This post is a bit of something new for me, and if people like it, I’ll try to do more of these. Today’s post is a review of a short story, Hope’s End. But first, I’ll tell you how I found the author.
Back at the beginning of the year, Brandon Sanderson made a post to say that a former student of his, Brian McClellan, had a book, Promise of Blood, coming out in April. I went and followed him on Twitter, and the combination of his marketing and Sanderson’s recommendation led to me buying his book on release day and reading it soon after. I enjoyed it.
While waiting for the second book in his trilogy, The Crimson Campaign, to come out, McClellan has written some short stories set in the same universe, which he calls the Powder Mage universe, named after his unique gunpowder-based magic system.
The second of these stories, Hope’s End, is now out, link at the bottom. I’ve had a chance to read the story, which comes in at around 8,000 words. You can read a teaser (the first scene) here.
Our protagonist, Captain Verundish, is contemplating suicide. Her husband has threatened to sell their daughter into slavery, and her heart belongs to another man, but her father, the priest that married Verundish, does not believe in divorce. She sees death as her only escape.
In the teaser, McClellan manages to give us the conflict as well as define the main protagonist and make us sympathetic to her. He then tells her story. Without giving any spoilers, I will say that I was deeply pleased by the resolution of this story. It was believable, and at the same time, satisfying in a way that few short stories are.
Throughout the story, we are reminded that we are in the Powder Mage universe, and we get some glimpses of General Tamas, one of the main protagonists of Promise of Blood, as he leads the army. The magic of the universe is in this story as well. However, you do not need to have read Promise of Blood to read Hope’s End, as all of the relevant information is explained in the story. If you have read Promise of Blood, the explanations may feel a little redundant, but not overly so.
At the climax of the story, there is a battle scene, which is well written and engaging. It fits with the gritty, “flintlock fantasy” style that I enjoyed throughout Promise of Blood. McClellan did not skimp on the scene because of the length of the story, and it alone makes the story worth reading.
We also get glimpses of some of the larger-scale politics of the Powder Mage universe, and as someone who has read Promise of Blood, they were quite fun to read, but not intrusive to the plot of this story.
I went in afraid that McClellan had written something that would explain an event in Tamas’ past, with only some semblance of a story on top of it. I should have known better after reading Promise of Blood. Instead, he has written a complete and engaging story that shows the events on the side, creating a nice balance of the larger universe and the smaller story.
You can buy Hope’s End from Brian’s website here, for only $0.99, and it’s well worth it. It’s also worth noting that for this month only, the Promise of Blood e-book is on sale for $1.99, and also well worth it. (I bought it even though I already have the hardcover.)