Book Review: The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

The Autumn RepublicOne of the smartest decisions I’ve made regarding reading in the past few years was to sit down and read Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan. I had heard wonderful things about the book and seen several rather high-profile authors commenting on how much they had enjoyed reading it. Very quickly I realized that Brian McClellan was orchestrating a tale I’d always wanted to read, but had no idea it was something I wanted. That sort of thing doesn’t happen often for me and I remember reading Promise of Blood in roughly a day after starting it in the morning.

I finished Promise of Blood just a few weeks before The Crimson Campaign hit bookstores, so I got lucky, but then I had to wait far, far too long for The Autumn Republic to arrive. During the interim I read all of Brian McClellan’s short fiction for the Powder Mage universe to help with the wait and when The Autumn Republic downloaded to my Kindle I was ready and willing to roll back into its world immediately.

The conclusion of this trilogy that has seen Field Marshal Tamas, his son Taniel, his adoptive daughter Vlora, and many others, including the always delightful Olem, was one of the strongest endings to a trilogy I’ve read. McClellan does a magnificent job expanding his characters from book to book in ways that seem realistic, relatable, and as having some sort of consequence for the story at hand. I felt like in The Autumn Republic I was seeing the characters grow into the people they would be for the remainder of their lives instead of seeing them perform actions just to make the story work. There were heartbreaking moments for me with Taniel and Vlora, desperation as I read wondering what was going to become of Olem. Field Marshal Tamas ended up becoming one of the most impressive characters I’ve ever read, hands down.’

The Autumn Republic takes great care in trying to believable show what would happen if an oppressive monarchy were to be overthrown in favor of a democratic republic. There are growing pains involved with that kind of thing and while they were hinted at in Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign, those growing pains became much more urgent with this final book. Field Marshal Tamas worked hard to give the people of Adran the government they deserved, but he did not plan some of the backstabbing and chicanery that came about as a result of his coup. I was especially impressed with the work McClellan does in twisting the plot around as Tamas is trying to get back to Adopest and finish what he started. There were a few detours that I was not expecting and the story was better because of them. Some other authors would have taken the more straightforward path, but McClellan took some chances that paid great dividends.

Throughout The Autumn Republic I felt the relationship between Taniel and Ka-poel stole the show. It’s been fascinating to see the two of them interact over the entire trilogy, but in this book especially it seemed like they really became a power duo. My only complaint is that it was never revealed what exactly makes Ka-poel so special compared to the other magic users in the books. Maybe that will be explored in future novel or short fiction set within the same universe; I certainly hope that’s the case.

Nila is another character that sees significant growth over the course of the book. I was rather skeptical of her in The Crimson Campaign because I wasn’t sure what the author was trying to do with her on the whole. However, her interactions with Bo in this book really brought her to the forefront and provided a good contrast to the more brute force, gritty approaches of Tamas, Olem, and Taniel when it comes to sorting things out. She’s scared of what she’s becoming, but at the same time fascinated by the possibilities it could mean for her future. I especially enjoyed the small moment between Nila and Ka-poel as if Ka-poel knows something about Nila that Nila doesn’t. The two of them clearly have some sort of connection or similarities that were not fully explored yet.

There isn’t much I can say directly about the plot events of The Autumn Republic without spoiling too many great moments for those who’ve yet to read the book. What I can say though, is that the ultimate fate of all the main characters seemed like it fit perfectly. Field Marshal Tamas, Taniel, Ka-poel, Olem, Nila, Bo, Vlora, and even the wonderful Inspector Adamat all have fates that made me feel very satisfied as a reader. I’m not sure if this is the last time we will see these characters in work by Brian McClellan, but if it is, I feel very much like it’s exactly the way we as readers should see them when the final page is turned. Everything wrapped up exactly how it should be in the end.

