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"The Age of Kings is dead, Adamat. And I have killed it."
Field Marshal Tamas
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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:

The trilogy was followed by "Gods of Blood of Powder":

  • Sins of Empire (2017)
  • Wrath of Empire (2018)
  • Untitled third book (forthcoming)

A Tabletop Roleplaying Game using the Savage Worlds system called Powder Mage Roleplaying Game was funded through Kickstarter and released in 2018.

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These novels provide examples of:

  • Action Girl: Vlora.
  • Aerith and Bob: Names like "Erika" and "Faye" are mixed with names like "Adamat" and "Manhouch".
  • A Father to His Men: Taniel, Tamas' son, calls the men of the Seventh and Ninth Brigades Tamas' children.
  • Always Save the Girl: Taniel, to Ka-Poel. It isn't always necessary.
  • Ancient Evil: Kresimir, and Brude too.
  • Anti-Hero: Tamas, to some extent. While he has the best interests of his men and Adro at heart, he starts the story off killing Privileged in their sleep and putting every single nobleman of worth in Adro to the guillotine.
    • Taniel, in a stricter sense. He's well-loved by the Adran military, but considers himself little more than a brute only good for killing. He goes on a self-destructive streak at the start of The Crimson Campaign that takes him nearly to Death Seeker levels.
    • Privileged Borbador is generally amiable and competent. He also tortures and kills people without pause, casually enough in one case that it makes Adamat nervous to be around him. In his defense, Bo is quick and emphatic to tell anyone who mentions him in a heroic light that he's a Cabal Privileged, and they don't let good people into a Royal Cabal.
  • Anti-Magic
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    • 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.
    • Gunpowder is unique in that it has no aura in the Else, meaning Privileged can't manipulate it. In fact, they're allergic to it.
  • Anti-Mutiny: General Ket's mutiny in between books two and three is actually an anti-mutiny, as General Hilanska is a traitor.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: The Mountainwatch.
  • Attempted Rape: To Ka-Poel.
  • Badass Army: While the Adran army is pretty badass, the Wings of Adom mercenary army are even moreso.
  • 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.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Pretty much everyone in the Seventh and Ninth (except Vlora, obviously) have one by the end of the campaign behind Kez lines. This is due to lacking the supplies for shaving, but...
  • Berserk Button:
    • Do not threaten Adamat's family.
    • Don't threaten Tamas', either. The entire coup was orchestrated because Manhouch allowed Ipille to have his wife, Erika, executed.
    • Threatening Ka-Poel is the best possible way to get Taniel to respond. Ket uses this against him, deliberately setting Taniel up to do something he can be arrested for.
  • 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.
  • Bigger Bad: After Lord Vetus is defeated in The Crimson Campaign, his master, Lord Claremonte invades Adapest at the end of the book.
  • 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.
  • Boring, but Practical: Tamas wants the army to do this at every possible opportunity, and downplays individual heroism (except from magically-enhanced individuals, at least). The Adran military's preferred means of dealing with Privileged is to Boom, Headshot! from a distance before they even knew an attack was coming.
  • The Brigadier: In addition to a couple literal brigadier generals, Tamas, though his rank is Field Marshal.
  • The Captain: Taniel.
  • Captive Date: Vetas does this to Nila, though it's just for show for others.
  • Cannon Fodder: A Kez favorite.
  • Child Soldiers: Ka-Poel.
  • Civil War: No less than three.
    • In the first book, armed royalists seize the main armory of Adopest and have to be blasted out with artillery fire.
    • In the third book, General Ket and three Adran brigades break off because General Hilanska is a traitor and mutiny against the Adran military.
    • After the end of the Adran-Kez War, Kez is embroiled in a civil war between Ipille's sons.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Vetas and Borbador both engage in this.
  • Colonel Badass: Olem, Vlora, Taniel.
  • Consummate Professional: Fell.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Tamas is most assuredly a student of Sun Tzu. Among other things, he has powerful enemy sorcerers sniped from afar, employs spies and assassins, uses diversion and ambush, fights by maneuver and flanking rather than head-on attacking, makes numerous contingency plans and fallback plans, and at one point baits enemy cavalry into charging right into well-concealed pits by faking disarray in his camp.
