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.

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13 Responses to “The Thousand Names by Django Wexler (No1 of the Shadow Campaign”

  1. jenclair

    I think The Thousand Names might be something I’d enjoy. The characters sound interesting, and I do like military elements although I mostly see it in science fiction rather than fantasy. Nice review, Lynn; you caught my attention.

    • lynnsbooks

      I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. It is fairly military based all round but I like the time period which has a sort of Napoleonic or Sharp’s Rifles type of feel all mixed up with a Mummy(ish) type of fantasy feel – that description is very bad I admit but there is the whole muskets/desert feel going on so I’m sure you get where I’m coming from. Plus, I think it’s just plain well written which I enjoy and appreciate.
      I hope you enjoy it if you do pick it up – I confess it’s a bit of a hefty tome but then that’s fantasy!
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tabitha (Not Yet Read)

    I kept putting this one off and decided I can’t get to it this month no matter how I wanted to. So I gave it to my friend Maggie’s husband to read and review for the site (funny since I bought the book) but the pubs sent me the second book. I totally just am not in the mood for a slow burner right now you know? But I know I really do want to read it.

    It’s all about mood baby.

    • lynnsbooks

      It certainly is – I actually had another book on the go at the same time and quite enjoyed chopping and changing.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Nathan

    I just finished this one myself. Enjoyed it a ton. But I really do like the first cover more than the one I have, the gun and the mask are actually related to the story.

    • lynnsbooks

      This was good. I didn’t know what to expect so enjoyed it much more than I thought I would – plus – no wait for No.2
      Yeah, I was torn between the two covers – I thought the mask/gun were definitely more relevant to the story but I liked the other cover colours which were more dramatic. I’ll have to settle for liking both.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy

    Yay I’m glad you liked this! It is quite the slow burner, especially if you are new to the military fantasy thing. Lots of strategizing and talking about troop movements, and the battle scenes and such. Wexler really got me with his characters, though. And I’m torn on the covers. The US versions have this “back to the viewer” thing going, and I think I like that cover for the first book (like you said, black robes and crossed swords – SOOO much more dramatic) but I like the UK cover of the second book more because seeing the face in that one seems more appropriate.

    • lynnsbooks

      I’m really looking forward to No.2 and I don’t have a long wait, although I can’t get to it straight away anyway. Still haven’t read Anthony Ryan! These huge books are killing me!
      Lynn 😀

  5. Two Dudes in an Attic

    Gonna read this one. You and Nathan have convinced me.

    • lynnsbooks

      I thought it was a really good book and will definitely pick up the next.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Waffle, waffle, waffle… | Lynn's Book Blog

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