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Okay, It’s Time To Get Back To Business

Let’s be honest, I haven’t made any posts here that were very compelling since October, nearly a fourth of a year. All things considered, that’s probably not a wise way to go about keeping a book blog that for reasons I still don’t understand has a decent readership. I’ve probably lost at least a few loyal followers over the past three or four months, and it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

I need to fix things by getting back on the horse and writing some reviews, a few topical essays, and maybe branching out into some interviews or other types of content. I don’t really have an excuse for why I went dark with posting for the last few months other than I was trying hard to get those 100 books read and started a new job. Blogging just sort of took a back seat out of the blue and I’m just now realizing I need to get going again.

There were a few weeks, I admit, where I seriously considered just shuttering the blog altogether, calling it quits, and just walking away. I felt like I was stagnating in my reviews, lacking any sort of really compelling content, and that I was unable to do the structural things I really want to do with the site on the whole. Added to that was the sheer number of books I was finishing and not able to find the time to write reviews for when I was done. Some of which I may have to actually read again in order to write a worthwhile review. That had me a little frustrated as well.

But, I seem to have emerged from the funk! The time off to just read, adjust to my new job, and enjoy the holiday season without the pressure of blogging seems to have renewed my batteries and now I’m ready to get back to work.

Here are my current thoughts on things that need to be done or improved around here:

A serious number of reviews need to finally be written. I read 101 books last year, but I managed only 41 reviews written. That’s less than half of the books I read. Some of those reviews will require me to at least skim through the books again to refresh my memory before I can write anything of worth, and some of them I could still write on the fly. At the very least I need to get reviews written for The Mirror Empire, Red Rising, Gemini Cell, Ancillary Sword, and the two new Star Wars novels, Tarkin and A New Dawn. In an ideal world I will at some point get all 101 reviews written for the 101 books I read, plus reviews for everything I read in 2015. That should keep me in content for a long time.

Lots of topical essays and posts I am very interested in writing need to be written. I never got around to doing a post that reviews my year of 2014. I also want to write about what I learned in the process of reading 100 books in a single year. There are some posts about science fiction and fantasy as genres on the whole I want to write, and a variety of other things on top of all those I just mentioned. There are probably at least two dozen essay type posts floating around in my head somewhere.

The reviews listing needs to be updated and improved. I’d love to have a listing by author, by title, and by series, but I need to just sit down and do it. I may need to dive back into the custom CSS of the website to make them work like I really want, and that’s okay, I just need to make it happen. I spent a little time making sure the listing as it stands now is updated.

Once and for all I need a regular posting schedule. In my grandest dreams I’ll someday figure out how to effectively blog every single day, but for now I would settle on just being consistent instead of haphazard. My goal is to post a review every Monday and some kind of topical post every Thursday. If I can manage additional posts during the week, great. If not, I want to meet that minimum schedule.

Guest writers and interviews. I think there is a lot of opportunity for me to allow others who have enjoyed science fiction and fantasy novels a place to let their thoughts be known. I’d almost like to entertain the idea of putting out a call for submissions in some fashion where people who don’t want to run their own blog could drop me a line when they want to review something they think fits the audience here. On top of that, I’d really like to get started with the author interview game. I think that could provide some compelling content.

And lastly, maybe a bit of creative writing. Here in the very near future (as in the next month) I’ll be joining a writing group to get back on the writing horse like I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Maybe if I find myself having put together something of decent quality I might share some snippets here and there.

So, you can see there is a lot I want to do, and I’ve spent a lot of time over the past three months really thinking about how I want to get it done. Now I need to implement some of the plans, so expect to see some housekeeping type posts over the last two weeks of this month and then if all goes well I can hit the ground running in March.

Looking Back at January 2015

From the time I finished my 101st book of 2014 to the writing of this post I confess to taking a very big break in regards to reading. I walked away from my Kindle, walked away from the blog for the most part, and generally just let my brain decompress. The last three months of 2014 were an absolute grind in order to meet my reading goal and I needed some serious time off.

So, what did I do? I picked up a book I had been wanting to read for months and read it at the most leisurely pace I could manage. Some days I didn’t read at all, some days I read for ten minutes, some days for half an hour. Not once did I force myself to read unless I was in the mood. I have no specific “number of books” reading goal for 2015, so making January a very light month mattered little in the grand scheme of things.

