The Big Idea: Brian McClellan

When you’ve written a half million words in a world of your own devising, it’s okay to stop, look around, and take stock of what you’ve wrought. Thus does Brian McClellan look upon his works in the Powder Mage Trilogy, here on the release of the final book in the series, The Autumn Republic. Take it away, Mr. McClellan!


As the final book in the Powder Mage Trilogy, The Autumn Republic is the climax of a five hundred thousand word epic fantasy. By now many of you are familiar with the sorcerers powered by black powder, returning gods in an industrialized world, and a nation caught in a world-class conflict. These are all the big ideas of the series, but now that I’ve reached the final book I need to stop and examine what this story is really about.

One of the biggest tropes of epic fantasy is that of the fool: the young farm boy or neglected orphan who learns of his destiny and goes off to fight the good fight, gaining wisdom and experience along the way. It’s the very first trope I wanted to throw out when I started this trilogy, and doing so gave me Field Marshal Tamas—a living legend, a man at the very height of his power who decides that, for the good of the people, he will overthrow his king and send the nobility to the guillotine. Promise of Blood opens with this revolution and the entire trilogy deals with the ramifications of one man’s action against his government.

Without Tamas, the conflict that takes place in the Powder Mage Trilogy would never have happened.

Tamas was not originally meant to be a viewpoint character. My original plan was to tell his story from the point of view of his son but I quickly became enamored with his character. How often in fantasy do we get to see the narrative from the point of view of a man who answers to no one? The wise man well into his journey instead of the naive youth at the beginning of his?

What, I wanted to know, would bend or break a man like that?

More than anything else, The Autumn Republic is the tale of Field Marshal Tamas coming to grips with his own legend. He is powerful, driven, already immortalized on the pages of history. He has spent decades planning the revolution that opened the trilogy and he is fully committed to it, willing to become history’s villain for the greater good. Willing to sacrifice anything for his goals. Or so he thought.

Tamas may be an old man, much further along in his hero’s journey than some whippersnapper fresh off the farm, but that does not mean that his journey is complete. His ideals have been corrupted by old wounds and a quest for vengeance, but he still has the ability to regret, grow, change, and adapt to fight the new challenges thrown in his path.


The Autumn Republic: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

8 Comments on “The Big Idea: Brian McClellan”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Brian. I do feel a narrative tension between Tamas’ POVs and the POV of his son (and the good Inspector) as well. I do think the story works better with his story front and center.

  2. I hate, loathe and despise “Epic Fantasy” – a genre filled with nothing but derivative works.

    Or I did until I got steered towards “Promise of Blood”.

    In this case it was due to a review in “Schlock Mercenary”, but Our Host’s “Big Idea” pieces have steered me towards more than one author whose work I never would have seen otherwise, and I’ve yet to be disappointed by one of them.

    If Scalzi were to retire from writing tomorrow to take up – oh, let’s say becoming a professional ukelele player – I’d still be visiting ‘Whatever’ to get book recommendations.

    P.S. I do not advocate Scalzi’s retirement from writing. Really. Please keep entertaining me, sir!

  3. quote from brandon sanderson got my attention.

    @notsmof: loathe epic fantasy? I don’t like westerns myself. If I Have seen one cowboy I have seen them all. loathing this seems a bit much.

  4. @Guess – The intent was to demonstrate that one should always be willing to challenge one’s preconceptions… Something that reading this forced me to do, and to good effect.

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