghold of Darjah, a Gurlish city besieged by the Adran army, under the command of General Tamas: this kind of attack, as the name suggests, is nothing but a suicide mission to breach the wall and open the way to the bulk of the army, and the man wonders whether Tamas wants him dead, since Constaire is noble-born, and everyone knows that Tamas is not fond of people buying their army commissions rather than earning them in the field.   Her lover’s plight gives however Verundish an idea to solve her problem: if she were to lead the attack, and die in the battle, she will be a hero and her daughter would be safe forever…

With this story I realized something, that with Brian McClellan it’s easy, very easy, to grow fond of characters in a very short time, and Verundish is a case in point: a woman who is a capable warrior and at the same time a victim of circumstances and – probably – of warped customs.  If society allows her to enlist in the army and actively participate in campaigns, on the other hand it leaves her at the mercy of a vile husband who would be allowed to sell their own offspring to slavers: there is something twisted, and horribly wrong at work here, something that made me like her instantly as she battled with her options with lucid despair.  Moreover, her lover Constaire appears something of a whiner, and his attitude toward the orders he just received made me wonder if, with them, Tamas wanted exactly to “test his mettle”, and if he had just failed the test…

Through Verundish’s eyes we see Tamas not just as a character in the story, but as the man his soldiers know: a stern, uncompromising man who still has a few axes to grind against society, although he’s very aware of his own shortcomings, especially when he sees them mirrored in others: “Sometimes I envy those men who don’t let pride cloud their judgment”.  The more I get to understand him better, the more I’m eager to retrace my steps in the series and sees how the main story develops.

 

My Rating: 

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6 thoughts on “Novella Review: HOPE’S END (Powder Mage #4), by Brian McClellan

  1. Tamas is one of the best characters to come out of the fantasy genre in years. I know that McClellan uses his novellas to tell other stories set in the world to build upon events and flesh out his characters, but I had no idea so many of them were about Tamas and featured him in various stages of his life. This one sounds fascinating, I know there was another story of him where he was a young soldier, and now here’s one of him as a commander as seen through the eyes of his subordinates…it’s fun following his military career 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What’s fascinating is that Tamas’ character is so strong, so well-defined, that he can shine even when he does not take over the center stage 🙂
      And every novella I’ve read in this series manages to make me learn something more about him: you’re right, following his back story is great fun!

      Like

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