Overview (No Spoilers):
The Fall of Erlon was part of The Critiquing Chemist’s SPFBO6 Phase One Batch and we enjoyed it so much that we picked this title to move forward as our finalist. Gods of Gunpowder is the second book of The Falling Empires saga, which picks up just as winter is waning and the battles are poised to resume. Firmly ensconced in the flintlock fantasy genre, with emphasis on military maneuvering, battles on two different theaters take up the majority of the focus for Gods of Gunpowder. For example, the first fifty percent of this read involves preparing for, waiting on, and the commencement of one battle, not to mention dealing with the aftermath. In each of the three key fighting scenes Fleming weaves together intricately choreographed twists and turns that involve volleying back and forth between different perspectives on both sides of the battle lines. That said, so much energy goes into crafting these points of conflict and the capturing the myriad of emotions such situations elicit that continued character development is compromised in the process. Despite significant potential, there’s a slew of characters, such as Lauriston’s generals and Thirona, who the reader knows very little of their backstory. Even the main characters experience minimal further development, despite being put in repeatedly dangerous situations.
Gods of Gunpowder suffered from the dreaded mid-series slump as the reader is left feeling as though they’d read through an entire novel whose purpose was to cleverly maneuver pawns into position for the rest of the saga. With so much of this novel being dedicated to everything surrounding the military campaigns, it felt like no forward progress was made (which often happens in war), but also that the same ground we’ve already visited being trekked back over by the various armies, limiting the worldbuilding for this second installment.
Lastly, the beginning of each chapter has a quote from a history books or manuscript from one of the generals. I initially found myself enjoying the stage that the quotes would set for the upcoming chapter, however quite a few times I found these passages to be too spoiler filled, allowing me to anticipate what doom and gloom the next pages would hold. These quotes managed to foretell a key death, along with the outcomes of the battles, ruining any intended surprise.
Overall, Gods of Gunpowder suffered from the second book slump, despite containing three, suspense-filled, well-choreographed battles that work to set the stage for the rest of the series.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- It was interesting to see the roles reversed for Andrei and Pitt going from captive to captor, and vice versa. How will Pitt escape?
- How did Andrei lose connection with his hawk? Where does this power come from?
- Why can’t Elisa’s old god/guide be more of an active help and why is she not telling anyone that she’s seeing him?
- Rapp’s death was surprising, especially after The Fall of Erlon where he seemed to be rounding a corner of maturity, only to regress in Gods of Gunpowder in the wake of his victory. Was Chaos guiding him? If so, why did Chaos help him to defeat the Kurakin? Rapp’s death was the one that was spoiled for me based on the quote at the beginning on the chapter.
- Did Nelson wait too long to release Lannes back into the world? So many battles were lost and key positions yielded throughout this novel that it leaves the ‘good guys’ in a rather hopeless situation.
- How will Lannes defeat Leberecht now that he holds Citiva?
- Why are the Lakmian’s so dedicated to the Erlon cause?
- Why didn’t Epona communicate at all where she was going? What did the Ascended One mean that he’d given them enough tool to win the war? Did he really abandon the Continent?
- Are there only two sorceresses? Where does their power come from? Why are they only in Brun?
- Where is Caroline going?