  • Corrupt Church: Pretty much Charlemund's whole hat. His staff openly refer to the orgies held at his villa. Said staff are all young, beautiful, and clad exclusively in sheer silk.
  • 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.
  • Decisive Battle: The Battle of Ned's Creek is the highwater mark of the Kez invasion.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: Tamas feigns disarray in his camp at the Kez-Deliv border to bait a superior cavalry force.
  • Delaying Action: The Adran general strategy after Surkov's Alley. Likewise, the Kez fight a delaying action on the retreat after Ned's Creek.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Vlora cheating on Taniel once, under pretty understandable circumstancesnote  is widely regarded as having completely wrecked their relationship, abandoned their engagement, and ruined her life. While Taniel breaking up with her is understandable, everyone else who knows about it also seems to regard it as being entirely her fault. Tamas regards it as a betrayal as much as Taniel does, and notes that's when he stopped treating her like a daughter.
    • Taniel travels around with a "savage" girl he picked up in a foreign country as a companion and servant. While nobody minds this in and of itself, most assume he's sleeping with her simply because she's "his savage" and think it a little uncouth. While she's never actually referred to as a slave and slavery is explicitly illegal, almost everyone in the setting regard her in possessive terms ("Taniel's savage") rather than as an individual. She's also subjected to a fair amount of racism.
  • 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.
  • Dirty Coward: Prime Lektor flees Adro and is not seen again after learning that Brude is in the fight too.
  • Disappears into Light: Mihali.
  • 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.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Jacola regrets his slide into alcoholism after his sister's death, and will only answer to Gavril in order to protect peoples' memory of him.
  • Eager Rookie: Green troops rout the easiest when the tide turns, but they're also undesirably aggressive when first meeting the enemy and may fall out of rank to pursue foes.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Almost every Privileged in the series is a cabal Privilege or a Predeii, the best of the Privileged. The rest are usually not named and killed quickly.
    • Grenadiers are elite soldiers given exceptionally dangerous service. They tend to be physically larger, and considerably more badass, than line infantry.
    • The cavalry consists, by number, of lightly-armored dragoons, but elite cuirassiers get more attention in the narrative.
  • Emergency Trainee Battle Deployment: Nila is a Privileged only just beginning to learn she has powers, but she's thrust into the field regardless because she's one of two Privileged left in all of Adro as of The Autumn Republic.
  • End of an Age: It's heavily implied that Tamas's actions will ultimately bring about the end of feudal monarchy in the Nine, much like how the French Revolution was the beginning of the end of absolute monarchy in Europe, though it will take some time yet. Tamas comes to fear that this transition will be long and bloody, despite his dream of (relatively) bloodless revolutions.
    "The Age of Kings is dead, Adamat. And I have killed it."
    • The era of Privileged being the overwhelmingly dominant form of mages in the world - hence the name Privileged. Powder mages may not be as explicitly strong as Privileged, but their ability to shoot someone from miles away makes them uniquely good at killing Privileged, which is one reason out of several that Privileged generally hate powder mages.
    • In a technological sense, very early experiments with steam power promise to one day revolutionize industry, and the contemporary Industrial Revolution is putting out of business many traditional industries. Labor unions are replacing guilds as the predominant form of industry workers' communities, as well. And, of course, gunpowder and artillery are obsoleting sword cavalry and walled fortresses.
  • Ethnic Magician: While the Nine have their own mages in several forms, Ka-Poel wields magic unlike anything the Nine's Privileged, Knacked, Predeii, powder mages, or gods understand or know how to deal with.
  • Eternal Love: An unusual sibling rather than romantic/sexual version of this trope, the two-faced god Brude is in fact a brother and sister who will do anything, including killing the rest of the gods of the Nine, to be with one another.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: King Ipille of Kez may effectively be a warlord leading an army raping and enslaving its way across southern Adro, putting civilians to the torch and committing magical atrocities, but even he wouldn't use the white flag of truce to launch a surprise attack and is furious when he believes Tamas has done so after a third party in disguise attacks during truce negotiations.
  • 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.
  • Fantastic Drug: The way that powder mages use black powder is clearly reminiscent of drugs, especially powdered opiates like heroin like cocaine. It grants them the ability to endure pain, heightens their senses, and gives them extreme powers of concentration. It's swallowed or snorted, to the point that Taniel winds up with a bloody nose after imbibing too much under stressful conditions, and carries around a batch for personal use in a snuff box.
