The Thousand Names by Django Wexler (No1 of the Shadow Campaign
Just finished reading The Thousand Names by Django Wexler, the first in the Shadow Campaign series. I really enjoyed this and think it’s a really strong start to what promises to be an excellent series.
The Thousand Names mixes military action with fantasy. This is fairly new to me. I don’t read a lot of books with this level of military action in them – of course reading fantasy you frequently encounter battles and skirmishes some on a fairly epic scale but I can’t recall reading a book that was based on military characters with the entire focus of the book using that platform as a setting. This was really well down though and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
Not to give away too much or to overcomplicate this review. The book revolves around a campaign to reclaim a city – at least that’s what we’re led to believe at the outset. The last of the Vordanai army remain stationed at an outpost in the land of Khandar. After the prologue we pick up with this army as they are introduced to their newly arrived from overseas Colonel who has brought fresh recruits and a strong intent on marching them all to the City of Ashe-Katarion to reclaim the throne for the rightful prince. The City is currently controlled by The Redeemers – a fanatical religious faction, the Khandar auxiliaries (who were previously trained by the Vordanai army) and a tribe of desert warriors called the Desoltai and led by the Steel Ghost (a man who most believe is impossible to kill).
I won’t deny that this book is a slow burner – particularly in terms of the fantasy aspects which are very discretely woven into the story – but it builds a strong vision of the world without being overly wordy and places the main focus on character development.
For me the two main characters really make the story. Don’t get me wrong, there is a really good supporting cast here as well but the story is narrated in alternating chapters by Captain Marcus D’Ivoire and Winter Ihernglass. These two couldn’t be more different! Winter is actually a female – masquerading as a male character to escape her past. She’s managed to survive so far, in fact she’s become a more than competent soldier but she’s not particularly well liked, which isn’t surprising as she has a massive secret that prevents her joining in with her colleagues for the majority of the time and makes her appear lofty or plain stuck up. Marcus has been placed in charge of the outpost until the Colonel arrives. He’s also very capable and lives by a basic set of standards. He stands by his friends, he is steadfast in the face of danger, he will dutifully serve his colonel and will try to do the right thing. If I had to choose I would say that Winter’s chapters were marginally more gripping – but this could simply because of the web of deceit she’s caught up in and also her story tends to be a little more focused on the fantasy side of things. Both characters have interesting back stories that very much dictate their actions.
There is undoubtedly an element of smoke and mirrors going on with this story, a few surprises, a touch of folklore all mixed up with a healthy dose of political intrigue which becomes more heightened with the arrival of the Colonel. Simply, is the real aim of the colonel to march his men to reclaim the City or are there darker plans afoot?
In terms of criticisms, I suppose some people may find this a little slow moving, personally I enjoyed the set up and character building so was quite happy. Also, as previously mentioned a lot of the story revolves around military drills and skirmishes – again, I enjoyed this and found it interesting, particularly as the characters seemed to find themselves in increasingly more life threatening situations as the story progressed.
This is a well written and intriguing story, it has an old fashioned military feel with muskets, bayonets and cannons mixed up with a fascinating fantasy element that I’m keen to read more about.
Here are the two covers if you want to check out which is your favourite. I like both although I think the green background with the character in black is more dramatic.