These are highly regarded and recommended fantasy novels that include gunpowder and flintlock muskets.
The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns Book #1) by Django Wexler
A much-loved work in the genre, The Thousand Names is set in the 19th century, where both muskets and magic have a prominent presence. The story follows gunslingers Captain Marcus d'Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass. The two are led by Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich into a world of both military warfare and the supernatural. It maintains an average of 4.5 stars on Amazon with nearly 500 reviews.
PRO: If you want that blend of warfare and magic and the moral dilemmas between them, this is the perfect book to get started with.
CON: If you're like me and start to feel sleepy after just one page of very intricate descriptions of military battles, you may find yourself getting a little bored.
Promise of Blood (Powder Mage Book #1) by Brian McClellan
Another hit in the genre, Promise of Blood, follows Field Marshal Tamas and his overthrow of the King in his frontier, leading to an inevitable revolution. Tamas relies on the remaining powder mages to aid him in his battle against the royalists and enemies. The book was the recipient of the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Debut Fantasy.
PRO: The book includes a thorough magic system that will be very intriguing for magic lovers — along with the inclusion of firearms!
CON: As this is the writer's debut, there is some room for improvement, specifically with the plot's pace.
A Darkness Forged in Fire (The Iron Elves Book #1) by Chris Evans
Talk about fantasy meets realism! In this novel, a group of elves decide to join the human armies of the Calahrian Empire. They successfully fight alongside the troops until one mission becomes one of life or death. This is the first book in a series of 3, with more to come.
PRO: Getting to see a group of elves fight among a military leads to some fantastic fight scenes, perfect for those who love battle.
CON: The author puts a lot of emphasis on the fantastical elements but can come up short when it comes to character development.
His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire Book #1) by Naomi Novik
Imagine the Napoleonic Wars…..as fought on the backs of dragons. Yup, that is exactly what happens in His Majesty's Dragon, a book Stephen King called “terrificly entertaining.” Readers follow Capt. Will Laurence as he comes across a dragon egg that proves to be his greatest ally in a battle against the French.
PRO: I mean, it's The Napoleonic Wars as fought on dragons. Talk about cool.
CON: Some readers have had trouble following the storyline, which does jump around a lot, making it hard to follow at times.
The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel by Brandon Sanderson
A spinoff of Sanderson's original “Mistborn” trilogy, this novel showcases the brilliant advances of science and technology during The Industrial Revolution. At the same time, old magic and those who practice it live at the edge of civilization.
PRO: History buffs will definitely enjoy The Industrial Revolution background mixed in with fantasy elements.
CON: Those who are fans of the original Mistborn trilogy had a hard time loving this new series.
Death's Angels (The Terrarch Chronicles Book #1) by William King
Taking place amid a backdrop of The U.S. War of Independence, we follow soldier Rik and his meeting with a sorceress, Lady Asea, as his men journey to an ancient city where they will face evils no men could have imagined before. Think aliens, demons, and so much more.
PRO: There's every kind of magical creature included in this series, perfect for those who want the most out of fantasy.
CON: As this book does delve heavily into the fantasy genre, it's perhaps better for those who enter the story with a bit of background into the genre.
The Cerberus Rebellion by Joshua Johnson
In a world known as Zaria, The King of Ansgar sends his troops across the sea in hopes make his presence known. Ensuing is a battle of firearms, magic and mythical beasts. This is a lesser-known gem in the genre.
PRO: Those who enjoy reading in-depth descriptions of fortresses, kingdoms and those who run them will surely get a kick out of this novel.
CON: The author is still finding his voice in the genre.
Winds of Khalakovo (The Lays of Anuskaya Book #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu
This novel takes place in the fantastical land of Khalakovo, made up of an archipelago of several islands with an eyrie resting thousands of feet in the sky. Like with most other books in the genre, there are the usual battles and fantasy elements.
PRO: The backdrop of this book has noticeable influence from the Ottoman Empire, which is a large appeal for those interested in that period.
CON: For those who have trouble keeping track of names in novels, like myself, you may be left scratching your head.
The Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria Book #1) by Anthony Ryan
The Ironship Trading Syndicate controls the worlds in The Waking Fire. The greatest treasure in this world is the blood of drakes which can be made into elixirs that give great power to the ‘Blood-blessed.' Of course, with great power comes great responsibility.
PRO: Dragons! Specifically, the interaction of dragons with the creatures, battles and magic.
CON: There are elements of the novel which make it hard to suspend one's disbelief.
The Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker
A more comedic take on the genre, the novel follows law enforcer Amaranthe London and her meeting with Sicariu, the most notorious assassin in the entire empire. The author of this novel is a co-host of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast.
PRO: A lighter, more humorous take on the genre, The Emperor's Edge is perfect for those into romance.
CON: As it does take on a lighter tone, this not be for those looking for something dark and gritty.
What is Gunpowder Fantasy?
Magic, elves, fantasy….guns? Welcome to the literary genre of ‘gunpowder fantasy.' A subgenre of historical fantasy, gunpowder fantasy elevates (or worsens, depending on who you ask) the world, characters and plot of typical fantasy novels by incorporating the use of firearms and making use of an industrialized setting. This genre is an up-and-coming one, still being transformed by contemporary authors who would like to take on a fresh perspective of historical fantasy.
Essential Elements that Define the Genre
Generally, gunpowder fantasy novels take place between the 17th and 19th centuries, with most set during industrialization. The incorporation of machines and revolutionized methods of manufacturing influence the layout of the overall story, with the use of gunpowder relevant. As this genre is a sub-genre of historical fantasy, there are also elements of fantasy involved.
