David Wellington has written a romance novel masquerading as an action thriller. The hero spends most of the book distractedly mooning over the requisite beautiful scientist who starts tagging along in Act One--one of many unlikely plot points that Wellington does a piss poor job of justifying. Chapel just respects her strength and passion SO MUCH, could it be--dare he think it--true love? He's a firm believer in secrecy and national security but gosh darn it she just DESERVES to be told every high-level secret that he can think of because it's MORALLY RIGHT. Ugh.
Internal logic flies out the window over and over again. An example: a psychotic superkiller gleefully and easily takes down entire Seal teams, in public, kills every challenger and enjoys doing so; but when our one-armed hero confronts said superkiller alone in an empty house--affording him plenty of privacy for violence and butchery--he conveniently knocks Chapel down and runs away? This kind of thing keeps happening.
Wellington clumsily attempts a series of shocking twists à la Jeffrey Deaver or Lincoln Child. He is not good at it. I look forward to not reading the next installment.
What's annoying is that the book discusses why the good wolves of the tri-city pack can't take on the local vampire seethe for unfortunate but practical reasons; then twenty pages later they go to certain doom against a volcano god that they know for a fact can't be killed or stopped simply because "he's killing innocents". Practicality be damned, it's the "right thing to do". Holy contrived, Batman!
However. Briggs puts her canned plot in a funny wrapper in which her husband's ex comes to the pack for protection from a stalker and subtly, skillfully tries to turn the group against Mercy. She's easy to read (I finished in four days what usually takes about two weeks) without feeling too YA.
I find myself enjoying this series over and over in spite of the predictability, the slightly-too-much romanciness, and the convenient-to-the-plotline coincidences.
There were a couple feeble attempts at depth of plot. The protagonist is paraplegic so that the author can briefly wave his social conscience flag--it's not his back that's broken, it's the world! And the suit contains the mind of an alien rebel who uses Talibanish tactics against an alien pursuer; I think the reader's mind is supposed to be blown at the moral relativism.
Stupid, predictable book. I want my half hour back.
The Gentleman Bastards are a unique band of thieves who prey exclusively on the nobility of Camorr and are so wealthy that they literally can't spend all of their money. Rather than robbing or burgling, they run elaborately plotted confidence scams replete with disguises and acrobatics and multiple layers of deception. Very Danny Ocean. Very fun.
Then two-thirds of the way into the book the plot takes a hard turn and the conning and scheming become afterthoughts. A thief king comes to Camorr. In the process of taking over the city's underworld he cuts two of the Gentleman Bastards' throats, shoots a third, sorcerously tortures a fourth by sewing his truename onto a severed hand, and drowns the last Bastard in a vat of horse piss. In the immortal words of Seth McFarlane, “THAT WENT SOUTH SO FAST!"
It's a dense, wonderfully drawn world and some seriously great plotting. The author hasn't left himself much to work with for book two though.
There are three magical classes in McClellan's world. The Privileged are just supercharged battle wizards. Ridiculously powerful fire-and-lightning-slinging dynamos. Powder mages have an affinity for gunpowder; they can sense it, detonate it with their brains, get high off of it ("battle trance"), and use it to guide bullets over long distances. The Privileged hate and fear powder mages for being the only real check on their power. The Knacked are the weakest but most interesting of the three: they each have one strong niche ability, like never needing sleep or being able to detect lies or magically pick locks.
Promise of Blood opens immediately after the overthrow of a corrupt king by a company of powder mages. They establish a series of kangaroo courts, execute pretty much the entire noble class, then try to save what's left amidst all the instability and chaos they've created. Complications arise with a series of assassination attempts, a massive invading army, a traitor on the newly installed ruling council, and a plot to summon Kresimir for the first time in 14 centuries to destroy the world. McClellan does not think small.
The author's prose is workmanlike, not remotely poetic, but serviceable. His world-building was stellar, with a great many interesting power factions: church, national union, organized crime, sorcerer cabal, army, mercenaries, royal accountancy, "powder mages", nobility, merchants, good stuff. It's no Tolkien but it's a lot of fun to read.