Set in an alternate nineteenth century, muskets and magic are weapons to be feared in the first “spectacular epic” (Fantasy Book Critic) in Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series.
Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost—until a rebellion left him in charge of a demoralized force clinging to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.
To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must lead her men into battle against impossible odds.
Their fate depends on Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich. Under his command, Marcus and Winter feel the tide turning and their allegiance being tested. For Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural—a realm with the power to reshape the known world and change the lives of everyone in its path.
Wexler's debut is a slow-building but generally capable addition to the military fantasy subgenre, nicely blending military strategy and political intrigue before layering on fantasy tropes. In a world at a Napoleonic Wars level of technology, soldiers on the outskirts of the imperialist Vordanai empire are suddenly in trouble when the rebels they arm turn on them. Quirky Count Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich Mieran is sent to fix the situation; to the surprise of Marcus D'Ivoire, a cynical captain, and Winter Ihernglass, a soldier looking to escape her past, he does reasonably well. Janus brings news of political intrigues at home, along with scholar Jennifer Alhundt, who has a mysterious agenda. The scenes of military life and combat tactics are well crafted, and Winter and Marcus's respective successes keep the story moving swiftly enough until the darker secret and elements of the fantastic make themselves known. Wexler's story and characters do stray into the realm of the predictable at times, but fans of military fantasy should still get their fill.
A well-written book with an intriguing plot and engaging characters. A perfect summer beach book.
The Thousand Names
Refreshing setting but not as gripping as I'd like
Most fantasy is in a medieval, European setting, among black forests and mountains, etc. This story is in a desert setting with Napoleonic tones, which was refreshing and different. The plot was intricate enough to keep you guessing but not so convoluted as to be baffling.
The dialogue was entertaining, the action plentiful, but I found myself reading just to finish the book. It was not book that I just couldn't put down.