Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Thousand Names - Django Wexler

The Thousand Names
Book One Of The Shadow Campaigns
Django Wexler
Fantasy/Flintlock Fantasy

So this is flintlock fantasy?  I like it!  I like it a lot, actually.  And so will you.
The country of Khandar just had a civil war.  The Redeemers, a sect of warrior-priests, overthrew the prince and sent him running for the coast, under the protection of the Vordan army.  The Vordan King promised to protect Prince Exopter, Chosen of Heaven, and restore him to his throne.  This is easier said than done, of course.  As the story opens, what’s left of the Vordan army is encamped in a crumbling ruin called – by someone who clearly doesn’t understand the reality of the situation – Fort Valor.  Under the command of Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, they’re waiting for reinforcements and a new colonel to arrive from across the sea.  In the meantime, they have to be on the lookout for incursions by the Desoltai, raiders from the surrounding desert, led by the mysterious Steel Ghost.  For these men, living to see tomorrow is a victory.
Marcus is more than happy to turn over command to the new colonel.  But when he arrives, Count Colonel Janus seems more interested in the indigenous flora and fauna than in military strategy.  Instead of ordering everyone onto the ships and back to Vordan, Janus orders the army (now made up of the Colonials who have been in-country for a few years and the newly-arrived and poorly-trained recruits) to pack up and march back to the capital city.  Since they barely made it out the first time, most of the Old Colonials are less than happy about this.  Blending the recruits and the veterans means promoting a few of the lower-ranking veterans.  One of these is Winter Ihernglass.  Winter is horrified to be promoted to sergeant, since all Winter wants to do is blend in and be invisible.  Winter is a female, hiding in the army, on the run from events back home.  So far, she’s kept her secret, and being in command could compromise that.  She’s also not at all sure that she’s capable of a command position.

The above is just the bare-bones outline of the beginning of the story.  This novel is really character-driven, with a military and magic background.  I wasn’t sold on the idea at first, but it all blends into a unique whole.  The author writes about military life both on micro and macro levels.  There are so many details, so much to deal with to move an army and the attendant wagon train that contains civilian followers.  Then there are the battles.  They’re terrifying and completely realistic.  Watching each character deal with various situations made them seem completely human.  I admit that I dawdled while reading this novel because I just didn’t want it to end.
The last fifty or so pages changed all that.  There’s a ‘final battle,’ for want of a better term that had me absolutely glued to the story.  At that point, the muskets meet the magic, new elements come into play, and there’s no telling what will happen from moment to moment.  It’s written from different character perspectives, in overlapping time, making each minute seem both infinite and fleeting.  For readers who worry about committing to a new series (but you should; you really should) this story is complete within itself.  Clearly, there’s more to come, more than must be done, but this could be read as a standalone novel.  No cliffhanger ending, just looking forward to the next phase.  This is a truly amazing debut novel from a major new talent, and it goes straight to the keeper shelf.
Rating: 9
July 2013
ISBN# 978-0-451-46510-8 (hardcover)


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