Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Every once and a while I pick up a book that makes me want to quit writing. It’s so good, so well thought out, so incredibly written, that I can’t help but think to myself that I will never, ever be this good and I can just quit. I love these books. The Name of the Wind is probably the best example of this.

Promise of Blood is another.

The basic premise is about a coup that ends with the execution of a nation’s king. There is a lot about why they overthrew him and how bad he was as a ruler, but that has little bearing. It seems like the people who overthrew him were really just sick of his shit, and had their own personal vendettas to boot.

Everything is well written and the characters are great, but what I love, absolutely adore, is the magic. The world is pretty simple (from what I can see in the first book) with nine nations who were supposedly founded by nine saints and a god. It’s a world just entering its industrial age, with themes of English colonialism, etc. Pretty basic stuff, but the impression I got was that there is a great deal more to all of this and we were just getting a glimpse. That is a powerful world building technique, because it feels natural.

But the magic is what sets it apart, and Mr. McClellan sets it up so well. In the first chapter you are presented with the aftermath of a battle, introduced to all the characters, and all the magic is laid out for you. There are a few different classes of mage, but in those first few pages they give each class their distinction, spending the rest of the book fleshing everything out.

I won’t ruin the premise of the magic, just know that they’re unique, fun, and powerful. It has a very cinematic feel, a lot of action, and excellent buildup for all these incredibly destructive moments. Very little feels over the top, and eve the most powerful mages are vulnerable.

I greatly enjoyed it and am looking forward to the second.

Shadowrun

I wanted to write a review for X-Com, because I just bought it and it’s a lot of fun and was a pretty big deal in gaming…but I don’t really have anything to add at this point.

It’s fun, go play it.

So, instead I’ll discuss the reason I bought it in the first place. I was checking out Gamestop’s digital sales and when they didn’t have anything I switched over to Steam. That’s where I saw a game coming out this month. I’d read an article in GameInformer sometime last year and it caught my attention.

The more I looked at it, the more I learned about it, the more intrigued I became. I spent about three hours reading about the world of Shadowrun and its upcoming game, Shadowrun Returns. It got me so excited to play something that when I found X-Com on sale for ten bucks I went ahead and snatched it up.

What intrigued me so much, was the world. It’s one that is completely alien to me, it’s one of those things that was a cult hit and before my time, but seems way ahead of its time and very, very imaginative. I only know basic world building stuff from the website’s World of Shadowrun Primer, but there seems to be so much to it. This is my crack. Bare bones information on the world ranging from classes, races, countries, magic, technology, society, culture, power players, corporations, all the things a solidly built world needs to be interesting. And boy is it interesting. Everything from how the U.S. broke up (The Native American tribes overthrew the government with spirit magic!) to how the corporations run things, to the Great Dragons who have their fingers in the pies of the world economy. It’s fascninating and I sincerly hope the game takes advantage of all the material here.

Based on the gameplay above, I think they will succeed. I am really interested in the Shaman class, particularly the ability to draw up spirits from “extreme concentrations of emotion”.

I loved video games with an imaginative world. I love anything with an imaginative world. It’s what inspires me in my writing. Shadowrun seems like it will bring back a tradition of incredible storytelling in a world that at this point, I just can’t get enough of. And it looks like it has an editor too. This looks like one of those that people will be making their own stories for years down the road.

Looking forward to enjoying it.