I had very much been looking forward for months to reading Promise of Blood before I began. Every author has their own particular style, which one can see is unfluenced by a variety of the authors they have read and studied or loved. I can see the influence of authors in my own style, in fact for a touch of fun why don't we record in the comments below what we see our own key influences being as reviewers/writers on these sites? But forgive me, I did have a point to such a tangent rather than merely going off topic. The point was that Brian McClellan's writing clearly reflects strong similarities with his teacher - the notable Brandon Sanderson.
Like Sanderson, McClellan writes a novel with a strong sense of the fantastic world - of what Tolkien called sub-creation. Further he populates this world with a set of different and creative magic systems. There are the Privileged, who exist as more classical sorcerers who can manipulate the 'elements' through the Else; the Marked, those also known as Powder Mages who can inhale gunpowder and manipulate it to gain unique powers such as floating bullets and deflecting them; and there are the Knacked, men and women with one unique talent like not needing to sleep, or remembering everything they see. In addition however, McClellan adds in a group of gods and foreign sorceries similar to tribal totem magic. This gives his world a sense of being much larger and grander than it otherwise would seem to be. Further, McClellan lets his readers know that Privileged sorcerers can become mage breakers: individuals capable of stopping the magic of other mages.
To best describe McClellan's novel would be to call it what others have named 'flintlock fantasy'. This is fantasy with plenty of guns, yet without the same kind of western atmosphere seen in other such flintlock fantasy books. The plot of the novel follows one powder mage, Field Marshall Tamas, as he begins the process of overthrowing his kingdom's ruling king and executing the aristocracy. There is a definite sense of these events being similar to the French revolution. However, Tamas soon finds out that in removing his king from power he has set off a chain of events on a more global scale and opened up the opportunity for certain gods to intervene in mortal affairs.
McClellan's novel starts off slowly, which is interesting for a novel which opens with a revolution to overthrow a king. Yet, the opening of the novel is proof that an exciting event, when written in a distanced manner, can prove to be less inspiring than it should be. Fortunately the rest of the novel with its abstractions and magic overcame the rough start and the novel finished on a much greater high than it could have.
Unlike his teacher, McClellan has no issue in writing about the more gritty details of life. Writing with modern cussing is something Sanderson seems to avoid, yet McClellan is right at home in using such a vernacular. Not only that, but McClellan also feels fine in writing about human sexuality, or at the least hinting on it. Something Sanderson declined from doing. Yet of the two writers Sanderson is by far the more natural storyteller, who writes with an ease that overcomes most of his faults - his work feeling organic despite excluding such aspects.
On the whole this is a decent beginning to a series. I certainly hope that the immediate follow-up novel continues the series in a better fashion because the groundwork has all been established in this work. If you have the time and are looking for a decent fantasy read with plenty of magic, interesting worldbuilding and gods then this is certainly far from the worst you could read.