Literature / The Powder Mage Trilogy
"The Age of Kings is dead, Adamat. And I have killed it."
Field Marshal Tamas

A trilogy of books written by Brian McClellan.

The story opens with blood. The corrupt king of Adro is overthrown by Field Marshal Tamas, and soon the whole of the nobility is being sent to the guillotine. As the age of kings dies its bloody death, Tamas must now deal with royalist insurgents, foreign invasions, riots, assassins, rogue sorcerers and betrayals. Though he has allies, even they may not be enough to keep the people of Adro free.

Novels in the series:

These novels provide examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: Names like "Erika" and "Faye" are mixed with names like "Adamat" and "Manhouch".
  • Anti-Magic
    • Magebreakers have the ability to nullify the Else, giving them the power to prevent Privileged from being able to use their magic.
    • Red Stripe bullets imbue anti-Privileged magic into the bullet itself. As long as his supply holds up, it allows Taniel to kill Privileged through their shields and wards.
  • Bargain with Heaven: Kresimir's Promise. The bargain without which the church would not have its power nor the Privileged their magic. The basic premise is that magic would be given to the Priveleged, but they would not be allowed to rule mankind using it. The chosen bloodline must keep the throne... otherwise Kresimir comes back and reboots the world.
  • Badass Grandpa: Tamas certainly qualifies. As one of the most powerful Powder Mages in the setting, he is not only capable of slaughtering droves of enemies by himself, but over the course of the story he has been stabbed, shot, pummeled, had the Powder Mage equivalent of Kryptonite inserted into his leg and still kept going. He is also a brilliant strategist and tactician, A Father to His Men and commands respect even amongst his enemies.
  • Badass Normal: Olem. His only Knack is not needing to sleep. It doesn't stop him from being the bodyguard to Tamas, one of the most powerful Powder Mages, and being at his side in the thick of the fighting. He's not afraid of snarking off at the Field Marshal, either.
  • Battle Couple: Taniel and Ka-Poel.
  • Bayonet Ya: Considering the setting, it's no surprise that this trope shows up. Muskets with bayonets are the standard weapon for the armies in the story and are used with gruesome efficiency.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Brude is actually two people - Claremonte and Cheris.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Kresimir, King Ipille, and Lord Claremonte all offer their own distinct threats. Subverted. There's one Big Bad behind everything - Claremonte, who is actually (half of) the god Brude.
  • The Big Guy: SouSmith, a boxer who's hired as a bodyguard by Adamat.
  • Blood Magic: The magic of the Bone-eyes have elements of this, alongside elements of Hollywood Voodoo. To date, Ka-Poel is the only Bone-eye character.
  • Crusading Widower: While Tamas is genuinely outraged at the abuses the king and nobility commit, his main motivation is the death of his wife. She was beheaded by the kingdom of Kez and his king not only refused to do anything about it but was additionally preparing to sign a treaty making his nation a vassal to Kez.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Privileged Borbadour. He keeps snarking even after being impaled on red hot steel rods.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
    • Taniel uses two of Ka-Poel's Red Stripe bullets to kill - or at least badly wound - Kresimir as he returns
    • In book 2, Taniel manages to literally punch Kresimir in the face, doing actual damage, in spite of the fact that even metal blades just bounce off of him.
    • And in book three, Ka-Poel keeps Kresimir comatose for most of the book with nothing but a doll and force of will, and in the end she, Tamas, and Taniel manage to kill both aspects of Brude.
  • Divine Right of Kings: This is known as Kresimir's Promise. The god Kresimir established a number of bloodlines as the rightful rulers of the various kingdoms. If one of the bloodlines is removed from the throne, Kresimir would return and destroy the nation who dared to defy his will. The king of Adro is extremely wasteful, weak minded and Lethally Stupid and Field Marshal Tamas decides to remove him from power and execute the entire royal family and most of the aristocracy. Tamas then discovers that Kresimir's Promise is not just a story told to keep the common people in line, and that the country's enemies are planning to summon Kresimir so he can fulfill the Promise and destroy Adro.
  • Exact Words: The Royal Cabal all take a binding magical oath to avenge the King should anything happen to him. Which is a problem for Privileged Boubadour, as he likes Tamas and his family, but is required to kill them for killing the King. He eventually finds a way out by killing the executioner who performed the literal act of killing the King on Tamas' orders.
  • Food God: One of the gods has incarnated as a chef, who provides gourmet food in effectively infinite quantities in the army's camp kitchens.
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest: It's noted that healing is an extremely difficult branch of magic. Only Privileged (the most powerful and versatile of the setting's three main types of magic-user) have healing magic, and even most of them aren't very good at it.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: The other aspect of Bone-eye magic, alongside Blood Magic.
  • Implacable Man: Taniel, due to the wards Ka-Poel has placed on him. Though it specifically comes about after Taniel puts a Redstripe bullet in Kresimir's eye and Ka-Poel trades someone else's life for Taniel's.
  • Jerkass Gods: Kresimir is a patron of civilization, but based on the way people who knew him personally talk, he was fairly horrible on a personal level even before he went mad. Brude, aka Claremonte and Cheris, wants a peaceful, prosperous world for humanity - so long as they're in charge. Averted with Mihali/Adom, an affable deity who just wants to live in peace and use his magic to throw feasts for everyone.
  • Kill the God: Taniel tries to kill Kresimir at the end of the first book. It doesn't work. Later, it's revealed that the only way to kill a god is with their own blood which is how Brude killed most of the rest of the pantheon and stole their powers. In the end, Brude kills Kresimir, and they are in turn killed by the heroes, leaving Adom the only living god in the Nine.
  • Kryptonite Factor:
    • Gold in a Powder Mage's body nullifies their powers.
    • The Red Stripes created by Bone-Eyes seem to have some form of nullifying the Else, as they pierce Privilegeds' shields easily. This is likely similar to the wards Ka-Poel has placed around Taniel.