The invention of gunpowder plays a significant role in the plot. Moreover, how gunpowder and magic interact makes up most of the action and themes in the novels. Like with other fantasy books, there are thrilling adventures included.
Similar to other fantasy stories, the characters in gunpowder fantasy books are engaging and varied. There are the humorous sidekicks, dark villains, heroes to root for and the occasional love interest. Moreover, there is often a large range of fantastic creatures, such as elves, fairies, pixies, gnomes and much more. As the focus of these novels is the use of guns in a fantasy world, characters are often secondary.
The Themes and Tones
Due to the nature of the setting and typical plot points, the tone is more serious and dark. Of course, the use of fantasy elements lends itself to a lighter atmosphere on occasion. Moreover, some of the themes explored — overcoming difficulty, finding strength and courage — are inspiring for the reader.
What is Flintlock Fantasy?
Though gunpowder fantasy and flintlock fantasy are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably, there are noticeable differences between the two.
Essential Elements that Define the Genre
The backdrop of most flintlock fantasies typically takes place during the 18th or 19th century, when industrialization was booming or had been for a while. The historical and political significance of the time is often imperative factors in the overall plot of the story.
The use of firearms in the novels makes for plots that are military or battle-focused, with emphasis on strategy. The themes found throughout most flintlock novels are similar to fantasy novels, with its protagonists facing and overcoming challenges that test their bravery. While magic does exist in this world, soldiers with weaponry can usually overcome magical enemies.
Like with gunpowder fantasy, flintlock fantasy novels tend to have a dynamic range of characters. Unlike gunpowder fantasy, these types of novels don't have as many magical characters or creatures, with most characters simply being human soldiers.
The Theme and Tone
As there is plenty of weaponry and battles occurring in flintlock fantasy novels, the tone of the book tends to be exciting and violent. The inclusion of violence, occasionally bordering on gory, may be off-putting to some. However, readers who like more of a nitty-gritty vibe may find their perfect match here.
What sets them apart and/or similar about them?
In fact, there are a lot of subgenres in the historical fantasy realm. It gets pretty in-depth and wild, so I'll just lay out the key differences between gunpowder and flintlock fantasy novels. Firstly, flintlock fantasy tends to make more use of the industrial and historical setting around the characters, incorporating how the technology around them influences the plot.
Secondly, gunpowder fantasies generally have more magical characters and settings, with plot points examining how the use of gunpowder interacts with magic. While flintlock fantasies definitely have supernatural elements, they may play a less important role.
While the inclusion of firearms in fantasy novels may sound like a cool idea, there are some questions of logistics that many newcomers to the genre might have (I certainly did).
Would gunpowder be considered a type of magic in a fantasy setting?
It depends on what part the gunpowder plays in the story. The author may decide that magic will have a prominent place in the plot, therefore writing that gunpowder can only be created by using magic, or perhaps that black powder has mystical properties. On the other hand, if magic doesn't play as big a role, gunpowder could just be gunpowder. In this case, gunpowder could be seen as either very dangerous or perhaps a useful addition to fighting off enemies.
How would gunpowder be created in fantasy stories?
Thanks to the inclusion of magic in fantasy stories, the way that gunpowder could be crafted is endless. It's been suggested that there are only certain magical creatures who are capable of creating gunpowder, such as a specific set of elves or gnomes, making the creation of gunpowder very exclusive.
Do guns help or hurt fantasies?
And this is where the big debate lies. There are cases to be made on both sides of the debate here, as I've laid out below:
- In fantasy novels, anything is possible. Though gunpowder fantasies take place at certain points in history and include elements of realism, much that is made up, including mythical creatures and the use of magic. Therefore, including gunpowder and firearms isn't too much of a stretch!
- Including gunpowder breathes new life into the genre. The common tropes such as Good vs. Evil, The Chosen One and The Adventurous Quest are challenged with new and exciting ideas by adding gunpowder to this list. For instance, is gunpowder itself good or evil? How does The Evil Villian react to gunpowder? How is the Quest changed with gunpowder included?
- There are many against incorporating firearms into a fantasy book. By using guns in a fantasy setting, entire plots may have to be changed for the guns to make sense. For instance, there may need to be the addition of warfare or more battle scenes. Moreover, guns are more lethal than swords or similar weapons, as they kill faster, easier and more efficiently. Incorporating the use of old-school weapons usually requires the characters to be skilled and trained, whereas guns don't usually have this same sense of dedication. And, of course, some readers would have a difficult time wrapping their heads around the existence of guns in a certain time period.
What reason would guns exist in a fantasy world but go unused?
There are several different theories. For instance, it could be that magically advanced characters, such as witches and wizards, know a charm or spell that could resist the shot of a bullet. Moreover, magic may be more advanced than gunpowder, and the technology of firearms is most likely not as advanced as the guns of today are. Perhaps the guns would malfunction or combust, particularly in the hands of a first-time user.
How big is a flintlock pistol?
You may have some questions about how they work, including what they look like for those unfamiliar with flintlock pistols. The typical flintlock pistol sat at 18 inches long with a 1.5-inch butt and a 4-inch height.
Are Flintlocks considered firearms?
Yes, but not in the same categories as other firearms which could be considered more lethal.
What happens if gunpowder becomes wet?
It essentially becomes useless, becoming clumped together and impossible to shoot out successfully.