Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan

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Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: The land of Fatrasta is a dangerous place from the lowliest prisoner to a member of the secret police. Discover a rich fantasy world in one of the best fantasy novels of recent years.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 640 Date: March 2017
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780356509297

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The fantasy genre is home to some of the best books that I have ever read, but also some of the worst. The very nature of epic stories that span generations means that few fantasy books rock up under 400 pages and many are part of long running series or trilogies. When done badly, fantasy books are bloated and boring affairs that rattle of every cliché the genre has had to offer since Bilbo exited Bag End, but done well they can be brilliant. They can be Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan.

Years have passed since the war ended that saw the great Field Marshal Tamas die, but also a couple of Gods. The remaining Riflejacks from his army are now mercenaries and have moved to the distant land of Fatrasta for work. Unfortunately this work consists of many tricky tasks including supressing the locals, hunting down a man known as Mad Bill Sykes and searching for something called the God Stone.

Balancing multiple threads in a fantasy novel is normally one of the determining factors in whether it works or not. McClellan has experience of this in his first Powder Mage trilogy set in the same world as Sins. Like the best authors, McClellan has not just done the same thing but learned and improved from his previous efforts. Split between three threads - an escaped convict, a reluctant spy and a mercenary leader – Sins bounces between them perfectly.

This is achievable as the scale of the book is smaller than the previous outings. The first thought would be that reducing the scope of the book would be a bad thing; instead, it concentrates all the best elements, like distilling a fine wine. Set around one city and with a few likeable characters, the book rattles along. Each chapter ends in a cliff-hanger and you have to wait a chapter or two to find out what happens, but seeing as you like the other characters too, this is not a problem.

As a fantasy fan, I hold Joe Abercrombie up as the pinnacle that the genre has to offer in recent times, but with Sins, McClellan has earned his place beside him. There is a fast-paced story, set in a brilliantly realised world. The combat in the books takes the essence of the Napoleonic Wars but throws in magic. Added to this is the rock, paper, scissors feel that the magic of this world has. Each nation-state has a different style of magic; some more technology-based, other more traditional. This leads to an interesting clash of styles, especially in this novel as a new player enters the field.

A sign of any good book is that you pick it up and read it as fast as you can, just wanting to see what happens next. When that book is over 600 pages it is even more impressive, you have to get over that initial feeling of dread at such a heavy tome. Sins of Empire is the fantasy book that announces McClellan as an experienced fantasy writer who knows what he is doing. A few more books of this quality and he could soon be mentioned alongside the greats of the genre.

Sammy Recommendation

The current crop of Fantasy writing is some of the best ever; try Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie or A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin.

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Buy Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan at


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