Hope’s End by Brian McClellan
Hope’s End is an engaging short story from the creator of the Powder Mage trilogy. The events take place several years prior to the events of the main trilogy, meaning no previous knowledge of the series is necessary. However, those who have read Promise of Blood will be especially delighted: Hope’s End adds a new dimension to the world of the powder mages, as well as giving us an intriguing glimpse of Tamas in his younger days.
This is the story of Tamas, however, but that of Captain Verundish. The restrictions of the short story format can make it difficult to create characters we care about, but I was rooting for Verundish after reading the first couple of paragraphs, which are poignant yet pleasantly morbid. I was filled with sympathy at her situation, as well as admiration for her resolve: her entire situation really increased the resonance of the title ‘Hope’s End’.
As a huge fan of Promise of Blood I was looking forward to some characteristically enthralling action, and there’s about as much of it here as you can expect from a story this length. The atmosphere shifts from tense to explosive in a matter of moments, and there are some really nice moments of Privileged magic and powder mage awesomeness. I would like to have seen more of Tamas in action, but I suppose this wasn’t really his story.
The balance of various elements – personal crises, army politics, and chaotic warfare – as well as their satisfying resolution makes this a perfectly self-contained story for those new to the author. For others more familiar with his work, it’s a wonderful companion tale to the series and a great way to break down the time spent waiting for the release of the next full-length instalment.