Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan

    I really enjoy flintlock fantasy and Brian McClellan is one of the stars of the sub-genre. For whatever reason I purchased Sins of Empire before the Powder Mage trilogy, but I later found out that he intended either trilogy’s first book to be an entry-point into the powder mage universe so everything worked out fine. The world these novels take place in is roughly Victorian(ish) era with rifles, bayonets, and cavalry charges. However, there are some serious fantasy elements including magical artifacts, Privileged (essentially sorcerers), Bone-eyes (blood sorcerers), and the trademark powder mages (those who can use black powder to enhance attributes and use unique abilities.

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    I only had a few minor qualms with this book. I personally thought the whole “empire across the sea” thing could have been handled better. We are told of this country that everyone knows about and how it never, ever goes beyond its borders anymore. Of course, after reading that a couple times you can probably figure out what happens later on. The only other thing I can think of is that Mad Ben Styke apparently  has the constitution of Conan the Barbarian as he always pushes through injuries and wounds throughout the book (plus a little bit of plot armor doesn’t hurt.) The other two POV characters are done really well and I especially love the relationship between the POV character Vlora and Olem.
    Despite these things, I really enjoyed the book. I really enjoyed how the author uses the different magical elements of the book fairly sparingly. I personally don’t like over the top magic and its use on every other page. So it was nice to see that, even though there are three (four if you include knacks I suppose)  distinct types of “magical” individuals, they are used judiciously and I think the novel benefited from that. The book also has a really tight plot as almost all of the action and narrative takes place in a single large city which can be refreshing compared to reading novels with a whole sprawling continent(s). The pacing is also nice in the book as it contains some pitched battles as well as some brawls and skirmishes of smaller forces.
    Overall, I just felt that Sins of Empire was flintlock fantasy at its finest and this just happens to be my favorite genre of fantasy. The world that Brian McClellan has created is unique and is crafted really well. I look forward to reading the next in the series as well as the original powder mage trilogy.
    4.5 out of 5 stars.