    • Most Privileged are allergic to black powder. Doesn't affect their magic directly, but having a horrible fit of congestion while your face swells up isn't very conducive to spellcasting.
  • Little Miss Badass: Ka-Poel, A 19 year old girl with the appearance and build of a small 14 year old. In addition to likely being the most powerful mage in the series, a common tactic for her is to jump up on enemies' shoulders and stab foot-long needles into their spine.
  • Loan Shark: Palagyi is one. Adamat is in debt to him after taking out a loan from a friend's bank, who sold the loan to Palaygi. He tripled the interest, forced Adamat's publishing business to fail and threatens Adamat throughout the book in order to make him pay it back.
  • Mad God: Kresimir goes a little crazy after Taniel shoots him in the eye.
  • Mage Marksman: This is the signature ability of the mages referred to in the title. Powder mages can guide bullets as they fly, carrying them further than normal or bending their course. They're contrasted with (and resented by) the Privileged, whose sorcery is more traditional.
  • Military Coup: How the story begins. Tamas is his nation's highest ranking military officer and leads a coup against the corrupt king and nobility.
  • Military Mage: The titular powder mages are a special division of the Adro military and serve as enhanced riflemen. They also serve as officers. For example, Tamas, one of the main characters and a powder mage, is Field marshal of the entire army. Knacked, another set of magic users, also serve in the military but are treated as normal soldiers.
  • More Dakka: The powder mages' magic gives them incredible control over gunpowder and firearms. They mostly use it for Improbable Aiming Skills as their powers let them turn a musket ball into a miniature guided missile with an incredible range. However, a master like Tamas can simply toss a sack full of musket balls into the air and give each individual ball the same momentum as if was being fired from a gun. Depending on how he times it, it will have the effect of a giant shotgun firing dozens of large pellets at once or the effect of a machine gun firing them in quick succession. So you get the effect of a modern machine gun using just blackpowder and lead balls but with no actual firearm present.
  • Older Than They Look:
    • The Predeii. The three that show up in the trilogy are hundreds of years old.
    • Ka-Poel. While she has the appearance of a small, thin 14 year old, she's actually 19. People also assume she's younger than she appears due to girls in her tribe being married off by 16, and in non-fitted clothing she appears younger than that. 15 is implied to be pushing it.
  • Outside-Genre Foe: Our heroes are dealing with overthrowing the monarchy, defending their land from invaders, and rogue sorcerers. In the middle of all that the gods of old show up.
  • Photographic Memory: Inspector Adamat's Knack is a perfect memory.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Taniel and Ka-Poel, eventually.
  • Sherlock Scan: Inspector Adamat does these, aided by his perfect Photographic Memory.
  • Single-Minded Twins: The god Brude is actually a set of male and female twins. Though they have slightly different personalities - the female twin seems to be rather more abrasive and aggressive - they are unified in action, purpose, and even name.
  • Supreme Chef: Mihali embodies this trope to the fullest. Anybody who has ever tried his meals can attest that the man is nothing short of a god in the kitchen. Not only that, but he also seems to be capable of conjuring food seemingly out of thin air in large enough amounts to feed an entire city.
  • Sword Cane: Adamat wields one with some fair ability, as he is a former cop and was decent at swordplay.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Given that Tamas's revolution seems to be inspired by the French revolution this is a given.
  • Unequal Rites:
    • Privileged are among the most powerful type of sorcerer in the setting and are, as the name suggested, privileged: they can join the royal cabal, live in the lap of luxury and even have their own harems. They have expansive Elemental Powers, though most of them need special gloves to protect themselves from the backlash from manipulating these forces. Magebreakers are a subset of Privileged who deliberately give up their elemental magic and acquire Anti-Magic abilities instead.
    • Powder mages, meanwhile, are sought after in the military for their gunpowder based powers, but hated by the the more traditional Privileged. This may be due to fear, as powder mages are one of the few things that can actually threaten a Privileged since they can attack at very long ranges; the fact that most Privileged are deathly allergic to gunpowder, something the average powder mage carries a fair bit of on his or her person at most times, doesn't help.
    • Next are the Knacked, people with a single small power, usually a supernatural extension of some mundane skill. These can be useful but are often trivial, so Knacked are considered the weakest type and looked down on by everyone else (though a specific Knacked with a highly useful talent can be highly desired as an individual). Some Knacks can do things even a Privileged cannot.
    • The Predeii seem to be more than just Privileged Up to Eleven. They have Nigh-Invulnerability, are potentially completely immortal, and the only things that seem to have a chance of doing any damage are the Red Stripes created by Bone-eyes, the only magic users gods appear to fear. Some of the Predeii view themselves as being above Privileged, though other groups seem to view them as simply "very powerful Privileged".
    • The last book outright states that the gods are "just" immensely powerful human - or perhaps once-human - mages, with the implication that they, the Predeii, and ordinary Privileged use the same sort or magic on three distinct tiers of power. Taniel and Ka-Poel seem to be the powder mage and bone-eye equivalents to Predeii, respectively.
    • Bone-eyes are the first mage type that doesn't come native to the nation of Adro, and seem to be not very well known outside of the Dynize culture they come from. Their magic contains elements of Blood Magic and Hollywood Voodoo. The Bone-eyes are dismissed as savages by all of the others excepting the Predeii.
  • Was Once a Man: The Kez Elite Mooks called Wardens are humans who have been transformed into near-mindless Super Soldiers by Privileged. The process is apparently not reversible.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Taniel, Tamas's son. While Tamas does love him, he is an emotionally reserved man which leads to feelings of resentment from his son.