Here are the books I read in January:

As I tend to do every so often I also read some short fiction in January:

Despite reading only two full-length novels in January I feel like I got to read two really wonderful books without rushing my way through the pages. I had heard fantastic things about The Mirror Empire and wanted to wait until I could really focus on it before picking it up to read. Firefight is the sequel to Steelheart that I’ve been waiting eagerly to read.

Hindsight really is 20/20 and if I’m honest with myself I should have waited a little longer to read The Mirror Empire as it is a dense, deep, and very elaborate tale. I read little to no true epic fantasy in 2014 and making The Mirror Empire my first foray back into that realm was probably a poor decision. The learning curve on that book is immense for the first 100 pages or so, especially if you are out of practice with that kind of huge world building and cast of characters. I loved the book though, so all is well that ends well.

For February I’ll be trying to get back on the horse with a  book per week in order to keep myself in a pile of enough material to begin writing reviews again. I’m hoping to find the time to read Golden Son, The Autumn Republic, and The Mortal Heart if I can.

Looking Back at December 2014

December was the capstone month of 2014 for me to actually meet my goal of reading 100 books for the year. After the big October push, a solid November, and being able to see the finish line clearly I did manage to read the full 100 books. As a matter of fact, I even managed to sneak one extra book into the year and finish with a 101 book total.

There wasn’t anything earth-shaking about my book choices in December; I really just tried to pick things that I felt were not going to take much effort to read in the hopes of not falling short of my goal.

Here are the books I read in December:

It was nice to wrap up the Fablehaven series on the whole even if I was a little disappointed with how repetitive the plot points became towards the end in the last two or three books. They are decent books though and I won’t be surprised if my children end up reading them in a few years when they reach the appropriate age.

My favorites of the month were the new Legion novella (really a double-length novella which makes it a full novel in the end), and a surprise discovery in Red Rising by Pierce Brown. I gave Red Rising a try because my boss at work is an avid reader as well and he had recently finished it. He kept telling me to give it a try, and when I had time for one extra book at the end of the month I decided to see what he kept raving about. In my opinion, Red Rising is the book that Hunger Games always should have been. I lucked out because the sequel, Golden Son has just been released and I’ve already bought a copy.

I have a distinct feeling that January is going to be a very light month for me when it comes to reading because I’ll be honest, I’m burnt out after the slog to 100 books (a separate post on that entire ordeal to come later). I need to take a break and evaluate what I want my reading priorities to be for 2015 after such an intense 2014.

Looking Back at November 2014

After such a successful October getting back on pace with my reading goal I had a very busy November with work and family obligations as well as the launch of the most recent World of Warcraft expansion. I went into the month knowing that the last two weeks were going to be a nightmare as far as reading was concerned, so I needed to load up on completed books in the first two weeks. I think I was rather successful all told.

I managed to finish November with 95 total books complete. My intent was to finish with 100 and take the entire month of December off from reading to decompress after the hard push over the last few months. That was a bit of a pipe dream though, and going into December with only five books remaining is absolutely wonderful at this point. Two months ago I feared I would need nearly 20 books in December alone to finish my goal.

As it stands, I can read my last few books without a lot of pressure and probably finish well before the end of the month, giving myself at least a little break before next year begins breathing down my neck.

Here are the books I read in November:

Along the way I also read a new novella:

I enjoyed everything I read this month, none of the books left me feeling unfulfilled or disappointed in any fashion. The one thing I did notice is that the Fablehaven series is really not well suited to being read back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I should have spaced those first four books out with others in between. I’ve made a point of not reading the fifth book until I read a few other things so that I can cleanse my reading palate a bit.

For December I will be reading the final Fablehaven book just to be sure I finish the series off and don’t leave myself hanging. I’ll also be reading the last two books in a trilogy from the Dragonlance universe I started a very long time ago. Then there is the final book of the His Fair Assassin trilogy and I’ll finish off my 100 books by reading the one my wife wrote even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the science fiction and fantasy genres.