Orbit, h/b, 560pp, Â£14.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Adamat, former police inspector, has been summoned to the Skyline Palace, otherwise known as the Jewel of Adro. But when he arrives Adamat knows something is wrong. There are no guards, no lights, and no sign of the king. Then he sees Field Marshal Tamas and things start to make a little more sense. A coup. Guns. Military badges. Bodies strewn around.
Field Marshal Tamas quickly recruits Adamat to investigate the strange last words uttered by all of the dead men and Kresimirâ€™s Promise opens a mystery that will test both of them and cost even more. Tamas draws on all of his resources â€“ nothing more important than ensuring the royalists cannot rise against him â€“ including his own son.
Taniel is a powder mage, and a talented one. He can float bullets farther than anyone else. With Ka-poel, a talented savage, at his side perhaps he will succeed in his fatherâ€™s mission. Then again, with rumours of gods returning to the world and an army of sorcerers marching against them, he may not. Despite the danger Taniel is becoming more and more reliant on powder trances, and the lure of magic may be all of their undoing.
This is most definitely not a world we have encountered before and it is one rife with unique magics and conflicts. Politics, faith and good old-fashioned blackmail and extortion combine to make a story that is full of action from start to finish. McClellan draws on the more romantic elements of the military to create a cast of solid and likeable characters and a setting that thrives on minimal descriptions.
Adamat, Tamas and Taniel all act as point of view characters throughout the book and each has a different feel about it. Adamat has elements of noir detective thrillers and Tamas is all about military strategy and political manoeuvring, whereas Taniel takes on a more epic fantasy feel where the magic system and a difficult journey come into play. And it is a combination that works.
The magic system, or rather systems, are a great strength of this book. There are different levels of magic users with different and usually awesome abilities, but all those with power have weaknesses and can be killed in more mundane ways if they let their guard slip. Swordplay and fist fighting also have a notable place in the narrative and the whole package makes for a fun and enjoyable read that has certainly laid the groundwork for a fantastic sequel.