    • It's also strongly implied to be addictive, and there are implications that imbibing too much powder can blind a powder mage's third eye, making them unable to sense magic.
    • There's also mala, a fantasy opiate.
  • Fantastic Nuke: Killing a god destroys a huge swath of land in the area, and can destroy a mountain or a large city district.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: The French Revolution and subsequent warfare.
  • Fog of War: Both in a literal sense, in that black powder weapons eventually obscure the battlefield with thick smoke, and in the figurative sense, that at both the tactical and strategic level characters often eventually lose track of what precisely is going on due to the general confusion and chaos of war. Often, the exact events of an engagement are only clear in hindsight. Due to some characters being out of contact with others, many mistakes and un-optimal choices are made during the war.
  • 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.
  • Four-Star Badass: Actually he ranks above a four-star general, but Field Marshal Tamas fits the trope to a T. Being a mage who can ingest black powder to give himself superhuman endurance and strength helps. This leads to...
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Ka-Poel goes from a mute savage child to holding a god in check in under two years.
    • Similarly, Nyla starts the story as a humble washerwoman and is blowing up entire battalions by the start of The Autumn Republic.
  • Frontline General: Tamas sees battle personally on numerous occasions.
  • Gemini Destruction Law: Brude.
  • Give Him a Normal Life: Nila wants this for Jakob.
    • Taniel fakes his death for this, knowing with Tamas dead, Adro will always look to him to be Tamas 2.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Tamas. Taniel gets it from him.
    • Borbador engages in torture, murder, and sexual harassment. He's a nice guy, though, really.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: Tamas and his brother-in-law in The Crimson Campaign.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Gurlish Wars, and also the Kez invasion of Deliv.
    • A previous conflict between Adro and Kez led to Manhouch's treaty with Ipille, which triggered the coup.
  • Götterdämmerung: By the end of the third book, every god but Adom is dead.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Neither Lord Vetas or Fell seem to actually mind the fact that they're essentially bought outright by their respective employers, from a "finishing school" that sells highly-skilled and disciplined servants. Neither of them show even a hint of rebelliousness or want of independence. While their term of service has a specific end date of thirty years, they're at best indentured servants who aren't free to leave their position for much of their lifespan and work in positions that are violent and dangerous. When Taniel expresses disappointment at his friend Ricard buying Fell, she even defends him, and doesn't really do much to correct being called a slave.
  • 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.
  • Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Common for the era. Adrans wear blue uniforms (much like the French army until 1914) with red striped pants. Kez wear tan and green. Deliv wear kelly-green and white.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: The "Kez Wolf" in The Autumn Republic.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: The other aspect of Bone-eye magic, alongside Blood Magic.
  • Home Guard: One is briefly mustered when Brudanian ships sail on Adopest, though it proves unnecessary.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Fell. Her finishing school's whole deal is to produce hypercompetent agents at extreme expense.
  • 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.
  • The Inspector Is Coming: Adamat causes this for a powder company, at least until he clarifies what kind of "Inspector" he is (as in the detective kind, not a regulatory inspector).
  • It Never Gets Any Easier: Tamas is unceasingly haunted by a lifetime of warfare.
  • It Gets Easier: Bo tells Nila this after she burns several thousand Kez alive.
  • Jerkass Façade: Borbador affects the cavalier attitude of most Privileged, but is actually nothing like them and hated the Adran royal cabal.
  • 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. Gunpowder is also the only known substance with no aura in the Else, meaning it's the only thing that Privileged magic can't affect.
  • 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.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Neither Adamat nor Tamas is a spring chicken, and both suffer grievous injuries after already needing stitches earlier in the novel. Somewhat justified for Tamas in that he can use a powder trance to ignore pain, though he has to heal like a normal human.
    • "Mad" Ben Sykes has survived things that he really should have no ability to survive. He was once cut with a blade coated in a deadly poison that should have him paralyzed in minutes and dead in a couple hours. Ben merely ended up with a fever that cleared after a couple days. He led numerous cavalry charges into enemy armies outnumbering him ten-to-one and not only survived but came out victorious. He was once punched in the face by a Warden, which should have caved his skull in but instead just gave him a bruise and a black eye. He was put in front of a firing squad and when that failed to kill him, he was put in front of a second firing squad. That crippled him but still did not kill him. He then survived years of hard labor in a prison and still came out strong and tough enough to take out some of the best fighters the setting had. While he does have a small Knack, there does not seem to be anything else magical or supernatural about him.
