The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns #1) by Django Wexler
Book 1 of The Shadow Campaigns series
I have to admit, in the beginning of this book, I wasn’t too keen on it and I was a bit baffled. It seemed like we were thrown in to a world with a lot of long, confusing names and it was a bit hard to keep straight the who, what, where and when. That does happen in some fantasy and if you feel that way when you start, no worries, you can get past it and boy is the gettin’ good!
The intro starts out from the POV of Ashe-Katarion’s new rulers in Khandarai, the capital of Ashe-Katarion. Jaffa-dan-Iln, the Grand Justice is meeting with Yatchik-dan-Rahksa, the priest of the Seraphic Council, who has been appointed to oversee the cleansing of foreign taint from the land. Prince Exopter, the Chosen of Heaven, Supreme Ruler of Khandar and the Two Desols, has fled the Palace with all of his valuables, after years of tyranny. Most of the population was not sorry to see him go.
Switching POVs, we join the regiments of Vordanai’s Old Colonials, who have been sent to the outskirts of the empire to fight the Khandar army, in a quest to restore Vordanai’s rightful ruler. No one would volunteer for this dangerous post in enemy territory. In a fight that seems already lost, they will need to face down the deadly desert tribes. And somewhere amid the sands, they are being hunted by Malik-dan-Belial, the Steel Ghost. A man in all black robes with a brushed steel mask, the Steel Ghost is the chieftain of the Desoltai desert raiding tribes and the hero of a hundred stories. He was famous long before the Redemption and has been a thorn in the side of the Vordanai for years. It is said that he has traded his soul to a demon for the ability to see the future. In the Great Desol, armies are devoured, whether it is by raiders or from hunger and thirst, and the Old Colonials will face all of the terrors the desert has to offer.
The eccentric, beguiling and fearless leader of the Old Colonials is Count Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich Mieran. Janus is always sure of himself and he doesn’t take the easy way out of things. But what were his motives when he campaigned for this post? He is a military genius, but is he a good or bad guy? Janus remains somewhat of a mystery all the way to the end where are left wondering about his true motives.
Senior Captain Marcus d’Ivoire has volunteered to follow his friend Adrecht to this post. That’s right, he volunteered. He lost his entire family to a fire while at the academy and he no longer cares about advancing his career. Marcus and his fellow captains, Adrecht, Mor and Val have been together awhile and have each other’s back no matter what their irritations with one another. Marcus is an officer through and through, very honorable and loyal to a fault, which is why, although he is skeptical, he follows Janus’s orders.
Winter Ihernglass has escaped from Mrs. Wilmore’s Prison for Young Ladies and is now hiding out disguised as a male Ranker in the Old Colonials. She is well read and good with languages. In the beginning she’s laying low and being teased by the fellow soldiers of her regiment because she doesn’t fit in. But when Janus struggles to come up with enough sergeants from the green recruits, she is promoted. Circumstance brings her to the forefront where she gets to show us how gutsy she is.
This book is chock full of intriguing characters. I was quite taken in by all of main characters and the supporting characters as well. Among some of those there is Jennifer Alhundt, the Ministry of Information liaison, working for His Grace, Duke Orlanko in the Concordat secret police. She has been sent out to the desert to keep an eye (or spy) on Janus. Although everyone is leery of her, Marcus begins to spend a lot of time with her. There is also Feor, a young woman who has been rescued by Winter. Feor is a priestess of the old ways, a naathem. She belongs to an order charged with being guardians to the religious artifacts known as The Thousand Names. What she is doing in the middle of the Desol is a question Winter would like to know the answer to. Some other mentionable characters are Bobby and Folsom, whom I hope to see a lot more in future books.
The Thousand Names starts us on an epic journey through a world that is everything a great fantasy is made of, religion, politics, battles, magic and otherworldly enemies. Amid 19th century muskets and gunpowder, we enter what is known as the Flintlock Fantasy world. Not my first, but definitely my favorite so far. The focus lies strongly on battle tactics and maneuvers and at first I was skeptical about whether I would like it. I have to say I usually zone a little during some battle scenes but not this time. The battles were so well-written and in the off time I became immersed in the camp politics. With light references to magic throughout, what we don’t fully realize until the end is that this world is full of powerful magic and that may be the true enemy. Fantastically written and richly layered, this book slowly sucked me in a little at a time. The explosive and deadly ending with a shocking betrayal will leave you wanting to proceed to the next book quickly.