My only previous "Flintlock Fantasy" was the rather forgettable A Darkness Forged in Fire (which had elves, dwarves etc) so it was with trepidation I dipped my toes into the waters with some more recent releases in the genre. The new entrants are very much Revolutionary France with the numbers filed off, plus magic.
Thousand Names (Django Wexler) 3
This was "Napoleon in Egypt" meets "Indiana Jones hunts occult relics" but was more the former than the latter. Most of the book had no magic at all - definitely more "flintlock" than
fantasy. Magic is more
low key and plays no part in battles. When the fantasy bit came along
it lifted the book from a rather boring B-grade historical fiction which
compares unfavourably to Sharpe et al to something unique.
You'd leave it: Had the historical-fiction tendency to overly detailed exposition. More for the Napoleonic fans than fantasy buffs. Slow-paced - drags in the middle of the book. He's OK, but not a great writer. Strictly B list. A bit unclear at times where the book was going.
You'd read it: Definitely a "first novel" and the writing improved in the second book. The main characters seemed walking cliches but actually improved beyond 2D cardboard cut-outs. The "big picture" is slowly revealed, and points to interesting sequels. An interesting world building and concept. A lot of people loved this book - perhaps I'm overly fussy.
A Darkness Forged in Fire (Chris Evans) 2.5
This was read a while back but I'm including it for completeness - but it isn't as fresh in my mind as the others. It's mostly about an elf trying to rebuild his regiment in the face of evil bureaucracy.
You'd leave it: I found the plot confusing and lacking in interest, and the attempt to overturn cliches was a bit too obvious and "try hard" i.e. elf who hates forests, dwarf with no metalworking skills etc, but the actual plot was pretty dull and ordinary. It was an obvious "book #1 of a big series" with no real ending, and it wasn't good enough to make it worth while to be worth seeking out book #2. I think I recall only one battle in the book.
You'd read it: If you really want more elves, dwarves, evil witches etc in your flintlock fantasy and you're read the other two books on this list. It's not that badly written, just a "meh."
Promise of Blood (Bruce McClellan) 3.5
Warmachine warcasters and gun mages meets the French Revolution. Magic is more common and established - "Privileged" standard sorcerers, "gun mages" who snort gunpowder for increased abilities and "Wardens" twisted creatures mutated by magic. The characters include the revolutionary leader - a war hero who is avenging his wife, and his son - a gun mage; and a dedicated private investigator.
You'd leave it: The writing is obviously a first book and lacks polish. It can be a bit heavy handed at times and the characters are predictable. The magic system is a bit arbitrary (that's probably the wargamer in me). The "dead wife motivation" and "debauched church" are rather tired tropes. The characters were a bit flat, and the female characters are insignificant/non-existent which may bother the feminazis.
You'd read it: Unlike Thousand Names, you don't have to
read 2/3rds the book before you get the "big picture" - the plot moves
along more briskly. More actual plot and story than battle
descriptions. If you like the Warmachine universe, you'll love
the gun mages. Magic, whilst not overly prevalent, is an established
part of the setting, so it avoids Cornwall comparisons. Dark but without Abercrombie or Martin levels of grimness and pessimism. Highly
readable, and a very decent debut novel.