  • 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.
  • Magic Versus Technology: Zigzagged. By and large, magic and machine get along. Gunpowder is the exception. It's a relatively recently discovered substance, and has unique magical properties. Powder Mages uses it to fuel their magery. Privileged distrust gunpowder because it, alone among all known substances, has no aura in the Else. Privileged are also allergic to gunpowder, to the point that it can be fatal.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Once you know who Claremont and Cheris are, quite a few scenes with them are cast in a different light.
  • Military Brat: Taniel.
  • 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.
  • Million Mook March: The Kez army on the march is so massive, it hurts Adran morale just seeing them. However, they're actually relatively poorly equipped and supplies, with their reserves and irregulars not even entirely armed.
  • Monument of Humiliation and Defeat: The King's Garden is renamed Election Square after the coup. The square is where the king and upper nobility were put to the guillotine...and elections aren't actually held until months after the renaming.
  • 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.
  • Mundane Utility: Magic is frequently used for the mundane as well as the fantastic. Privileged use magic fire so they don't have to carry around matches or firestarters. Powder mages can use any nearby amount of powder as a source for magic, allowing them to detonate enemy infantry's powder horns and also...allowing them to fire rifles loaded only with ball instead of powder, rendering their rate of fire slightly faster. Mihali can conjure huge amounts of food, which he uses to boost the citizen's and later the army's morale.
  • The Musketeer: Given the setting, this was pretty much inevitable.
  • Mysterious Waif: Kah-Poel. Made extra mysterious by being mute.
  • Noodle Incident: The setting's backstory includes The Bleakening some 1400 years before the Adran coup. It was known as a time of conflict in which much knowledge was lost. Beyond this implication of a dark age roughly equivalent to the Fall of Rome, it is bearly described.
  • 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.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Tamas.
  • Only One Name: Most of the characters, even non-Adrans like Nikslaus. Word of God says that this comes from an older custom wherein only the wealthy had surnames and had to buy them. This is why wealthy Adrans like Ricard Tumbler have them, but most people don't.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Adamat had this happen to him several times after he retired and opened a print shop. The printing press literally exploded, leaving him with sizable debt and no way to pay it off. That debt was then sold by the reputable bank he'd opened it with to Palaygi, a small time loan shark he had a history with from his time on the force. Palaygi's grinning mockery over Adamat's upcoming default was replaced by Lord Vetas, a bona fide crime lord with international connections. In under two years, Adamat went from owing money to a friend's reputable bank to having his family held hostage by an international crime syndicate.
  • 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.
  • Opposing Combat Philosophies: Tamas' post-reform Adran military fights using positioning, combined arms, and well-trained and well-equipped infantry. Opposite them, the Kez are not fools or ignorant of strategy, but the core of their strategy is an unstoppable wave of bodies that can wear down even a superior-equipped opponent through sheer attrition.
  • Permission to Speak Freely: Vlora has a habit of speaking over-familiar to Tamas. When he finally calls her out on it, she immediately asks this, and gets duly denied.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Predeii.
  • Photographic Memory: Inspector Adamat's Knack is a perfect memory.
  • Praetorian Guard: The royal cabals. In Tamas' case, his powder cabal.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Tamas guillotines the entire nobility of Adro.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The Kez win several early battles, but at unsustainable costs.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The Kez army commits many atrocities on the warpath, including enslaving local populations. It's a big reason for the bad blood between Kez and Adro, and between Kez and Deliv.
  • Reality Ensues: Even if your son is in harm's way, running off on the eve of a decisive battle and leaving command to your staff is not going to go over well. It contributes to the Wings of Adom withdrawing from the Kez-Adran war, and ultimately proved unnecessary as Taniel was safe before Tamas even got there. Tamas later criticizes himself for it, though it does convince Taniel that his father isn't entirely heartless towards him.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Tamas really does seem to put Adro ahead of his own glory. He put up with more than a decade of Manhouch XIII's incompetence before finally staging a coup a week before Manhouch would make Adro a vassal state of a rival nation. He repeatedly rejects the opportunity to rule as a despot. He is not afraid to risk his own son when Taniel's skill is necessary. He repatriots the royalists after they're beaten, rather than executing them. He's even willing to give up Mihali's cooking, despite the morale boost it's given his army, when he believes that doing so is in Adro's best interest.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Taniel and Ka-Poel, eventually.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Prime Lektor. Rosalina, too.
