Short Fiction Friday: Forsworn

Forsworn by Brian McClellan, The Powder Mage #0.2

Erika ja Leora is a powder mage in northern Kez, a place where that particular sorcery is punishable by death. She is only protected by her family name and her position as heir to a duchy.

When she decides to help a young commoner—a powder mage marked for death, fugitive from the law—she puts her life and family reputation at risk and sets off to deliver her new ward to the safety of Adro while playing cat and mouse with the king’s own mage hunters and their captain, Duke Nikslaus.

Occurs 35 years before the events in Promise of Blood.

Last year Orbit launched on of their biggest debuts, The Promise of Blood, by Brian McClellan. A first for me in flintlock fantasy: muskets and gunpowder galore! Brian McClellan introduced a very cool setting with Promise of Blood, it is not pure military fantasy because there is a very pronounced backdrop of magic. The Powder Mage should say enough already. His world features a special type of mage that is able to enhance his or her senses by ingesting gunpowder. Directly opposite the powder mages stand the Priviliged those that are able to use elemental type of magic, and trust me it runs pretty wild in the book. Oh and I almost forgot, Brian McClellan doesn't shy away to introduce the occasional influence of a god! This year saw the release of the sequel to Promise of Blood, The Crimson Campaign where Brian McClellan really had outdone himself, ever since I have been counting down the days for the third book in the series. I also found out that he has written several short stories in The Powder Mage series, so what better way to deal with the wait then to pick up a short story. 

Forsworn is the first short story that is set in The Powder Mage series and picks up 35 years prior to the events of Promise of Blood. The story itself focuses not on Field Marshal Tamas, yet, but on a young girl called Erika ja Leora, the daughter of a nobleman. Erika carries a big secret with her, she is a powder mage. Well it isn't that big of a secret actually, she is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to being a powder mage. If you would be just a normal person, you would have been put to death already. It's in this day and age, 35 years prior to Promise of Blood, that when you are a powder mage you are feared and it is better to be disposed than to be a threat. 

One day while Erika is out hunting with her guardian they encounter a young and lost girl in the woods. This young girl Norrine has many secrets of her own she is a runaway powder mage who wants to make her way to the few safe places for powdermages. Erika, being a powder mage herself and who knows just how hard it is to survive wants to help Norrine make her way to a safehaven. But with Erika being a royal blood and the only powder mages that is being tolerated it becomes a very difficult task as where ever she goes she is put in the spotlight. What doesn't make Erika's quest easier is the fact that there is a Duke who is set to remove every powder mage from the picture. Duke Nikslaus runs a special squad for the king The Longdogs, the king's mage hunters. Added to this is that Nikslaus is also a powerful priviliged. 

Since I read both the published books so far I know what kind of powerful stories Brian McClellan is able to write. With Forsworn, a short story of 60ish pages he does exactly the same as in the full length books. I highly enjoyed this story, especially given the focus on both Erika and Norrina, I know Tamas and his son Taniel very well, focusing the story on two you female leads and how they, as "fragile" as they are, have to navigate through a treacherous world gave a completely new dimension to the series. When I think of male leads with these powers, they are tough and don't shy away to get messy. But with two innocent girls who actually only just want to be accepted for what they are and try to live a normal life and the fact that they are being hunted down like dogs really changes the perspectives and only make you hate the Duke and all those who oppose powder mages even more or at least I had that. 

In this short story there are quite a few characters that you meet but the focus is really on Erika and Norrina. I can only give full praise to how Brian McClellan made their characters come out, there aren't that many female leads that feature in the series so far. From these two I really like Norrina and her reflection to what her father and mother used to say to her in order to stay safe. These reflections also offered quite an emotional current to the story. 

I did have a big smile on my face nearing the ending of the book as one specific person does make an entry and I am going to say it. Tamas... Good stuff.

Forsworn is definitely a must read for every Powder Mage fan. It greatly expands the world of the series by showing several events before Promise of Blood, not necessarily giving a lot of information about historical events that led up to the revolution or so but showing just how powder mages were looked upon in those years and how tough it was just to be able to survive. The whole element of the cat and mouse game between the kings mage hunters, the Longdogs, and Erika and Norrina really only resonates stronger given the fact that these are just young girls you see. A powerful, action-packed and emotional story that you don't want to miss out on. Ill have to get the other short stories soon!


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