  • 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.
  • That's an Order!: Tamas' shorthand for "I'm done discussing this subject," most commonly towards Taniel, Vlora, and Olem. He tries it on Nila, but she points out she doesn't actually work for him.
  • The Squadette: Strangely enough, both the Adran and Kez militaries allow both men and women to serve equally in all apparent military roles. Both armies have women both as front-line soldiers and as officers. This is rather strange for the era - or even in the modern day.
    • In the major cast, Vlora fits this role.
  • Start of Darkness: Bo's generally amiable demeanor may make the reader (and some characters) occasionally forget that he's a killing machine. He tells Nyla a story about his introduction to the Royal Cabal, where he was compelled to execute a slave just to prove that he could. After refusing three times, he was told that if he didn't kill her this time, the Cabal would kill his friends and family. Oh, and he was fourteen at the time. Bo's Anti-Hero tendencies make much more sense after this revelation.
  • 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.
    • Furthermore, he holds the official title of "Lord of the Golden Chefs."
  • Sword Cane: Adamat wields one with some fair ability, as he is a former cop and was decent at swordplay.
  • Tactical Withdrawal: Used repeatedly, by numerous characters. Tamas is not too proud to retreat from a superior force and find a better position (either geographically, miltiarily, or diplomatically) from which to re-engage. Much of the plot of The Crimson Campaign is an attempt by the Seventh and Ninth Brigades to withdraw to friendly territory.
    • After the Battle of Ned's Creek, the Kez Army attempts to withdraw in good order to more defensible ground and await reinforcements.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Given that Tamas's revolution seems to be inspired by the French revolution this is a given.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In about six months, Nyla goes from being a humble washerwoman whose chief concern is an ornery governess and a master who wants to bed her to being arguably the most powerful Privileged currently living, able to vaporize thousands of soldiers with a single gesture.
  • Training from Hell: The realities of being a Cabal Privileged mean that amorality is essentially a must. Borbador speaks of his experience gaining admission to the Cabal, requiring him to kill an innocent slave girl in cold blood at age fourteen. He frequently remarks that Cabals don't admit good people.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Two entire brigades in The Crimson Campaign.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Employed deliberately on several occasions.
    • Bo's favorite technique for Nila is introducing her as a servant or secretary. After all, nobody would expect her to be a Privileged, without gloves.
    • Ricard and Fell use a similar tactic.
  • 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.
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: Blasting oil in The Autumn Republic.
  • Walking Armory: A more realistic example, but Tamas may carry two pistols, a carbine or rifle, a bayonet, a cavalry saber, and a cavalry lance, and use all of them. And that's on top of carrying several powder horns, which are vastly more capable weapons in the hands of a powder mage anyway.
  • War Is Hell: The book does not shy away from portraying the grim aftermath of a great battle, from the tens of thousands dead to the maimed, infection, fate of prisoners, lack of supplies, confusion and Fog of War...
  • 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.
  • We Can Rule Together: Brude tries this on Tamas.
    • Bo's ex from the Brudanian cabal tries it on him, too.
  • We Have Reserves: Ipille says this almost word for word to Tamas when negotiating a truce.
  • We Used To Be Engaged: Taniel and Vlora.
  • "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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The first third of Promise of Blood revolves around the Privileged Rosalia. She leaves Adro and never comes up again.
    • The traitor Hilanska disappears after stabbing Tamas, though it's implied Vlora is going to have him assassinated.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Predeii are hundreds of years old. The gods were in fact just humans who became incredibly powerful Privileged, too.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Nyla spends the first two books adrift on the plot. She's nearly raped by soldiers, briefly sheltered by royalists, kidnapped by Lord Vetus, and ultimately freed by Bo. Then she discovers her Privileged powers and uses them to kill more than three thousand Kez soldiers in a single shot.
  • Zerg Rush: A Kez specialty.


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